Quotes from Current Reading: Generosity (pt. 2)

“The girl’s own parents–the last cosmopolitan Algerians not on a boat somewhere–resolve to leave when the death toll reaches eighty thousand. Then they say ninety. Then one hundred. They’re still there when the deaths reach one thousand a week. They are the victims of that old habit, faith. not religious faith, which they long ago consigned to the realm of vicious myth. Faith in their friends and neighbors. Belief in the average human” – p. 29, Richard Powers, Generosity

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Re: The Permutations of Plot-lines. Note that Russell Stone is a creative-writing professor, and that many of his students have nicknames:

” ‘When you really stop and think about it,’ the Joker concludes, ‘there have to be something like… three? I mean: happy ending, miserable ending, and Watch me get all arty.’

It’s two, Russell thinks, though no one bothers to ask him. It’s the old, elemental two, the only two that anyone will read: the future arrives to smack around the past, or the past reaches out to strangle the future. Hero goes on journey; stranger comes to town.

Here in front of him, at any event, is the one plot on one will ever bother writing down: A happy girl passes through the world’s wretchedness and stays happy.” – p. 37, Richard Powers, Generosity

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“Russell phones his brother–the first call he’s made from work since the half-minute dinner negotiations he used to make with Marie. He reaches Robert’s cell; it still amazes Stone that his own flesh and blood has a cell. All the remaining hunter-gatherers on Papua New Guinea will be packing loaded smartphones before Russell goes mobile. Mobile is the last thing in existence he wants to be. His every original thought is already being interrupted by real time.

His brother is camped on some stranger’s pitched roof in Oak Brook. It’s what he does–crawl around on strangers’ roofs, installing satellite receivers. He tells people he’s in the throughput business. It troubles Robert that a lot of the general public is still getting only a few dozen stories an hour. His company can get anyone up to a couple hundred plus. And then there’s the retrieval and on-demand and downloading. As he often tries explaining to Russell, it’s all about shifting. Time shifting and place shifting. Taste shifting and mood shifting. And if you get the throughput up high enough, it’s like nobody’s even telling you stories anymore; it’s like you’re making them up yourself.” – p. 38, Richard Powers, Generosity

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The quote below struck me bodily. It describes my role perfectly as Chief Curmudgeon at the United Nations Academic Impact, and, more broadly, the raison d’être of The Halcyon Days and most of my mental output lately.

“Your show is probably good for me. It sickens me to watch, but it’s powerful medicine. Like chemotherapy for the naïve soul.” – p. 63, Richard Powers, Generosity


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