Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Quotations from “The State of Grace”
Harold Brodkey
1930-1996 American

I knew many people in the apartments but none in the houses, and this was the ultimate proof, of course, to me of how miserably degraded I was and how far sunken beneath the surface of the sea. I was on the bottom, looking up through the waters, through the shifting bands of light—through, oh, innumerably more complexities than I could stand—at a sailboat driven by the wind, some boy who had a family and a home like other people.
Harold Brodkey, “The State of Grace”

If my mother was home, I braced myself for unpleasantness, because she didn’t like me to sit and read; she hated me to read. She wanted to drive me outdoors, where I would become an athlete and be like other boys and be popular. It filled her with rage when I ignored her advice and opened a book; once, she rushed up to me, her face suffused with anger, took the book (I think it was Pride and Prejudice), and hurled it out the third-story window. At the time, I sat and tried to sneer, thinking she was half mad, with her exaggerated rage, and so foolish not to realize that I could be none of the things she thought I ought to be.
Harold Brodkey, “The State of Grace”

The furniture was alive and frightening; it was like that part of the nightmare where it gets so bad that you decide to wake up.
Harold Brodkey, “The State of Grace”

He was like most of the people I knew—eager and needful of my love; for I was quite remarkable and made incredible games, which were better than movies or than the heart could hope for. I was a dream come true. I was smart and virtuous and fairly attractive, maybe even very attractive. I was often funny and always interesting. I had read everything and knew everything and got unbelievable grades. Of course I was someone whose love was desired. Mother, my teachers, my sister, girls at school, other boys—they all wanted me to love them.

But I wanted them to love me first.

None of them did. I was fierce and solitary and acrid, and there was no one who loved me first. I could see a hundred cravennesses in the people I knew, a thousand flaws, a million weaknesses. If I had to love first, I would love only perfection. Of course, I could help heal the people I knew if I loved them. No, I said to myself, why should I give them everything when they give me nothing?
Harold Brodkey, “The State of Grace”

I was only thirteen. There isn’t much you can blame a boy of thirteen for, but I’m not thinking of the blame; I’m thinking of all the years that might have been—if I’d only known then what I know now. The waste, the God-awful waste.
Harold Brodkey, “The State of Grace”

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