My mistress’s sparrow is dead: great love stories from Chekhov to Munro (II)


Words from the collection:

from Something that needs nothing, by Miranda July

On the long ride home, neither of us said anything. We were kites flying in opposite directions attached to strings held by one hand.

Just a sec. Just a sec. Just two months. Just a lifetime. Just a sec. Hello?

from Red Rose, White Rose, by Eileen Chang

When a man yearns for a woman’s body, then starts to care about her mind, he fools himself into believing that he’s in love. Only after possessing her body can he forget her soul.

„Don’t you know the saying? It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind.”

„Men should not be pretty. Men get spoiled even more easily than women do.”

When night fell and silence took over- or when, as could happen at any time, you stood at the brink of death- there is the dark, you needed a wife you really loved, otherwise there would be nothing but loneliness.

from Natasha, by David Bezmozgis

„-You’re sixteen, everything is forbidden. The world expects you to disobey.”

 from First Love and Other Sorrows, Harold Brodkey:

„You know, I think I’m not basically a happy person,” Eleanor said suddenly. „I always thought I was…People expect you to be, especially if you’re a girl.”

„I’m hungry, too”, she said. „I don’t know why.” She drifted over the table, and bent over the chicken. „I guess emotion makes people hungry.”

„I figured I had kept her from being too depressed after fucking- it’s hard for a girl with any force in her and any brains to accept the whole thing of fucking, of being fucked without trying to turn it on its end, so that she does some fucking, or some fucking up; I mean the more power of arousing the man so he wants to fuck isn’t enough: she wants him to be willing to die in order to fuck. There’s a kind of strain or intensity women are bred for, as beasts, for childbearing when childbearing might kill them, and child rearing when the child might die at any moment: it’s in women to live under that danger, with that risk, that close to tragedy, with that constant taut or casual courage. They need death and nobility near. To be fucked when there’s no drama inherent in it, when you’re not going to rise to a level of nobility and courage forever denied the male, is to be cut off from what is inherently female, bestially speaking. I wanted to be decent company for her. I don’t know that it was natural to me. I am psychologically, profoundly, a transient. A form of trash. I am incapable of any continuing loyalty and silence; I am an informer. But I did it all right with her.

from Dirty Wedding, by Denis Johnson

Much later I told her that I’d actually gotten a vasectomy a long time ago, and somebody else must have made her pregnant. I also told her once that I had inoperable cancer and would soon be passed away and gone, eternally. But nothing I could think up, no matter how dramatic or completely horrible, ever made her repent or love me the way she had at first, before she really knew me.

„We can’t imagine the shape of our fate, that’s for sure.”

She know: shit, we might as well have been drinking a dog’s tears. Nothing mattered except that we were alive.

I know there are people who believe that wherever you look, all you see is yourself. Episodes like this make me wonder if they aren’t right.

from How to be an other woman, by Loorie Moore

When you were six you thought mistress meant to put your shoes on the wrong feet. Now you are older and know it can mean many things, but essentially it means to put your shoes on the wrong feet.  You walk differently.

„At any rate, who are you involved with?” „Someone who has a wife that makes lists. She has a Listmaker’s disease.” „What are you going to do?” „I don’t know.” Yeah, ” says Hilda. „That’s typical.”

Make a list of all the lovers you’ve ever had. (…)Tuck it in your pocket. Leave it lying around, conspicuously. Somehow you lose it. Make ‘mislaid’ jokes to yourself. Make another list.

1. Fallen in love (?) Out of control. Who is this? Who am I? And who is this wife with the skis and the nostrils and the Tylenol and does she have orgasms?

2. Reclaim yourself. Pieces have fluttered away.

3. Everything you do is a masochistic act. Why?

4. Don’t you like yourself? Don’t you deserve better than all of this?

5. Need: something to lift you from your boots out into the sky, something to make you like little things again, to whirl around the curves of your ears and muss up your hair and call you every single day.

6. A drug.

7. A man.

8. A religion.

9. A good job. Revise and send out resumes.

10. Remember what Mrs. Kloosterman told the class in second grade: Just be glad you have legs.

Love drains from you, takes with it much of your blood sugar and water weight. You are like a house slowly losing its electricity, the fans slowing, the lights dimming and flickering; the clocks stop and go and stop.

Shave your legs in the bathroom sink. Philosophize: you are a mistress, part of a great hysterical you mean historical tradition. Wives are like cockroaches. Also part of a great historical tradition. They will survive you after a nuclear attack- they are tough and hardy and travel in packs- but right now they’re not having any fun. And when you look in the bathroom mirror, you spot them scurrying, up out of reach behind you.

from Tonka, by Robert Musil

Tonka did not like the beard and did not know what it meant to him. And without her he would never have known how ugly this beard was, for one knows little of oneself unless one has someone else in whom one is reflected. And since what one knows is really nothing, might it not be that at times he wished Tonka dead so that this intolerable existence might be over and done with?

from Jon, by George Saunders

…there is nothing wrong with self-touching, because love is a mistery but the mechanics of love need not be, so go off alone, see what is up, with you and your relation to your own gonads, and the main thing is, just have fun, feeling no shame!

Home is the place where you find yourself suddenly no longer longing for home.

from The lady with the little dog by Anton Chekhov

Gurov reflected that, essentially, if you thought of it, everything was beautiful in this world, everything except for what we ourselves think and do when when we forget the higher goals of being and our human dignity.

from Love, by Grace Paley

Nothing much. She was this crazy kid who hung around the bars. But she didn’t drink. Really it was for the men, you know. Neither did I- drink too much, I mean. I was just hoping to get laid once in a while or maybe meet someone and fall madly in love.

from Some other, better Otto, by Deborah Einsenberg

So, marvelous. Humans were born, they lived. They glued themselves together in little clumps, and then they died.

„Try an get some sleep?” „Try and get some sleep?” This is unbearable! I’ve spent the best years of my life with a man who doesn’t know how to use the word ‘and’! ‘And’ is not part of the infinitive! ‘And’ means ‘in addition to’. It’s not „Try and get some sleep, ” it’s „Try to get some sleep.” To! To! To! To! To! To! To! Please try to get some sleep!”

from The Magic Barrel, by Bernard Malamud

„If she’s so wonderful, why wasn’t she married the years ago?” said Salzman with a heay laugh. „-Why? Because she is a partikiler. This is why. She wants the best.

Love comes with the right person, not before.

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