Homo Irrealis

Homo Irrealis

Metadata

  • Author: [[André Aciman]]
  • Full Title: Homo Irrealis
  • Category: #books

Highlights

  • Let me repeat this sentence, the substance of which will appear many times in this volume: I was toying with a might-have-been that hadn’t happened yet but wasn’t unreal for not happening and might still happen, though I feared it never would and sometimes wished it wouldn’t happen just yet. This, like a dead star, is the secret partner of the four sentences that have been giving me so much trouble. It disrupts all verbal tenses, moods, and aspects and seeks out a tense that does not conform to our sense of time. Linguists call this the irrealis mood.

(Location 101)

  • In more ways than one, the essays about the artists, writers, and great minds gathered in this volume may have nothing to do with who I am, or who they were, and my reading of them may be entirely erroneous. But I misread them the better to read myself.

(Location 114)

  • Ambiguity in art is nothing more than an invitation to think, to risk, to intuit what is perhaps in us as well, and was always in us, and maybe more in us than in the work itself, or in the work because of us, or, conversely, in us now because of the work. The inability to distinguish these strands is not incidental to art; it is art.

(Location 197)

  • Art allows us to reach our truest, deepest, most enduring selves by borrowing someone else’s skill, someone else’s words, or someone else’s gaze and colors; left to our own devices, we wouldn’t have the insight, or the comprehensive vision, much less the will or the courage, to enter that place where only art can take us.

(Location 200)

  • irrealis moods indicate “that a certain situation or action is not known to have happened at the moment the speaker is talking.”

(Location 270)

  • Most of our time is spent not in the present tense, as we so often claim, but in the irrealis mood—the mood of our fantasy life, the mood where we can shamelessly envision what might be, should be, could have been, who we ourselves wished we really were if only we knew the open sesame to what might otherwise have been our true lives.

(Location 272)

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  • I am always looking for what’s not quite there, because by turning my back to what I’m told is all there is, I find more things, other things, many perhaps unreal at first but ultimately truer once I’ve ferreted them out with words and made them mine.

(Location 277)

  • Visiting a place is not necessarily the experience of it. The real experience is the resonance, the “pre-image,” the afterimage, the interpretation of experience, the distortion of experience, the struggle to experience the experience. What we do when we think about experience, even when we don’t exactly know what to make of it, is itself already experience. It’s the radiance we project onto things and that things radiate back to us that constitutes experience.

(Location 475)

  • However you look at things, everything always already happened, will happen, might, could, should happen. You never planned for next year; that was being presumptuous. Instead, you planned to remember. You even planned to remember planning to remember.

(Location 809)

  • Reconciliation, reckoning, reparation, restoration, redemption: these are, at best, paltry figures of speech—words—as are the concepts of “unfinished business” and “open ledgers” and being “indefinitely put on hold.” Time has no use for such words. Because, no matter how crafty the ancient grammarians, we still don’t know how to think of time. Because time doesn’t really understand time the way we do. Because time couldn’t care less how we think of time. Because time is just a limp and rickety metaphor for how we think about life. Because ultimately it isn’t time that is wrong for us, nor, for that matter, is it place that is ineradicably wrong. Life itself is wrong.

(Location 1021)

  • In the city, we always tread on others’ footprints. We never walk alone. All of us have followed in the footsteps of an artist in the city. All of us have followed a stranger in the crowd at least once in our life. All of us have retraced our own footsteps many years later and been in the same place twice and, like Whitman, “[thought] of time—of all that retrospection.”

(Location 1065)

  • The vision of a city “now” or of a time “now” that will soon become a city “then” is, like twilight itself, a mirage caught between two illusory temporal zones: the not-yet and the no-more—or, more precisely, a no-more that looks back to a time when it was a not-yet but already knew it would soon be no more.

(Location 1071)

  • Art is how we quarrel with time.

(Location 1074)

  • I like the option of a second viewing that is already implied in the first, the way I like to see places or hear tales told a second and a third time while I’m still experiencing them the first time—which is how I confront almost everything in life: as a dry run for the real thing to come.

(Location 1161)

  • The personal lexicon we bring to a film or the way we misunderstand a novel because our mind drifted off a page and fantasized about something entirely superfluous to the novel is our surest and most trusted reason for claiming it a masterpiece.

(Location 1193)

  • “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant— / Success in Circuit lies …”: Emily Dickinson.

(Location 1345)

  • and that art itself, which is the highest mankind can aspire to, might indeed be just a bubble, but that what’s inside this bubble and what we learn from walking through it is better than life.

(Location 1431)

  • And it hit me then that one of the reasons why some people cling to what has vintage status is not because they like things old or marginally dated, which allows them to feel that their personal time and vintage time are magically in sync; rather, it’s because the word vintage is just a figure of speech, a metaphor for saying that so many of us don’t really belong here—not in the present, or the past, or the future—but that all of us seek a life that exists elsewhere in time, or elsewhere on-screen, and that, not being able to find it, we have all learned to make do with what life throws our way.

(Location 2217)

  • All great art invariably lets us say the same thing: This was really about me.

(Location 2224)