My Rectilinear Life


Dalian, China
December 11
US expat living in China. Another 40-something woman experiencing mid-life crisis, only this time in China, with dumplings.


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AUGUST 20, 2009 2:18PM

15 in 15: The Quote Quiz

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 This is my response to the Facebook/OS challenge to take 15 minutes to list 15 books that impacted one's life.  I took much more than 15 minutes and instead of listing the books, I've given quotes from them.  The challenge to you is to name the books.  Some of the quotes are opening lines, some are closing lines, some are favorite lines, and some are favorite scenes.

The books selected are both fiction and non-fiction.  Few of them rank as literary classics and some are not even the best the author produced.  Some are a bit obscure.  But each had an effect on me at certain point in time.  In many cases, they sent me off on reading binges (by a particular author or on a particular subject) that lasted for months or years.

The final choice is particularly lame since it is a textbook, but a very good one.  You can just guess the course name or subject for this one.  I spent nearly 24 years in school, so, at some point, you would think a textbook or a course would have had an impact, huh?  This one did, because it showed me what I loved to do.  Unfortunately, I didn't choose to do it!  Which brings me to my bonus selection.  It is the book I am currently reading and it deals with this very issue.

1.  I was getting along fine with Mama, Papa-Daddy, and Uncle Rondo until my sister Stella-Rondo just separated from her husband and came back home again.


2.  'We'll help you up, Gloria.' Miss Trixie assumed what was apparently a hoisting position.  She spread her sneakers far apart, toes pointing outward, and squatted like a Balinese dancer.


3.  Mr. Turnbull had disliked the Coalition from the beginning; but then Mr. Turnbull always disliked everything. He had so accustomed himself to wield the constitutional cat-of-nine-tails, that heaven will hardly be happy to him unless he be allowed to flog the cherubim.


 4.  I knew the word so I raised my hand, saying, 'The rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate.'


5.  Thus was the world given [him]: born from a good nurse with a will of her own and the seed of a ball turret gunner--his last shot.


6.  This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.


7.  What is it you don't see Our Lord doing?

Hanging on the cross and sporting shoes, sir.


8.  They seemed to hesitate before firing again; someone shouted an order, and still no one fired. Finally they shot him, two or three shots.  He stood glaring around him like a blinded bull in an arena. As he fell, Leamas saw a small car smashed between great lorries, and the children waving cheerfully through the window.


9.  But here are the facts. I am nearly fifty years old. When I woke up today, I put on chinos, a blue button-down oxford shirt, a cloth tie, scuffed but serviceable loafers, the threadbare, tasteful tweed coat of my profession. I was then and I still remain, however temporarily, the chairperson of a large academic department in an institution of higher learning. I have written and published a book that was favorably reviewed in The New York Times. And I should not be trapped in urine-soaked trousers in the ceiling of Modern Languages, afraid to alight.


10.  Around ten P.M. her waters broke and Granny put together another legend.

'Look at all that water! That means it's a girl! You never get that much with a boy!'

'Whatever it is, it sure is big,' Tessie grunted.

After all the horror stories Mama had heard, 'whatever' was an unfortunate word. She let out an agonized yell that sent Herb running for the bathroom and me into the world. Nobody who smokes four packs a day can yell very long without coughing. As her gothic ululation changed into a phlegmy rattle, Tessie broke out in triumph.

'I see the head! Keep coughing, Louise!'


11.  When the earth was already ancient, of an age incomprehensible to man, an event of basic importance occurred in the area which would later be known as Colorado.


12.  One may as well begin with Helen's letters to her sister.


13.  My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved across the swamp of doubt and fear. When I look back at some of these early resting places -- the boisterous Catholics, the soft armchair of the Christian Science mom, adoption by ardent Jews -- I can see how flimsy and indirect a path they made. Yet each step brought me closer to the verdant pad of faith on which I somehow stay afloat today.


14. The queen's cortege brought her at any rate to Fontrevault, and her tomb was erected in the crypt. The nunnery had become, as Merlin was believed to have proshesied, the necropolis of the Angevins. The tombs, all crowned with effigies, were disturbed during the French Revolution, but were subsequently replaced in the choir in new array, all of them damaged in detail by ravages of time and war. The queen now reposes between Henry Fitz-Empress and Richard Coeur-de-Lion, whose scepters and crowned heads are epitaph enough. Nearby rest Joanna and Isabella of Angouleme. Here Eleanor lies serene, the play of a smile in her whole expression, in her hand a small volume, which one of her apologists has said need not be regarded as a missal. Tranquil, collected, engaged with her book, the queen seems to have found at last, beyond the wrath of kings and the ruin of the Angevin empire, that domain of peace and order to which her vast journeyings amongst the high places of feudal Christendom had never brought her. The highhearted Plantagenets are marble still. The dusty sunlight falls softly where they sleep.


15.  Although still uncomfortable with the concept of imaginary numbers, mathematicians had, by the end of the eighteenth century, made rather heavy use of them in both physical and abstract problems.  The Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler invented in 1779 the i notation for the square root of -1, which we still use today, and by 1799 Karl Friedrich Gauss had used complex numbers in his proof of the fundamental theorem of algebra.



And so they walked out along the towing-path, discussing many things of much importance to them.

'There is a tide in the affairs of men
 Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.'

In nine cases out of ten, this flood-tide comes but once in life, and then in early years. A man may have a second or a third chance for decent maintenance, but hardly a second chance for fortune's brighter favours. The horse that is to win the race needs not make all his best running at once; but he that starts badly will rarely do so. When a young man discusses what shall be his future walk in life, he is talking of all that concerns his success as far as this world is concerned. And it is so hard for a youth to know, to make even a fair guess, as to what his own capacities are! The right man is wanted in the right place; but how is a lad of two and twenty to surmise what place will be right for him? And yet, if he surmises wrong, he fails in taking his tide at its single flood.


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I probably should offer prizes.
Some of these sound familiar, but I think I recognize only two right off the bat: #4 might be David Sedaris, possibly in Me Talk Pretty Some Day, and #9 is Richard Russo, Straight Man. Nice choices.
2 points to you, Rob. I wasn't sure if anyone would get the Russo one; well done! That book is pure genius and goes a long way toward explaining the factors that led me to never pursue an academic career. You are a stronger person than I, Rob!
Well, I know for certain that number one is Eudora Welty - I think the story is "Why I Live at the PO"? And number two is from "Confederacy of Dunces"? And number thirteen I am pretty certain is Anne Lamott - "Traveling Mercies"? Have to ponder the others.
Oh, my aching head! I think I recognise 'Helen's letters' but what if I'm wrong? Can I call a friend? ;) The bonus material is particularly relevant today, as we discuss college choices with my son. Excellent twist on a wonderful idea! Rated.
dustbowldiva surges into the lead with 3 points! Just thinking of Miss Trixie causes to laugh, but to think of her squatting like a Balinese dancer actually causes me to laugh out loud. Even now. This very instant I am laughing out loud thinking of Miss Trixie squatting like a Balinese dancer. No shit.
Psychomama, In the book from which the bonus quote comes, the young folks get particularly bad advice from many of their elders! Be careful what you say to sonny.