The Sentimentalists


A sadness that would make you, when you saw it, want to pull the edges of your own life up around you, and stay there, carefully, inside. (p. 87)

Or, similarly, that the story that I was telling was not my own. That I would never be able to understand it — not my own life, and certainly not the lives of others — because even the simplest things appeared to me to be the most complicated puzzles, for which I had only the most inadequate of clues. And that, by reading backwards along the lives of objects, and the things that I had learned piecemeal from my parents, and from the rest of the world, I was only being thrown farther and farther off course, and was by now very far from the straight and deep waters for which I had always felt I was somehow bound. And that, each time I’d thought I was coming closer to that unknown region I desired, I was actually following along a different route; a small estuary quite sideways to that true course of things, ending up in distant and uncomfortable regions I had never dreamed of visiting before… Which leads me finally to believe that the small estuaries to which I have been blown are just as true as the rest, and that the deep and open and still untried waters have been left uncharted because they do not in fact exist at all; except, that is, in the magic lantern pictures of my mind where they are just a simple shadow-play of death, which someday, and far too soon, will have us all freely sailing there. (pp.93-94)

— Johanna Skibsrud, The Sentimentalists


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