"During the night, there had been a sound of water on the other side of the wall. In my sleep I was looking out from the fourth-floor bedroom at nearby buildings bathed in rain, gleaming with neon and streetlamp colors. It was a light, tenuous sound. I couldn’t say at what hour of the night it had started. It could well have been there when I went to bed; then again, it could have been an illusion as I was on the brink of waking."
"We killed the porcupines because they were sneaking into the barn at night and chewing on the floor beams. My father walked right up to them and shot them through their little eyes."
"When my sister Helene was thirteen she was obsessed with spies, and read as much as she could about them. For an outsider, it might’ve seemed like her preoccupation was unusual, that it was surprising for a black girl from Queens to know so much and have such strong feelings about Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. For me, that was simply who she was."
"I should begin at the beginning. Who I am, and so forth. How I met Prue. What I’ve published, and where. How I landed in philosophy. Facts, in short, that moor the present to the past. Together, they counteract the sense—more noxious by the year—that my progress since my college days has been a long digression. You found a vocation; you found love, they remind me. Your best work is still ahead of you."
"I left the house with the letter because I did not know what else to do. The lawn was wet with morning dew that soaked my favorite silk rose slippers, for in my haste I hadn’t thought to put on pattens. But I did not stop until I reached the trees overlooking the lawns in front of the house. The letter I had clutched in my fist, and I opened it once more to check I hadn’t imagined it, that I hadn’t drifted off in my chair and dreamed it up."
"I take you there to the marshes so you might learn to see. I must not be the last to be visited by the cloths."
"She came in while I was recording and asked to listen to every Nina Simone album in the house. I was just about to introduce the next side: “How ’bout a little Herbie Hancock now, with George Coleman on tenor sax, Ron Carter on bass, Tony Williams on drums, and, of course, Herbie on piano . . . that’s right: ‘Maiden Voyage’ . . .”"
"It had been Marina’s idea. Keep Alexei Afanasievich from finding out about the changes in the outside world. Keep him in the same sunny yet frozen time when the unexpected stroke had cut him down. “Mama, his heart!” Marina had pleaded, having grasped instantly that, no matter how burdensome this recumbent body might be, it consumed far less than it contributed."
"I sit on the floor and rest my back against the bed. Glance down at my watch. Six thirty. Eva will be home from work any minute. No, this very minute. There’s the door."
"Peter used to lead Catholic funeral processions, holding a varnished cross, dressed in white vestments, his checks pink in the wind or the heat, while a priest sang in monotonous Latin. I respected Peter for his knowledge of Latin, which still did not prevent me from cornering him in our classroom and punching him like a boxing sack."
"Only Trixie is at the gate when he pulls up. She is sitting on her haunches staring at something across the road, her forelegs planted in front of her, solid as tree-stumps. Probably an iguana, Clyde thinks, or an agouti, judging by the look on her face. He glances in that direction as he yanks the handbrake up but can’t see what she might be looking at."
"When I was seven, my family went on holiday to the south of France. My father, Stéphane Moreau, was from Berdillac, a village near Montpellier. One thousand eight hundred inhabitants, a baker’s, a brasserie, two wineries, a carpentry workshop and a football team. We were visiting our grandmother, who in the past few years had not left the village."
"Mangoes come in many varieties with many names, but generally speaking they are all beautiful and desirable and people look forward to them with longing. In our house there’s more to mangoes than just that. During her first pregnancy my mother had a craving for hindi mangoes. That was in the middle of January, when the mangoes are like salty stones stuck to the branches of the trees."
"On September 11, 2001, Bob Dylan released Love and Theft, his thirty- first studio album. On the twelfth song, my song, he sings, “Look up, look up—seek your maker—’fore Gabriel blows his horn.” I know he’s talking to me, so I look up."
"There are three domino tiles lying on the table. A cloud of smoke rises up around the four players; it’s going nowhere, no breeze comes in through the windows. Someone huffs impatiently. Fatso Comodoro looks back and forth between his seven tiles and the three lying on the table. It’s his turn, but he doesn’t make a move, he’s afraid of a wrong play."
"Dear Rabbi Cattan, I’ve followed all of your instructions ever since moving to Israel to breed pigs. I put them in a stilt pen over the sea just like the Hawaiians do. Not a single hoof will touch Holy Ground. Except, of course, if you agree that we should use them to hunt down terrorists."
"We met at the supermarket. I was waiting in line to buy the usual nutrient-free snacks—crackers, cookies, Pop Tarts. She pulled up behind me with a cart full of staples—milk, eggs, canned tomatoes. As we neared the register, she unbuttoned her bright orange trench coat and searched its inside pocket. Whatever she expected to find there was missing."
"The child held on to Clem’s hand throughout the bus ride. There were lots of stops and the brakes were jerky, and after an hour she murmured, “I feel sick.” Back at Sinclair House it would have been a risky admission, but Clem didn’t seem cross at all. “Nearly there,” he said, elbowing her as he rummaged in his coat pocket. “See if you can’t hold on another ten minutes.” She nodded as Clem blew the fuzz off a mint imperial and pressed it into her mitten."
"The Professor was a better drill sergeant and a better sermonizer than Mark, and because he had no interest whatsoever in the students’ lives outside the classroom and rebuffed every attempt Mark made to share any facts about their health or families or personal struggles, the Professor was also a better and a more useful critic of their written work."