The Thirteenth Tale

A birth is not really a beginning. Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else's story.

A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth.

All children mythologise their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won’t be the truth: it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story.

All morning I struggled with the sensation of stray wisps of one world seeping through the cracks of another. Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes -- characters even -- caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you.

As for you, you are alive. But it's not the same as living.

But silence is not a natural environment for stories. They need words. Without them they grown pale, sicken and die. And then they haunt you.

Do they sense it, these dead writers, when their books are read? Does a pinprick of light appear in their darkness? Is their soul stirred by the feather touch of another mind reading theirs? I do hope so.

Everybody has a story. It's like families. You might not know who they are, might have lost them, but they exist all the same. You might drift apart or you might turn your back on them, but you can't say you haven't got them. Same goes for stories.

For me to see is to read. It has always been that way.

I don't pretend reality is the same for everyone.

I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life, and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same. Books are, for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and more essential than that. When I was a child, books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books. It is not a yearning that one ever expects to be fulfilled.

I've nothing against people who love truth. Apart from the fact that they make dull companions.

My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? When the lightning strikes shadows on the bedroom wall and the rain taps at the window with its long fingernails? No. When fear and cold make a statue of you in your bed, don't expect hard-boned and fleshless truth to come running to your aid. What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie.

Of course I loved books more than people.

Once upon a time there was a fairy godmother, but the rest of the time there was none. This story is about one of those other times.

One gets so used to one's own horrors, one forgets how they must seem to other people.

One needs no particular talent to be polite. On the contrary, being nice is what's left when you've failed at everything else.

Our lives are so important to us that we tend to think the story of them begins with our birth. First there was nothing, then I was born...Yet that is not so. Human lives are not pieces of string that can be separated out from a knot of others and laid out straight. Families are webs. Impossible to touch one part of it without setting the rest vibrating. Impossible to understand one part without having a sense of the whole. - Vida Winter

People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in the ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.

Politeness. Now there's a poor man's virtue if ever there was one. What's so admirable about inoffensiveness, I should like to know. After all, it's easily achieved. One needs no particular talent to be polite. On the contrary, being nice is what's left when you've failed at everything else. People with ambition don't give a damn what other people think about them.

Reading can be dangerous.

She was a do-gooder, which means that all the ill she did, she did without realizing it.

Sometimes when you open the door to the past, what you confront is your destiny.

The hours between eight in the evening and one or two in the morning have always been my magic hours. Against the blue candlewick bedspread the white pages of my open book, illuminated by a circle of lamplight, were the gateway to another world.

There are too many books in the world to read in a single lifetime; you have to draw the line somewhere.

There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.

What better place to kill time than a library?

What better way to get to know someone than through her choice and treatment of books?

When I was a child, books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic, yearning for the lost pleasure of books. It is not a yearning that one ever expects to be fulfilled.

When one is nothing, one invents. It fills a void.