The Factory of Facts
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I could only admire its narrative architecture, with a twinge of envy at the dream state’s resourcefulness and ability to compress.
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he stared at the camera head-on, with that expression of exhausted hostility you see in early studio portraits.
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My Romans existed not in narratives but in tableaux.
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Every human being is an archeological site. What passes for roots is actually a matter of sediment, of accretion, of chance and juxtaposition.
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Parents exert an overwhelming effect on their children by their words, their deeds, their omissions and concealments, but children simultaneously conduct their own education, absorbing everything that crosses their field of reception, and that is a matter over which parents have little or no control.
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So the damnedest bits of fugitive trivia may show up years later, recombined and inexplicable, prominent in the baggage of the adult self.
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She is a labyrinth of serpentine hallways and false doors and hidden staircases, easy to misconceive and difficult to negotiate, and yet somewhere along the line she adopted the belief that both she and life ought to be simple, with clearly marked paths and boundaries.
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For her these objects are immanent; they are not symbols or reminders but aspects, material forms containing an actual franchise of the divinity.
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Everything is ad hoc and makeshift and impermanent; although everybody has been practicing improvisation for four years, now spontaneity is finally possible. Life is simultaneously constrained and giddy. From one day to the next anything can seem possible, briefly. You understand how revolutions are made in such interstices, although not here and not now, because not enough has been lost. The future stretches limitlessly ahead, but the past urges caution. Your immediate task is to build a rope bridge over the chasm, connecting your last memory of security with the highway of tomorrow still at the blueprint stage.
VIII Via Crucis
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Walloon Catholicism is very much like Sicilian or Irish or Polish Catholicism: it incorporates large and only partly digested gobs of pre-Christian animism, consists mostly of ritual and image-worship with little that could be termed theology, minimizes the Bible, selectively deploys some elements of the occult while condemning others, and derives its major emotional thrust from fear—rather than, say, pentecostal ecstasy.
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Central African devotional objects called nail-dogs, whose physical presence is immanent to the point of striking terror in the hearts of the most skeptical viewers, or maybe I just mean in mine).
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IX White Flag
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Varnished wood. Silent children, well-bred dogs, unassertive houseplants.
X Spleen and Ideal
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the claustrophobic patterns of behavior among the Walloons: the verbal tics, the social rituals, the class-bound judgments and insecurities, the obsession with death, with illness, with pudeur, with mauvais instincts, the endless graveyard visits, the simultaneously stoic and passive-aggressive management of pains and fears, the suspicion and rancor and small-time paranoia and petty spitefulness that poison families.
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the pissing contests concealed by the rhetorical velvet of the French.
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An essayist writing in a Parisian review at the beginning of this century asserted that in Walloon “there are a hundred ways to say ‘ginever,’ but no words for ‘idealism’ or ‘dialectic.’ ”
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Walloon is anything but elegant. It roars and bawls and guffaws. It is a great vehicle for the mock-lament, the histrionic complaint, the self-consuming boast, the tender homely croon of reassurance. Its essential medium is the apothegm,
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It is loud, good-humored, long-suffering, self-mocking, wry, and often psychologically acute. It shares something with Yiddish in these characteristics, as well as in the unbuttoned, elbows-out roominess of its sound. The
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Walloon is rich in shadings and subtleties, but those terms are inseparably tied to the ground of a lost world.