Famous Quotes & Sayings

Zoe Heller Quotes & Sayings

Enjoy the top 44 famous quotes, sayings and quotations by Zoe Heller.

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I don't write books for people to be friends with the characters. If you want to find friends, go to a cocktail party. — Zoe Heller

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The story of Carol's transformation evoked complicated feelings in Rose. It appalled her, of course. The idea of an educated, metropolitan woman voluntarily casting off every vestige of modernity in order to make herself over as a medieval ghetto-dweller was unconscionable - but it also inspired a sneaking envy. By submitting to the restraints of Orthodoxy, Carol had not only performed an impressive act of self-denial - an act guaranteed to appeal to Rosa's ascetic sensibility - but also freed herself from the burden of trying to improvise her own moral code. These days, she always knew what the right thing to do was - or if she didn't, she knew a rabbi who did. Every aspect of her daily life was consonant with her convictions. — Zoe Heller

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It's hard to resist the magical thinking that the work habits of great writers are the key to their greatness. — Zoe Heller

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Depression, in Karla's experience, was a dull, inert thing - a toad that squatted wetly on your head until it finally gathered the energy to slither off. The unhappiness she had been living with for the last ten days was a quite different creature. It was frantic and aggressive. It had fists and fangs and hobnailed boots. It didn't sit, it assailed. It hurt her. In the mornings, it slapped her so hard in the face that she reeled as she walked to the bathroom. — Zoe Heller

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For most people, honesty is such an unusual departure from their standard modus operandi - such an abherration in their workaday mendacity - that they feel obliged to alert you when a moment of sincerity is coming on. — Zoe Heller

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When I tried to do something else, everyone behaved as if I was Gypsy Rose Lee trying to paint a Matisse. — Zoe Heller

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But about the drip drip of long-haul, no-end-in-sight solitude, they know nothing. They don't know what it is to construct an entire weekend around a visit to the laundrette. Or to sit in a darkened flat on Halloween night, because you can't bear to expose your bleak evening to a crowd of jeering trick-or-treaters. Or to have the librarian smile pityingly and say, 'Goodness, you're a quick reader!' when you bring back seven books, read from cover to cover, a week after taking them out. They don't know what it is to be so chronically untouched that the accidental brush of a bus conductor's hand on your shoulder sends a jolt of longing straight to your groin. — Zoe Heller

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There it was again - the perverse refusal to acknowledge my hostility. She seemed to me like some magical lake in a fairy tale: nothing could disturb the mirror-calm of her surface. My snide comments and bitter jokes disappeared soundlessly into her depths, leaving not so much as a ripple. — Zoe Heller

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Sheba has often told me that she thinks there's a rhythm to married life, an ebb and flow in the pleasure that a couple take in one another. The rhythm varies from couple to couple, she says. For some couples, the see-saw of affections takes place over a week. For others, the cycle is lunar. But all couples sense this about their life together - the way in which their interest in one another builds up and recedes. The happiest couples are the ones whose cycles interact in such a way that when one of them is feeling jaded, the other is ardent, and there is never a vacuum. — Zoe Heller

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She was not so swept away that she could not see the high comedy of this spiritual seduction: a Litvinoff daughter, a third-generation atheist, an enemy of all forms of magical thinking, wandering into synagogue one day and finding her inner Jew. But there it was. Something had happened to her, something she could not ignore or deny. And there was a sense in which its unlikelihood, its horrible inconvenience, was precisely what made it so compelling. — Zoe Heller

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It's clear that politeness to one's elders can't always be justified on the basis of the elder's superior wisdom. It's just that it's not attractive to see a young person answering an older person back. — Zoe Heller

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It is always difficult, the transition from noisy refusal to humble acceptance. — Zoe Heller

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When you live alone, your furnishings, your possessions, are always confronting you with the thinness of your existence. — Zoe Heller

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There are certain people in whom you can detect the seeds of madness - seeds that have remained dormant only because the people in question have lived relatively comfortable, middle class lives. They function perfectly well in the world, but you can imagine, given a nasty parent, or a prolonged bout of unemployment, how their potential for craziness might have been realized. — Zoe Heller

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If everybody was so reverent of the institute of marriage, how did all the adultery get committed? — Zoe Heller

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If this was cynical, then we must allow that all courtship is cynical. — Zoe Heller

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It's similar to the way you feel cuddling an infant or a kitten, when you want to squeeze it so hard you'd kill it ... — Zoe Heller

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Elegance loses its power in the presence of the properly stupid ... — Zoe Heller

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I don't cook anything fancy. Sheba's appetite isn't up to much and I've never been one for sauces. We eat nursery food mainly. Beans on toast, Welsh rarebit, fish fingers. Sheba leans against the oven and watches me while I work. At a certain point, she usually asks for wine. I have tried to get her to wait until she's eaten something, but she gets very scratchy when I do that, so these days I tend to give in straightaway and pour her a small glass from the carton in the fridge. You choose your battles. Sheba is a bit of a snob about drink and she keeps whining at me to get a grander sort. 'Something in a bottle, at least', she says. But I continue to buy the cartons. we are on a tight budget these days. And for all her carping, Sheba doesn't seem to have too much trouble knocking back the cheap stuff. — Zoe Heller

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It seems to me that my lack of faith is not, as I once thought, a triumph of the rational mind, but rather a failure of the imagination - an inability to tolerate mistery. — Zoe Heller

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I'm a child in that respect: able to live, physically speaking, on a crumb of anticipation for weeks at a time, but always in danger of crushing the waited-for event with the freight of my excessive hope. — Zoe Heller

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All my life I have been the sort of person in whom people confide. And all my life I have been flattered by this role - grateful for the frisson of importance that comes with receiving important information. In recent years, however, I have noticed that my gratification is becoming diluted by a certain weary indignation. They tell me because they regard me as safe. All of them, they make their disclosures to me in the same spirit that they might tell a castrato or a priest - with a sense that I am so outside the loop, so remote from the doings of the great world, as to be defused of any possible threat. The number of secrets I receive is in inverse proportion to the number of secrets anyone expects me to have of my own. And this is the real source of my dismay. Being told secrets is not - never has been - a sign that I belong or that I matter. It is quite the opposite: confirmation of my irrelevance. — Zoe Heller

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Talking to him is rather like talking to a school play. — Zoe Heller

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Somewhere between sanity and madness lays a fine line, for some it is a tightrope walked daily, a fight for balance to be won or lost. That fight is lost one of two ways. Some simply lose their balance and fall, others are pushed. — Zoe Heller

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It's always a disappointing business confronting my own reflection. My body isn't bad. It's a perfectly nice, serviceable body. It's just that the external me- the study, lightly wrinkled, handbagged me- does so little credit to the stuff that's inside. — Zoe Heller

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Things that are truly innocent don't need to be labelled as such. — Zoe Heller

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Always mind the distance between your dreams and your reality. — Zoe Heller

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He had made a fairly unambiguous pass at her, as she was getting out of the cab. But event that had come to nothing. Sheba said that she had sensed something resentful about him, as if he begrudged her for having the power to attract him. — Zoe Heller

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Music, together with certain sorts of majestic landscape, had a well-known tendency to induce such faux-sublime moments: artificial intimations of transcendent truths, grandiose hunches about the nature of the universe. It was all nonsense. Her tears had been no different from the ones people cried at sentimental television commercials. They represented nothing but a momentary and regrettable submission to kitsch. — Zoe Heller

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People always seemed to think that you stopped believing things in a single, lightning-bolt moment, an instantaneous revelation of loss. For her, at least, the process of disenchantment had been achingly slow. — Zoe Heller

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I could feel Monika nudging me furiously at this point, but I refused to look at her. I wasn't feeling particularly reverent about my mother's deadness, or about the vicar, but I do despise that ghastly, 'You've got to laugh, haven't you?' approach to religious occasions. As a young man, I often goaded my believing friends with crudely logical questions about God. But as the years have passed, I have found myself hankering more and more for a little cosy voodoo in my life. Increasingly, I regard my atheism as a regrettable limitation. It seems to me that my lack of faith is not, as I once thought, a triumph of the rational mind, but rather, a failure of the imagination - an inability to tolerate mystery: a species, in fact, of neurosis. There is no chance of my being converted, of course - it is far too late for that. But I wish it wasn't. — Zoe Heller

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She didn't really believe in the possibility of making good things happen with the sheer strength of your desire for them. If anything, it seemed to her, the opposite was true. The moment you wanted anything too fervently, the moment you yearned, the universe gazed with disgust upon your mewling and withheld. To get things, you had to be careless about them, the way that Rosa was. — Zoe Heller

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I cannot do this anymore. I cannot pull myself together again and spend the next fifteen hours of wakefulness fending off the fact of my own misery. — Zoe Heller

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Audrey nodded warily. She had never cared for conspiratorial female conversation of this sort. Its assumption of shared preoccupations was usually unfounded in her experience, its intimacies almost always the trapdoor to some subterranean hostility. — Zoe Heller

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There was a time when she would have lingered to hear what amusing or sinister characteristic the woman attributed to the man's Jewishness - what business acumen or frugality or neurosis or pushiness she assigned to his tribe - and then, when she had let the incriminating words be spoken, she would have gently informed the woman that she was Jewish herself. But she had tired of that party game. Embarrassing the prejudices of your countrymen was never quite as gratifying as you thought it would be, the countrymen somehow never embarrassed enough. It was safer, on the whole, to enjoy your moral victory in silence and leave the bastards guessing. — Zoe Heller

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Joel, for all his talk of communal childrearing and tribes, deeply resented the idea that Lenny should have succeeded in evoking Audrey's passion where her 'real' children had failed. 'Karla and Rosa are your flesh and blood,' he would chide her. But these appeals to sanguine loyalty missed the point, she felt. If anything, the fact that Lenny was not hers made it easier to love him. As the coauthor of Karla and Rosa, she could not help but look upon them with the dissatisfied eye of an artist assessing her own flawed handiwork. Lenny, on the other hand, was an unsolicited donation: she was free to enjoy the gift of him without any burden of genetic responsibility for his imperfections. She had chosen to love him. The disparity in her feelings toward her daughters and her son was regrettable, but it was not something that was her gift to correct. — Zoe Heller

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But that I should have ended up in a place like this seems too custom-made a nightmare to be the work of mere ill fortune. — Zoe Heller

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The conclusion of Dowell's narrative offers not a resolution, so much as a plangent confirmation of complexities. While Ford would certainly have agreed with Dowell that it is a novelist's business to make a reader 'see things clearly', his interest in clarity had little to do with simplicity. There is no 'getting to the bottom of things', no triumphant answers to the epistemological muddle offered in this beautiful, bleak story - only a finer appreciation of that confusion. We may remove the scales from our eyes, Ford suggests, but only the better to appreciate the glass through which we see darkly. — Zoe Heller

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[ ... ]One pretends that manners are the formalisation of basic kindness and consideration, but a great deal of the time they're simply aesthetics dressed up as moral principles, aren't they? — Zoe Heller

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In the end, I suspect, being female will do nothing for Sheba, except deny her the grandeur of genuine villainy. — Zoe Heller

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We are bound by the secrets we share. — Zoe Heller

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What is romance, but a mutual pact of delusion? When the pact ends, there's nothing left. — Zoe Heller

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This is madness. You're making it into something it's not. It's all in your mind."
Sheba was about to protest, and then she laughed. "Isn't that the worst place it could be? — Zoe Heller

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Meir, let me ask you something," I said after a while.
"Do you think I'm a bad person?"
"Only God knows that for sure, Willy."
"So you don't have an opinion at all?"
"Not one that really matters."
"Okay, let me ask you something else. If the Polish peasant who hid Jews from the Nazis is a hero, what is the Polish peasant who turned the Jews away? Is he a coward?"
Meir smiled, "Of course."
"Really? A coward? A bad man?"
"A coward isn't a bad man, necessarily. You can't know if you're a bad man until you die."
"You've got to wait until you hear god's decision?"
"Well, yes, that's true. But I meant something else. Only when you die do you run out of chances to be good. Until then, there is always the possibility of turning yourself around. — Zoe Heller