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November 19, 2007

'The true mark of talent is the ability to recognize when to give things up'


Above, the first sentence of the eleventh paragraph of Peter Høeg's new novel, "The Quiet Girl."

When, a couple nights ago, I read it on the second page of the book, I stopped for a while.

I knew I was once again ("Smilla's Sense of Snow" being the first instance) in the hands of a master.

A quiet, meditative book, absolutely perfect at bedtime.

I note it here now because if I wait until I'm finished, at the rate I'm going, trying to make it last as long as possible, it might not be till Christmas or thereabouts that I get around to mentioning it.

Simply superb.

    A few more excerpts from the first 40 pages:

    Kasper loved how rich people sniffed their way to each other. It was like Romeo and Juliet. Even in the heat of passion and love at first sight, in the upper right-hand corner there was always a space set aside for balancing the account.

    The dark amber liquid had everything. It calmed you and filled you up, brought clarity and ecstasy. It anesthetized bad nerves and stimulated healthy ones. He raised the glass and let it refract the last light coming through the window. April light was unlike any other. It had a charming, optimistic unreliability, like an overbid hand in poker. It gave a promise of spring that it wasn't sure it could keep.

    Before the drawer she had never left anything at his place. In the morning she would methodically gather up everything, often while he was still asleep. When he woke up everything was gone, no physical trace of her; only her sound remained.

November 19, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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Thanks, clifyt. I think I get the gist of it.

The reference to Martin Buber in that excerpt took me way back...(vaseline on the lens, mist around the edges, calendar months dropping away backwards, melancholy music...) In my early 20's, when I was working for Ma Bell, I used to get bored stiff and always worked with a book in my lap, taking calls and reading simultaneously. I was working on "I and Thou" and would frequently walk home (at that time only a mile and a half away) in some kind of transcendent state. (Whatever that means.) I had many lengthy conversations with many learned folks over that book. Then the years rolled by, I found my several heavily underlined and written-in copies in the my attic, brought them down to have a read, and couldn't figure out what in the HELL old Buber was talking about. I even called a learned aforementioned friend and was told the same thing happened to him, then some more years went by, and he understood it again. So I'm just waiting. I wonder if it's "done" yet. Hmm.

Posted by: Flautist | Nov 19, 2007 6:13:33 PM

Take a read here...gives the context...


Posted by: clifyt | Nov 19, 2007 1:14:33 PM

Tricky statement. And what exactly does it mean, out of context?

It's always good to know when to give things up. I don't know if it is THE true mark of, or indeed, if it indicates, talent. And the ability to recognize it doesn't necessarily mean there is actual giving up, does it? Would it still be a true mark of talent to be able to recognize when to, yet to continue on to NOT, give things up?

Posted by: Flautist | Nov 19, 2007 11:32:12 AM

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