Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Killer lines (Philip Roth)

"At dinner -- outdoors, on the back terrace, with darkness coming on so gradually that the evening seemed to the Swede stalled, stopped, suspended, provoking in him a distressing sense of nothing more to follow, or nothing ever to happen again, of having entered a coffin carved out of time from which he would never be extricated -- there were also the Umanoffs, Marcia and Barry, and the Salzmans, Sheila and Shelly. Only a few hours had passed since the Swede learned that it was Sheila Salzman, the speech therapist, who had hidden Merry after the bombing. The Salzmans had not told him. And if they only had -- called when she showed up there, done their duty to him then ... He could not complete the thought. If he were to contemplate head-on all that would not have happened had Merry never been permitted to become a fugitive from justice ... Couldn't complete that thought either. He sat at dinner, eternally inert -- immobilized, ineffectual, inert, estranged from those expansive blessings of openness and vigor conferred on him by his hyperoptimism. A lifetime's agility as a businessman, as an athlete, as a U.S. Marine, had in no way conditioned him for being a captive confined to a futureless box where he was not to think about what had become of his daughter, was not to think about how the Salzmans had assisted her, was not to think about ... about what had become of his wife. He was supposed to get through dinner not thinking about the only things he could think about. He was supposed to do this forever. However much he might crave to get out, he was to remain stopped dead in the moment in that box. Otherwise the world would explode."
--Philip Roth, "American Pastoral"