… everything around her was so alive and tender, the dirty street, the old trams, orange peels—strength flowed back and forth through her heart in weighty abundance. She was very pretty just then, so elegant; in step with her time and the city where she’d been born as if she had chosen it. In her cross-eyed look anyone could sense the enjoyment this woman took in the things of the world. She stared at other people boldly, trying to fasten on to those mutable figures her pleasure…"
-Clarice Lispector, "Family Ties" ("Os laços de família")


“We’re here under conditions, and you either accept them or fight them, but the conditions aren’t going to change at all. So you can either accept the conditions as they are, or fight them and bitch about them all the time, but you’re not going to change the conditions, so you might as well accept them.”
-Annie Dillard on aging, in conversation with David Remnick.


"One could say that the mechanism of metamorphosis is the only element of life that never changes. The journey of every individual, every country, every historical epoch—of the entire universe and all it contains—is nothing but a series of changes, at times subtle, at times deep, without which we would stand still. The moments of transition, in which something changes, constitute the backbone of all of us. Whether they are a salvation or a loss, they are moments that we tend to remember. They give a structure to our existence. Almost all the rest is oblivion."
-Jhumpa Lahiri, "Teach Yourself Italian"


"You have done him and his friends harm, in a way, and you jeopardised their health, and now you are so close you feel like you share a heart. He knows your name and you know his, and you almost killed him and, because you got so close to doing so but didn't, you want to fall on him, weeping, because you are so lonely, so lonely always, and all contact is contact, and all contact makes us so grateful we want to cry and dance and cry and cry.
In a moment of clarity, you finally understand why boxers, who want so badly to hurt each other, can rest their heads on the shoulders of their opponents, can lean against one another like tired lovers, so thankful for a moment of peace."
-Dave Eggers, "Accident"


Swimming is the writer’s sport, because it is the sport most like writing. To swim, as to write, is to choose an intense state of socially acceptable aloneness. You can be a serious runner or bicyclist and still have to occasionally nod at a passerby or negotiate traffic. Swimming, however, precludes interaction with the world.
And yet both activities also cultivate a sort of mental busyness: If, say, yoga encourages the absence of thought, swimming encourages its presence. There is no better place to unkink a complicated piece of invented logic than in the water — there is little else to do, in fact, but confront your problems. If you are an open-water swimmer, the sport also demands a particular kind of mental discipline, one in which you must simultaneously indulge your imagination while also asserting control over it. The fear and exhaustion of swimming in the ocean is not struggling against the currents or tide, but the effort it takes to not notice how dark the water beneath you has become, and then, failing that, to assure yourself that it’s only the shadow of a cloud scudding above you. Nowhere but in the sea are you so ceaselessly reminded that something you love so much doesn’t care about you at all.
-Hanya Yanagihara, "A Brisk Swim Across Martha's Vineyard"