He could see, for instance, that a certain key would not fit the lock, and yet he continued to try and insert it.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment (1886).
He played each note as though astonished by the previous one, as though every touch of his fingers on the keyboard was correcting an error and this touch in turn became an error to be corrected and so the tune never quite ended up the way it was meant to…But a logic was operating, a logic unique to Monk: if you always played the least expected note a form would emerge, a negative imprint of what was initially anticipated.
Geoff Dyer, But Beautiful (1991).
I am going to develop in your presence as fully and freely as I can the train of thought which led me to think this.
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929).
Wel I cant say for cern no mor if I had any of them things in my mynd befor she tol me but ever since then it seams like they all ways ben there. Seams like I ben all ways thinking on that thing in us what thinks us but it dont think like us. Our woal life is a idea we dint think of nor we dont know what it is. What a way to live.
Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker (1980).
I have seen that before, how a dog can both sense and show the feeling of guilt, and like most of us it was something it did not like, especially when its owner started talking to it in an almost childlike tone of voice, and which did not go well with the weather-beaten, lined face of a man who had undoubtedly been out on a cold night before and dealt with wayward things, complicated things in a contrary wind, things of high gravity – I could tell that when we shook hands.
Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses (2003), trans. Ann Born (2005)
To make a dirty surface clean – a very simple, very human matter.
Saul Bellow, Dangling Man (1944).
Then I think, will people really go, will people who could be swimming or drinking or going for a walk really take themselves out to the campus to find the room and sit in rows listening to those vain quarrelsome men?
Alice Munro, ‘Material’, Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (1997).
For the reader, the experience of narrative time bunching and becoming dense at points of significant action in the story, or thinning out and skipping or glancing through nonsignificant periods of clock time or calendar time, can be exhilarating – in fact it may be at the heart of narrative pleasure.
J. M. Coetzee, Doubling the Point (1992).
‘You must fall in love with your work.’
Jiro Ono, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, dir. David Gelb (2011).
And so I learned that familiar paths traced in the dusk of summer evenings may lead as well to prison as to innocent, carefree sleep.
Albert Camus, The Outsider (1942).
I was running across Lagos with my sister. We were doing a marathon, and having to push vagrants and street dogs out of the way. But I have no sister; I’m an only child. When I suddenly awoke, it was to total darkness.
Teju Cole, Open City (2011).
A creditable achievement, but as the moment passed, he felt he ought to have been working at something else the whole time – he didn’t know at what, never would know, never could know, and that was why he felt sad.
E. M. Forster, A Passage to India (1924).
From our history comes the image of a young man with a large brown suitcase on a bench in the Johannesburg station.
He was not travelling anywhere.
Athol Fugard, ‘Orestes: An experiment in theatre as described in a letter to an American friend’ (1973).