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Rachel-K
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Favorite Passages?

Please use this thread to share favorite moments, passages, images, or scenes from the novel. Please be warned that there may be spoilers here!
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ELee
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An honor and a privilege SPOILER p. 325

“My real stories are all out of date. So what if I can speak firsthand about the Spanish flu, the advent of the automobile, world wars, cold wars, guerrilla wars, and Sputnik-that’s all ancient history now. But what else do I have to offer? Nothing happens to me anymore.” p. 110

This thought was heart-wrenching because I know it is one shared by so many of todays aging population. Ours is such a disposable society that focuses solely on individual needs and the newest technological development, rather than reverencing life experience and respecting family structure. The thing that I noticed here is that Jacob is referring to events on a grander scale that were common to a multitude of people. The one “hook” that he had, and refused to use, was talking about his own life during the circus years, which would have had the added interest of being an individual and exclusive experience (and probably much more interesting). Although this may have had less impact on a family member than a fellow “circus person”, this idea is validated by the reaction of contemporary circus manager Charlie O’Brien.

“Charlie O’Brien stares at me for a very long time, his hand spread on his chest as though he were pledging an oath. ‘Mr. Jankowski,...it would be an honor and a privilege if you would join me for a drink in my trailer after the show. You’re a living piece of history, and I’d surely love to hear about that collapse firsthand. I’d be happy to see you home afterward.’”
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ELee
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“This is home” SPOILER p. 331

The tragic death of Jacob’s parents sets off a chain of events that quickly spiraled beyond any possible human control. Within days he lost everything; his family, his home and his veterinary degree. There is nothing to anchor him to his recent past, and nothing to influence the direction of his life for the future. His life becomes a clean slate with no obligations. Through his blinding grief, his instinct for survival urges him to take some kind of spontaneous action, but he does so randomly and without forethought when he jumps the circus train. He is leaving the world he has known for twenty three years and entered a new one with a different hierarchy and a new set of rules. And as it turns out, the world of the circus supplants all that came before it and after it, and will always remain his “home”.

“And then I laugh, because it’s so ridiculous and so gorgeous and it’s all I can do to not melt into a fit of giggles. So what if I’m ninety-three? So what if I’m ancient and cranky and my body’s a
wreck? If they’re willing to accept me and my guilty conscience, why the hell shouldn’t I run away with the circus?...For this old man, this is home.”
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IBIS
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Re: An honor and a privilege SPOILER p. 325

ELee, that's a wonderful passage on p. 325. It also struck me as poignant when I read it.

You've articulately precisely what is so off-kilter about our society's disposable treatment of the elderly. Jacob's life and his stories are amazing ...it spanned through 90 (or 93) years of our nation's history.

Yet no one, neither his grown children nor his grandchildren, care enough to find the time to listen to his rich oral history. Rosemary is an exception because she SAW, and LISTENED to Jacob as a real human being, with a past as well as a present.

Jacob really needed anyone to show a modicum of interest in him; he was absolutely ready to reveal his secret. It's a sad reflection on our hurry-up, fast-paced world that none of his children and grandchildren could coax this amazing story out of him.

It must have been a heavy burden to keep Rosie's secret for 70 years! Jacob must desperately have wanted to share his circus memories. Probably right after he lost Marlena. With Marlena's death, he lost the only person with whom he shared circus memories.

It was Charlie O'Brien, a total stranger, who helped Jacob to finally clear his conscience.

IBIS
IBIS

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vivico1
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Re: Favorite Passages? spoiler for page 107

One of my favorite passages is the whole business around page 107. The line "One of the greatest indignities about being old is that people insist on helping you with things like bathing and going to the washroom." Thats got to be hard when you are old and its an all the time thing, so little personal privacy. I think many of us who have gone through one or more surgeries where we had to stay in the hospital can relate somewhat.

I was in 10 days when I was in my mid 20s and had both my knees operated on at one time and they were in straight leg castes all the way down, so to use the bathroom, I had to call a nurse to come roll me on my side, slip the pan under,set me up, come back, lay me back down, roll me off, then wipe my little fanny too. That was all bad enough but you know they have to do this all the time and just try to remember that but one day, I called for the nurse and in a few minutes a very handsome young man in white came in and I thought oh he is fine lol, I hope hes around all night! Then it hit me! He WAS my nurse and said, you needed something? I suddenly wished I didnt lol, I said well I um, need to go to the restroom. He casually got the bedpan and said, can you pull yourself over to the side so I can put this under you or do you need me to help turn you? Totally embarrassed, I said I can pull myself over to my side (about killed myself lol). He got the pan under me, covered me with the sheet and started to walk out saying buzz me when you are done. He was SOOO good looking lol. I said I have to tell you, i really need a female nurse to come back. He said, oh I am sorry, I didn't mean to make you upset. I said no, no, its just, I am so sorry, but this was bad enough, but I cant have you come back and wipe my fanny for me too, I could never look you in the eye again LOL. He smiled and said no problem really. So a female nurse came, thank heavens. At med time, I thought ok NOW I get to talk to the cutie, but he didnt come. They just took him off my case altogether and no more guys, just female nurses lol. So I can also understand the next part on that same page that made me laugh for him, not at him but is so understandable...

" Bathing is even more embarrassing because I have to strip down to my birthday suit in front of a nurse. Now there are some things that never die, so even though I'm in my nineties my sap sometimes rises. I can't help it. They always pretend not to notice......pretending is almost worse than noticing. It means they consider me nothing more than a harmless old man sporting a harmless old P*** (cleaned the word up there some :smileywink:) that still gets uppity once in awhile. Although if one of them took it seriously and tried to do something about it, the shock would probably kill me."

I LOVE this passage because of how he speaks of such an embarrassing thing. Such humor, I was so laughing, one of the few times in the whole book. But also there is that truism of how we look at the elderly or think about them, when it comes to the body or sexual things, like he says, pretending is saying he is nothing more than harmless and thats got to be as bad on the ego as the indignity of going through this ritual all the time to clean up anyway. I do love his wording of it all tho lol.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Fozzie
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Re: An honor and a privilege SPOILER p. 325



ELee wrote:
“My real stories are all out of date. So what if I can speak firsthand about the Spanish flu, the advent of the automobile, world wars, cold wars, guerrilla wars, and Sputnik-that’s all ancient history now. But what else do I have to offer? Nothing happens to me anymore.” p. 110





This was one of my favorite quotes too. It literally gave me pause as I stopped reading to ponder it.
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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Wrighty
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Re: Favorite Passages? spoiler for page 107


vivico1 wrote:
" Bathing is even more embarrassing because I have to strip down to my birthday suit in front of a nurse. Now there are some things that never die, so even though I'm in my nineties my sap sometimes rises. I can't help it. They always pretend not to notice......pretending is almost worse than noticing. It means they consider me nothing more than a harmless old man sporting a harmless old P*** (cleaned the word up there some :smileywink:) that still gets uppity once in awhile. Although if one of them took it seriously and tried to do something about it, the shock would probably kill me."

I LOVE this passage because of how he speaks of such an embarrassing thing. Such humor, I was so laughing, one of the few times in the whole book. But also there is that truism of how we look at the elderly or think about them, when it comes to the body or sexual things, like he says, pretending is saying he is nothing more than harmless and thats got to be as bad on the ego as the indignity of going through this ritual all the time to clean up anyway. I do love his wording of it all tho lol.



That made me laugh too. It was such a delicate situation but he had a great sense of humor for someone who was so vulnerable. That's a great way to handle it if your capable. Humor and grace.
By the way Viv, did you ever hear from that male nurse again? :smileysurprised: :smileywink:
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Fozzie
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Re: Favorite Passages? Transitions

We have briefly mentioned the transitions between the world of the old Jacob and the new Jacob and how smooth they were. Here is one of my favorites, from pages 172-3:

But despite the explicit and exaggerated drawings, I can't muster any interest whatever in Mr. Big Studio Director boning the skinny would-be starlet with the horse face.

I blink rapidly, trying to get my bearings --- that skinny nurse with the horse face has dropped a tray of food at the end of the hall, and it's woken me up.
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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Fozzie
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Re: Favorite Passages?

Here's another thought provoking quote from page 176-7:

Sometimes when you get older --- and I'm not talking about you, I'm talking generally, because everyone ages differently -- things you think on and wish on start to seem real. And then you believe them, and before you know it they're a part of your history, and if someone challenges you on them and says they're not true --- why, then you get offended. Because you don't remember the first part.

I could see this happening. My parents, sisters, and I often remember different versions of family happenings, if we remember the event at all. You tell yourself something often enough, you come to believe it.
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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Fozzie
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Re: Favorite Passages? - Secrets

Here's one on secrets from page 327:

In the entire history of our marriage, it was the only secret I kept from her, and eventually it became impossible to fix. With a secret like that, at some point the secret itself becomes irrelevant. The fact you kept it does not.

I can't help but wonder how keeping the secret affected Jacob's life.
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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KathyS
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Re: Favorite Passages? - Memories



Fozzie wrote:
Here's another thought provoking quote from page 176-7:

Sometimes when you get older --- and I'm not talking about you, I'm talking generally, because everyone ages differently -- things you think on and wish on start to seem real. And then you believe them, and before you know it they're a part of your history, and if someone challenges you on them and says they're not true --- why, then you get offended. Because you don't remember the first part.

I could see this happening. My parents, sisters, and I often remember different versions of family happenings, if we remember the event at all. You tell yourself something often enough, you come to believe it.


Laura, you pulled some great thoughts....I often think about this, also. And believe you're right, you do start to believe these events. My first thoughts were, for a young writer, how she was able to find this out, in the early processes of life.

Recently, I've been reminded by my brother of memories he's had, and I don't....or visa versa, from our past family history, as you. I wonder at times whether I've thought and thought, to the point of distortion, just trying to recall, and can't. What is really fact from fiction, or what is real from a dream? I'm a romantic dreamer. Sometimes it's easier to live within fiction, than living with the past.
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KathyS
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Re: Favorite Passages? Transitions



Fozzie wrote:
We have briefly mentioned the transitions between the world of the old Jacob and the new Jacob and how smooth they were. Here is one of my favorites, from pages 172-3:

But despite the explicit and exaggerated drawings, I can't muster any interest whatever in Mr. Big Studio Director boning the skinny would-be starlet with the horse face.

I blink rapidly, trying to get my bearings --- that skinny nurse with the horse face has dropped a tray of food at the end of the hall, and it's woken me up.



Well done by Sara. Smooth, yet jarring the teeth!
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Popper19
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Re: Favorite Passages? - Memories



KathyS wrote:


Fozzie wrote:
Here's another thought provoking quote from page 176-7:

Sometimes when you get older --- and I'm not talking about you, I'm talking generally, because everyone ages differently -- things you think on and wish on start to seem real. And then you believe them, and before you know it they're a part of your history, and if someone challenges you on them and says they're not true --- why, then you get offended. Because you don't remember the first part.

I could see this happening. My parents, sisters, and I often remember different versions of family happenings, if we remember the event at all. You tell yourself something often enough, you come to believe it.


Laura, you pulled some great thoughts....I often think about this, also. And believe you're right, you do start to believe these events. My first thoughts were, for a young writer, how she was able to find this out, in the early processes of life.

Recently, I've been reminded by my brother of memories he's had, and I don't....or visa versa, from our past family history, as you. I wonder at times whether I've thought and thought, to the point of distortion, just trying to recall, and can't. What is really fact from fiction, or what is real from a dream? I'm a romantic dreamer. Sometimes it's easier to live within fiction, than living with the past.




I used to think I had an excellant memory, but recently as I've been getting older and maturing, I've been questioning it. I'm glad to hear that others have different memories than their family members and I really related to the passage you quoted. I also believe you can start to make something a part of your history by the way you remember it rather than the way that it may have acutally occurred.
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KathyS
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Re: Favorite Passages? - Memories

This is an interesting thought...It has reminded me of what Virginia Woolf wrote about her past....and/or other's have written about her life. As much as she had written, almost daily, she recalled, later in her life, changes to those past memories, almost contradictions to what she had first written down....

My belief is, when we are young, we have one recollection.... but as we age, we change that perspective of that recollection, as Virginia seemed to do.

So, in saying this, there is never really an exact science for recollection of our past. We feel what we feel, at whatever age we feel these past histories of ours. In the case of this novel, we believe what the author gives to the voice of her characters. That's all we can do, is believe it's real, as we are told in the present..

Popper19 wrote:


KathyS wrote:


Fozzie wrote:
Here's another thought provoking quote from page 176-7:

Sometimes when you get older --- and I'm not talking about you, I'm talking generally, because everyone ages differently -- things you think on and wish on start to seem real. And then you believe them, and before you know it they're a part of your history, and if someone challenges you on them and says they're not true --- why, then you get offended. Because you don't remember the first part.

I could see this happening. My parents, sisters, and I often remember different versions of family happenings, if we remember the event at all. You tell yourself something often enough, you come to believe it.


Laura, you pulled some great thoughts....I often think about this, also. And believe you're right, you do start to believe these events. My first thoughts were, for a young writer, how she was able to find this out, in the early processes of life.

Recently, I've been reminded by my brother of memories he's had, and I don't....or visa versa, from our past family history, as you. I wonder at times whether I've thought and thought, to the point of distortion, just trying to recall, and can't. What is really fact from fiction, or what is real from a dream? I'm a romantic dreamer. Sometimes it's easier to live within fiction, than living with the past.




I used to think I had an excellant memory, but recently as I've been getting older and maturing, I've been questioning it. I'm glad to hear that others have different memories than their family members and I really related to the passage you quoted. I also believe you can start to make something a part of your history by the way you remember it rather than the way that it may have acutally occurred.


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Popper19
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Re: Favorite Passages? - Memories



KathyS wrote:
....

My belief is, when we are young, we have one recollection.... but as we age, we change that perspective of that recollection, as Virginia seemed to do.



I like that. Our perspective changes. Yes, I can definitely see that. I look back on situations in my life in a much different light than I did when I was younger.

Becky
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IBIS
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Re: Favorite Passages? - Memories

I agree that our memories are constantly shifting, and deepening as we age, because we keep adding new experiences to our old memories. And the fact that everytime we remember a memory, we actually change the memory because we keep adding, or losing more details.

It's similar to our perception of the same book. The books haven't changed, but our appreciation for the same book changes with time because we bring so much more accumulated "personal" material to the books.

Time itself changes not only our memories, but our understanding of what those memories come to mean to us. For example, the emotions we feel at the time we remember these memories darken or lighten the tenor of those memories. If you remember a great summer vacation when you're enjoying another great summer vacation is a totally different memory than if you remember that great summer vacation while you're mourning the death of the husband you shared that vacation with.

I recently read A YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion. In it she shares her thoughts about mourning the sudden death of her husband. Her memories of her husband underwent subtle changes over the months right after his death because she had "wishful, magical" thoughts about him, thinking "magically" for example that he would enter the room and come sit down for dinner. She wouldn't donate his shoes because she thought that "magically" he would one day need to wear them.

These magical thoughts shifted and changed her memories of their lives together.

To me, Jacob's memories are as trustworthy as the narrator that he is. As a reader, I trusted Jacob as a character, and as a narrator. Therefore, his memories were trustworthy. I read the book comforted that my trust in the narrative was not being abused.

IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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ELee
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"Age is a terrible thief"

IBIS wrote:
"I agree that our memories are constantly shifting, and deepening as we age, because we keep adding new experiences to our old memories. And the fact that everytime we remember a memory, we actually change the memory because we keep adding, or losing more details.

It's similar to our perception of the same book. The books haven't changed, but our appreciation for the same book changes with time because we bring so much more accumulated "personal" material to the books.

Time itself changes not only our memories, but our understanding of what those memories come to mean to us."


Very perceptive comments. Time does change many things. One of the passages that reached out to me was

“I...open my vanity mirror. I should know better by now, but somehow I still expect to see myself. Instead, I find an Appalachian apple doll, withered and spotty, with dewlaps and bags and long floppy ears. A few strands of white hair spring absurdly from its spotted skull.

I try to brush the hairs flat with my hand and freeze at the sight of my old hand on my old head. I lean close and open my eyes very wide, trying to see beyond the sagging flesh.

It’s no good. Even when I look straight into the milky blue eyes, I can’t find myself anymore. When did I stop being me?” p 111


As I age, I notice more and more how the changes time makes on us mentally and physically can have a very different chronology. Jacob may have looked like a wizened apple doll on the outside, but his mental outlook and perception of the world was closer to the twenty three year old Jacob than the ninety year old one. The link between how we perceive ourselves on the inside and what we look like on the outside can become increasingly conflicted as time moves on. Haven’t we all made assumptions about who/what someone else is based on their outward appearance? Pretty scary when you put the shoe on the other foot.
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Fozzie
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Re: "Age is a terrible thief"


ELee wrote:
One of the passages that reached out to me was

“I...open my vanity mirror. I should know better by now, but somehow I still expect to see myself. Instead, I find an Appalachian apple doll, withered and spotty, with dewlaps and bags and long floppy ears. A few strands of white hair spring absurdly from its spotted skull.

I try to brush the hairs flat with my hand and freeze at the sight of my old hand on my old head. I lean close and open my eyes very wide, trying to see beyond the sagging flesh.

It’s no good. Even when I look straight into the milky blue eyes, I can’t find myself anymore. When did I stop being me?” p 111






I remember this passage too. I thought of my Mom saying recently, while looking at a picture of herself, "I look like an old lady." Clearly she doesn't feel how she looks either!
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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IBIS
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Re: "Age is a terrible thief"

[ Edited ]
I wouldn't accuse aging as a thief...of our youth.

In our youth-obssessed culture, we're sold on the idea that the energetic, robust, person of our youth is a proxy of who we truly are for our entire lifetime. We make ourselves believe that we are robbed of that ONE phase of an entire lifecycle... we could easily make the case that we are "robbed" of our infancy, our toddlerhood, our childhood...ad nauseum.

Our youth was never a guarantee to be eternal... and yet in our older years, we convince ourselves that we were robbed of all of our youth's blessings. This skewed perception sadly robs us of celebrating the joys of growing older...and accepting the physical limitations as part of the process.

In turn, if we ourselves are uncomfortable with the loss of the gifts of our youth, it's but a hop, skip and a jump away to our being uncomfortable with our elderly population; this may explain many reasons why we ignore our elderly because they are constant reminders that in merely a few decades we will be in their shoes.

I understand Jacob wondering where his "true" younger self disappeared; who is this old man staring back at him in the mirror? We can certainly empathize with him and wish him well. But saying that he was "robbed" of his younger self is a disservice to having aged gracefully, and appreciating all the stages of a well-lived life.

IBIS

Message Edited by IBIS on 12-14-2007 02:03 PM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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Peppermill
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Re: "Age is a terrible thief"

IBIS -- so well said. Thank you.

IBIS wrote: I wouldn't accuse aging as a thief...of our youth.

In our youth-obssessed culture, we're sold on the idea that the energetic, robust, person of our youth is a proxy of who we truly are for our entire lifetime. We make ourselves believe that we are robbed of that ONE phase of an entire lifecycle... we could easily make the case that we are "robbed" of our infancy, our toddlerhood, our childhood...ad nauseum.

Our youth was never a guarantee to be eternal... and yet in our older years, we convince ourselves that we were robbed of all of our youth's blessings. This skewed perception sadly robs us of celebrating the joys of growing older...and accepting the physical limitations as part of the process.

In turn, if we ourselves are uncomfortable with the loss of the gifts of our youth, it's but a hop, skip and a jump away to our being uncomfortable with our elderly population; this may explain many reasons why we ignore our elderly because they are constant reminders that in merely a few decades we will be in their shoes.

I understand Jacob wondering where his "true" younger self disappeared; who is this old man staring back at him in the mirror? We can certainly empathize with him and wish him well. But saying that he was "robbed" of his younger self is a disservice to having aged gracefully, and appreciating all the stages of a well-lived life.

IBIS
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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