Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver“She left in August after the last rain of the season.  Summer storms in the desert are violent things, and clean, they leave you feeling like you cried.”


“At the point that I left, we were sleeping together but that was all, just sleeping, with our backs touching.  Sometimes Hallie would cough in the next room and I’d wake up to find my arm over his shoulder, my fingers touching his chest, but that’s only because it takes your sleeping self years to catch up to where you really are.  Pay attention to your dreams: when you go on a trip, in your dreams you will still be home.  Then after you’ve come home you’ll dream of where you were.  It’s kinda like jet lag of the consciousness.”


“Nothing to do with nature, unless you count human nature.”


“A bird scream rang out from the leaves and echoed up my spine with a shiver that ended at my scalp.”


“. . . and drew a crowd of men who had too much money and too little love.”


“My mistake was assuming medicine was a science like any other.  If it’s carburetors you know, you can fix cars, I reasoned; if it’s arteries and tendons you fix people.”


“‘Don’t  worry about me, Hallie'” I said finally.  ‘Just worry about yourself.’

‘I’m not worried about myself.  I’m the luckiest person alive.'”


“If I could have drawn blood, if I’d known how to do with words instead of a needle, I would have.”


“‘If I’m wrong, my friend, you can shoot me.’

‘The man with the wrinkled face said, “If you’re right, my friend, you might as well shoot yourself.'”


“. . . looking at me like exactly what I was – one of the last annoying things standing between them and certified adulthood.”


[about a skeleton]: “‘Her name is Josephine Nash and she lived in Illinois.  And it’s time she got some respect in her retirement.’  I glared at them; teenagers are so attached to their immortality.”


“Emetine set a cup of tea in front of me.  I picked it up and let the steam touch my eyelids, realizing that what I needed most at that moment was to lie in bed with someone who was fond of every inch of my skin.”


“Even in a lethargic mood she noticed every vanilla orchid, every agony and ecstasy.  Especially agony.  She might as well not have had skin, where emotions were concerned.  Other people’s hurt ran right over into her flesh.”


“The thing that aggravates me most in the world are the things men do without even knowing it.”


“Kissing Loyd was delicious, like some drug I wanted more of in spite of the Surgeon General’s warning.”


[about a doctor]: “He returns to the kitchen and hands her the pills with a glass of water.  Four pills, two yellow and two blues, when she’s only asked for aspirin, but she swallows them without comment, one after another, without looking up from her books.  This much she’ll take from him.  This is the full measure of love he is qualified to dispense.”


“He took me in his arms and I crumbled against his chest like an armful of laundry.”


“And you didn’t care that the Empress of the Universe had to go home every night to a cold castle where the king stomped around saying hugs are for puppy dogs and we were housebroken.”


“I realized I hadn’t thought about Loyd all day, which I viewed as an accomplishment.  This must be how it is to be alcoholic: setting little goals for yourself, proving you can live without it.  When really, giving it all that thought only proves that you can’t.  My mood suddenly to plummet; I’d felt elated all afternoon, but now I recognized the signs of depression coming.”


“That’s how it is: some people are content to wait till you ask, while others jump right in with the whole story.”


“He didn’t know what he was doing; he was drunk as seven thousand dollars, I imagine.”


“Within minutes I could feel the extra heat and I fell into heaven-sent unconsciousness.”


“In the morning, a sugar coating  of snow had fallen, lightly covering the rocks.”


“That was in my past, not his.”


“He’d thought she was exotic, but she was just wild; there was a difference.”


“‘You can’t let your heart go bad like that, like sour milk.  There’s always the chance you’ll want to use it later.”


“I was getting a dim comprehension  of the difference between Hallie and me.  It wasn’t a matter of courage or dreams, but something a whole lot simpler .  A pilot would call it ground orientation.  I’d spend a long time circling above the clouds, looking for life, while Hallie was living it.”


“I gave up trying to classify things by species and just ate.”


“To everyone’s polite amusement, my favourite was the bread,. . .  It had a hard brown crust and a heavenly, steaming interior, and tasted like love.”


“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree, Doc Homer used say, referring mostly to the bone structure of the feet but it applied to moral life as well.”


“. . . Morality is not a large, constructed  thing you have or have not, but simply a capacity.  Something you carry with you in your brain and in your hands.”


“‘It’s one thing to carry your life wherever you go.  Another thing to always go looking for it somewhere else.'”


“‘Your life is a test.  If you flunk this one, you die. . . What you people learn for a test you forget the next day.  That’s bullshit.  That’s a waste of your brains and my time.  If I can’t teach you something you remember, then I haven’t been here this year. . . You kids think this pollution shit is not your problem, right?  Somebody will clean up the mess.  It’s not your fault.  Well, your attitude stinks.  You’re as guilty as anybody.  Do you, or do you not, think the world was put here for you to use?'”


“Water, in Grace [the town], is all-or-nothing proposition, like happiness.  When you have rain you have more than enough, just as when you’re happy in love and content with your life you can’t remember how you ever could have felt cheated by fate. . . The human mind seems doomed to believe, as simply as a rooster believes, that where you are now is the only possibility.” p268


“He was completely undeterred by failure.  The motivation packed in that small body was a miracle to see.  I wished I could bottle that passion for accomplishment and squeeze out some of the elixir, a drop at a time, on my high school students.  They could move mountains.”


“‘And then you kind of took your phone off of the hook, emotionwise.'”


“I could see his eyes working back and forth under his eyelids, as if he were reading his own thoughts.”


“I’d believed otherwise for so long it had become true; I was an outsider not only by belief but by flesh and bone.”


“‘Yeah.  Emelina bribed me to fall in love with you.”  He laughed and kissed my hair.  “Honey, there’s not that much money in the world.'”


“Codi, here’s what I’ve decided: the very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for.  And the most you can do is live inside that hope.  Not admire it from a distance but to live right in it, under its roof.  What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness.  Enough to eat, enough to go around.  The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers or the destroyed.  That’s about it.  Right now I’m living in that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.  I can’t tell you how good it feels.  I wish you knew.  I wish you’d stop beating yourself up for being selfish, and really be selfish, Codi.  You’re like a mother or something.  I wish you knew how to squander yourself.”


“His mouth felt as cool as green corduroy, a simple thing I could understand.”


“I shifted my field of vision to include the lower part of Loyd’s face and the blunt dark ends of his hair.  A whole person seemed an impossible thing to take in all at once.  How had I lived so long and presumed so much?”


“‘It made the news in Tucson, at least for a day.  You just forgot.  That’s the great American disease, we forget.  We watch the disasters parade on TV, and every time we say: ‘Forget it.  This is somebody else’s problem.””


“We’d been silent for over an hour before she first spoke up about the four o’clocks, but the silence was much more noticeable now, after we’d broken it with our little conversation.  Awareness is everything.” (p317)


“Shortly the train began to move again, very slowly, the speed of a living creature.”


“Standing there watching him, knowing what he didn’t, I had so much power and none at all.  I was on the outside, in a different dimension.  I’d live there always.”


“He put one arm around my neck and gave me the kind of kiss no fool would walk away from twice.”


“Family constellations are fixed things.  They don’t change just because you’ve learned the names of the stars.”


“‘Hope involves giving a great deal of yourself away,’ he tells her.

‘That’s a pitiful excuse.’

‘Oh, it’s pitiful all right, but there you have it.  It’s hard to give much away when you’re the subject of widespread disapproval and your heart is leaking form puncture wounds.'”


“‘Save herself from what?’

‘From despair.  From the feeling of being useless.  I’ve about decided that’s the main thing that separates happy people from the other people: the feeling that you’re a practical item, with a use, like a sweater or a socket wrench.'”

-Animal Dreams



“‘This child is the miracle Taylor wouldn’t have let in the door if it had knocked.  That’s what miracles are, she supposes.  The things nobody saw coming.”


“‘Words mean different things to different people,” Taylor explains. “You could read it as “Don’t sit on the wall.”  But other people, like Jax for instance, would think it means “Go ahead and break your neck, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.”‘”


“‘Hey, that happens.  You never did like him much.’

‘I did so.  At first.’ She drops her voice.  ‘Not to live with, but I thought he’d improve.  Under the influence of good cooking.’“


“He lifts her breasts, which fit perfectly into his hands, though he knows this is no promise that he gets to keep them.  A million things you can’t have will fit in a human hand.”


” The sky has gone dishwasher gray.”


“Her ex-husband was a rodeo rider.  She could picture him roping birds, he was that small minded.”


“‘Once you have ridden a horse, you should know what a horse is.”‘


“She’s surprised to find him so serene and obliging, though she knows she may be mistaken.  He simply may be in a coma.”


“They both watch as the sun touches the mountains.  The horizon is softly indented as if the landscape had been worn down right there, like the low spot in the center of an old marble step, by the repeated tread of sunset.  The red ball collapses, then silently hemorrhages into the surrounding clouds.”


“The clouds in the western sky are still bright on their undersides like the yellowy-silver bellies of fish, but overhead some stars are out.  “There you go,” Jax tells Annawake.  “That’s Venus, the goddess of love.  Don’t ask me why she comes out at eight o’clock when people are still washing their supper dishes.”

“Prime time,” Annawake says.”


“‘Did anyone ever tell you that you, personally, are beautiful beyond the speed of light?”‘


“‘Me, the great Jax, she enjoys, but Turtle (her daughter) she loves.”‘


“Turtle’s plate is a boneyard of grilled-cheese sandwich crusts.”


“‘I miss you both.  I am radioactive with despair.”‘


“It must be hard work, this business of mistrust.”


“‘Why would somebody sell it for nothing if they could get rich growing shampoo beans on it?”‘

“It takes five years before the plants start to bear, that’s the hitch.  Young people don’t have that much patience.”

“And old people don’t have that much time.”‘


“That’s the trouble with moving away from family, he realizes.  You lose your youth entirely, you have only the small tired baggage that is carried within the body.”


“. . . the dirty snow piled deep and hopeless as a whole winter’s worth of laundry.”


“‘Just think,” she says, “we could be in Paris, France or Hong Kong.  They have MacDonald’s in every country in the world.”

“That’s what I hear,” Cash says, but he doesn’t feel like he’s in Paris, France, he feels like he’s in MacDonald’s.”


“‘Foof, it’s muggy,” says Rose when he walks into the store.  “I wish that rain would get here and get over with.  It’s not the heat gets me, it’s the humanity.”‘


About  Vegas: “‘Stupid as every soul in this town, honey.  Look at those neon lights, and tell me who you think is paying the electric bill. . . That’s who’s paying.  Mister and Missus I was feeling lucky.”‘


“The woman who was hitting her husband sits down for a breather.  She drags heavily on her cigarette, as if her only possible oxygen must come through that less than ideal source.”


“She’s visited with a sudden memory of Jax standing with her in the grocery, leaning down to kiss the top of her head.  A gesture that is all give and no take.”


“She wonders if the colour scheme of brown is some sort of international code for poverty.”


“A good deal of quiet static washes over the line before either one of them is willing to talk again.”


“Trust only grows out of trusting.”


“At first she is aware of nothing beyond her own body, her self, and she watches other people, imitating the way they hold their arms.  But she’s also aware that she’s doing a strange and unbelievable thing.  It makes her feel entirely alive, in the roof of her mouth and her fingertips.  She understands all at once, with a small shock, exactly what it is she always needed to tell Harland: being there in person is not the same as watching.  You might see things better on television, but you’ll never know if you were dead or alive while you watched.”


“. . . Alice lies in bed hugging her own beating heart, afraid of falling asleep. . . If she sleeps, the magic could be gone when she wakes up again in this room.  She might merely be here, in a cousin’s ironing room, with no memory of what has happened tonight.”


“. . . picking up a ring binder thick enough for a toddler to sit on at the dinner table.”


“Alice watches the water, where dozens of minnows have congregated around her calves.  They wriggle their tiny bodies violently through the water, chasing each other away, fighting over the privilege of nibbling at the hairs on her legs.  It feels oddly pleasant to be kissed by little jealous fish.”


“Alice hands Annawake a handkerchief.  Young people never carry them, she’s noticed.  They haven’t learnt yet that heartbreak can catch up to you on any given day.”


“Slowly Cash moves himself against her, and then gently into her, and she feels the same longing coming through his body to hers.  They rock against each other, holding on, and the birds in the forest raise their voices to drown out the secret of creation.”


“In the very long distance, an owl calls from upriver.  Annawake can picture its wide-open eyes, hunting.  Stealing scraps of sight from the darkness.”


“‘That Letty,” Alice agrees, with grudging humour. “She’d stick her nose in a grave if she thought there was still a hope of warm gossip.”‘


“‘If I’m so smart, how come I’m miserable?”. . .

“You just need a man, that’s all,” Dellon says.

Annawake exhales sharply. “I’ve had enough men in my life to last me seven lifetimes.  Think about it Dell, growing up with all you guys, and Daddy, and Uncle Ledger.  All those penises.  You all had me surrounded like a picket fence.”‘


“Annawake holds the pen at arm’s length and suddenly stares at it as if she had no idea of its purpose or origin.

So,” she says finally. “You can see.”

No one in the audience makes any indication that she or he can see.”


“‘What do you think he’ll do?”

“Maybe put his pants on his head and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to himself.”‘


-Pigs in Heaven