The book, her book, was bound in black, with the words North of Nowhere indented in worn gold on the spine. Dirty and dusty, the boards loose under the cloth, it resembled a kind of withered bat. I looked at it with vague distaste. Then, almost as if it had come to life, it slithered out of my grasp, bounced, and splayed open. I picked it up. I didn’t know then how dangerous fairy tales can be.”

“My body had taken on a life of its own, in which it wept while I remained an embarrassed parent, unable to control its excesses.”

“I had been much more in love with my wife than she with me, that was all. Somehow, you were supposed to be ashamed of this, as though love were a perpetual jostling for the roles of pursuer and pursued. As if it didn’t take more courage to admit that someone held your hopes of happiness in their hands. As if it were a choice.”

“Actually, I had once liked Bruce.  He’d always seen the latest plays and films, never had an original word to say about any of them, but exuded an air of pleasantness that, coupled with all his money, passed for charm, He read the papers and knew interesting people, he played poker and had a rich, catarrhal laugh that spoke of life time of scoffing pate de foie gras to the sound of trumpets,.. The best screen actors, I kept being told, are those who don’t bother to work out what they’re supposed to be feeling and thinking, but who just say their lines. It’s the same, apparently, in life.”

“Some people, perhaps those with more dignity and less rage gnawing at the roots of their being, are nicer as failures, For me, it was like descending a deep pit that had no bottom.”

“All age is a kind of tiredness, I think. When you’re young, the lines never show. Every morning you wake unmarked, wiped clear by sleep. One day, though, you see lines that itch, as though some crumb of existence has been creased into your skin. They can never be smoothed away, and after a while you forget that this heavy, irritable feeling wasn’t always there.”

“What frightened me most was, I could no longer believe in my own life as a story. Everyone needs a story, a part to play in order to avoid the realization that life is without significance. How else do any of us survive? It’s what makes life bearable, even interesting. When it becomes neither, people say you’ve lost the plot. Or just lost it.”

“‘If you read fairy tales carefully, you’ll notice they are mostly about people who aren’t heroes. They don’t have special powers, or gifts. Often they are despised as stupid, They are bullied, beaten up, robbed, starved. But they find they are stronger than their misfortunes.’

 “That is the worst thing about despair: it is not constant, any more than love is.”

“I wondered why so many women fail to recognises that, as in restaurants, it is the absence of irritants as much as the presence of attractions that counts.”

“I knew exactly when the fever had struck. O had been reading Hamlet in an English class at school. Everyone else stumbled, puzzling over the strange words. Then it had been my turns, and the language had suddenly woken in me, so that my heart and lungs and tongue and throat were on fire. Later, I understood that this was why people spoke of Shakespeare as a god. At the time, I felt like weeping. Somebody had released me from dumbness, from utter isolation. I knew that I could live inside these words, that they would give me a a shape, a shell. I had no idea, then, that I would never play Hamlet…. I’m an actor, and in a good year I earn eleven thousand pounds for dressing up as a carrot.”

“It’s not by accident that people talk of a state of confusion as not being able to see the wood for the trees, or of being out of the woods when some crisis is surmopunted. It is a place of loss, confusion, terror and anger, a place where you can, like Dante, find yourself going down into Hell. But if it’s any comfort, the dark wood isn’t just that. It’s also a place of opportunity and adventure. It is the place in which fortunes can be reversed, hearts mended, hopes reborn.”