The 90 Best The Goldfinch Quotes

1. “For in the deepest, most unshakable part of myself reason was useless. She was the missing kingdom, the unbruised part of myself I’d lost with my mother. Everything about her was a snowstorm of fascination,.”

2. “I had the epiphany that laughter was light, and light was laughter, and that this was the secret of the universe.”

3. “Black birds. Disastrous lead-colored skies out of Egbert van der Poel.”

4. “Here is my experience. Stay away from the ones you love too much. Those are the ones who will kill you. What you want to live and be happy in the world is a woman who has her own life and lets you have yours.”

5. “even when I leaned in as far as I dared without being obvious,”

6. “The center of my earth is you.”

7. “And just as music is the space between notes, just as the stars are beautiful because of the space between them, just as the sun strikes raindrops at a certain angle and throws a prism of color across the sky – so the space where I exist, and I want to keep existing, and to be quite frank I hope I die in, is exactly this middle distance: where despair struck pure otherness and created something sublime.”

8. “‘He’s telling you that living things don’t last – it’s all temporary. Death in life. That’s why they’re called natures mortes. Maybe you don’t see it at first with all the beauty and bloom, the little speck of rot. But if you look closer – there it is.’”

9. “Understand, by saying God, I am merely using God as reference to long-term pattern we can’t decipher. Huge, slow-moving weather system rolling in on us from afar, blowing us randomly.”

10. “Whatever teaches us to talk to ourselves is important: whatever teaches us to sing ourselves out of despair.”

11. “It does all swing around strangely sometimes, doesn’t it?” he said. I was silent, not knowing what to say. “I mean only—” rubbing his eye—“I only understand it, as I get older. How funny time is. How many tricks and surprises.” The word trick was all I heard, or understood.”

12. “Maybe the one had to be lost for the others to be found?”

13. “Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only – if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things – beautiful things – that they connect you to some larger beauty?”

14. “To understand the world at all, sometimes you could only focus on a tiny bit of it, look very hard at what was close to hand and make it stand in for the whole.”

15. “She was as cool as dammit.”

16. “Never do what you can’t undo.”

17. “Bad artists copy, good artists steal.”

18. “It was one thing to see a painting in a museum but to see it in all those lights and moods and seasons was to see it a thousand different ways and to keep it shut in the dark—a thing made of light, that only lived in light—was wrong in more ways than I knew how to explain. More than wrong: it was crazy.”

19. “swaying and sleepy as I sailed home on the bus, melting with sorrow and loveliness, a starry ache that lifted me up above the windswept city like a kite: my head in the rainclouds, my heart in the sky.”

20. “More than anything I was relieved that in my unfamiliar babbling-and-wanting-to-talk state I’d stopped myself from blurting the thing I’d never said, even though it was something we both knew well enough without me saying out loud to him in the street – which was, of course, I love you.”

21. “A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.”

22. “As terrible as this is, I get it. WE can’t choose what we want and don’t want and that’s the hard lonely truth. Sometimes we want what we want even if we know it’s going to kill us. We can’t escape who we are”

23. “…and though it’s a bleak thing to admit all these years later, still I’ve never met anyone who made me feel loved the way she did.”

24. “And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.”

25. “I personally have never drawn such a sharp line between ‘good’ and ‘bad; as you. For me: that line is often false. The two are never disconnected. One can’t exist without the other.”

26. “That woman can sell water to a drowning man.”

27. “Hard to put things right. You don’t often get that chance. Sometimes all you can do is not get caught.”

28. “What if all your actions and choices, good or bad, make no difference to God? What if the pattern is pre-set? No no—hang on—this is a question worth struggling with. What if our badness and mistakes are the very thing that set our fate and bring us round to good? What if, for some of us, we can’t get there any other way?”

29. “Clearly something had gone wrong, badly, only I wasn’t quite sure what—apart from knowing that I was responsible somehow, in the generalized miasma of shame and unworthiness and being-a-burden that never quite left me.”

30. “The world won’t come to me…so I must go to it.”

31. “Well, I’ve already got ten thousand set aside. That’s a good start. If you think about it when we get home, give me your Social and next time I drop by the bank, I’ll open an account in your name, okay?”

32. “Always remember, the person we’re really working for is the person who’s restoring the piece a hundred years from now. He’s the one we want to impress.”

33. “As long as I am acting out of love, I feel I am doing best I know how.”

34. “Good doesn’t always follow from good deeds, nor bad deeds result form bad, does it? Even the wise and good cannot see the end of all actions. Scary idea!”

35. “What if — is more complicated than that? What if maybe opposite is true as well? Because, if bad can sometimes come from good actions—? where does it ever say, anywhere, that only bad can come from bad actions? Maybe sometimes — the wrong way is the right way? You can take the wrong path and it still comes out where you want to be? Or, spin it another way, sometimes you can do everything wrong and it still turns out to be right?.”

36. “A teahouse amid the cherry blossoms, on the way to death.”

37. “You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.”

38. “For humans-trapped in biology-there was no mercy: we lived a while, we fussed around for a bit and died, we rotted in the ground like garbage. Time destroyed us all soon enough. But to destroy, or lose, a deathless thing-to break bonds stronger than the temporal-was a metaphysical uncoupling all its own, a startling new flavor of despair.”

39. “​While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years.”

40. “But if you close the door… the night could last forever…”

41. “The light of long ago is different from the light of today and yet here, in this house, I’m reminded of the past at every turn.”

42. “…beauty alters the grain of reality. And I keep thinking too of the more conventional wisdom: namely, that the pursuit of pure beauty is a trap, a fast track to bitterness and sorrow, that beauty has to be wedded to something more meaningful.”

43. “how strange to find that the present contained such a bright shard of the living past, damaged and eroded but not destroyed.”

44. “Then why aren’t you happy?” “I don’t want to talk about it.” “And”

45. “I was worried that my exuberant drug use had damaged my brain and my nervous system and maybe even my soul in some irreparable and perhaps not readily apparent way.”

46. “Every new event – everything I did for the rest of my life – would only separate us more and more: days she was no longer a part of, an ever-growing distance between us. Every single day for the rest of my life, she would only be further away.”

47. “What you want is to live and be happy in the world is a woman (or man) who has her (his) own life and lets you have yours”

48. “But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.”

49. “Who cares? If he is good to you? None of us ever find enough kindness in the world, do we?.”

50. “We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others, that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves.”

51. “I was fascinated by strangers, wanted to know what food they ate and what dishes they ate it from, what movies they watched and what music they listened to, wanted to look under their beds and in their secret drawers and night tables and inside the pockets of their coats.”

52. “He was a planet without an atmosphere.”

53. “And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.”

54. “I see you are philosopher by nature.”

55. “Maybe good luck was like bad luck in that it took a while to sink in.”

56. “Or rather, I dreamed of her constantly, only as absence, not presence: a breeze blowing through a just-vacated house, her handwriting on a notepad, the smell of her perfume, streets in strange lost towns where I knew she’d been walking only a moment before but had just vanished, a shadow moving away against a sunstruck wall. Sometimes I spotted her in a crowd, or in a taxicab pulling away, and these glimpses of her I treasured despite the fact that I was never able to catch up with her.”

57. “When you feel homesick,’ he said, ‘just look up. Because the moon is the same wherever you go.”

58. “he said well if you can’t plan it out ahead of time, you’ll just have to work it out as you go along”

59. “picking up the phone to say hello, somehow I never had. “Are you okay?”

60. “When we are sad – at least I am like this – it can be comforting to cling to familiar objects, to the things that don’t change.”

61. “—if a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don’t think, ‘oh, I love this picture because it’s universal.’ ‘I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.’ That’s not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It’s a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you.”

62. “There’s no ‘rational grounds’ for anything I care about.”

63. “‘When you feel homesick,’ he said, ‘just look up. Because the moon is the same wherever you go.’”

64. “His warmth, which seemed to presume upon some happy old intimacy we did not share, had thrown me into awkwardness.”

65. “Why do I care about all the wrong things, and nothing at all for the right ones? Or, to tip it another way: how can I see so clearly that everything I love or care about is illusion, and yet – for me, anyway – all that’s worth living for lies in that charm?.”

66. “‘The world won’t come to me,’ he used to say, ‘so I must go to it.’”

67. “Stay away from the ones you love too much. Those are the ones who will kill you”

68. “The sky was a rich, mindless, never-ending blue, like a promise of some ridiculous glory that wasn’t really there.”

69. “…no matter how hard I tried to wish him out of the picture—for there he always was, in my hands and my voice and my walk…”

70. “Mine, mine. Fear, idolatry, hoarding. The delight and terror of the fetishist.”

71. “Who was it that said that coincidence was just God’s way of remaining anonymous?”

72. “I am acting out of love, I feel I am doing best I know how.”

73. “Bethlehem star. But we were not”

74. “No law against throwing a coat in the canal, is there?” “I would have thought so, yes.” “Well—who knows. Not very widely enforced law, if you ask me”

75. “Where does it ever say, anywhere, that only bad can come from bad actions? Maybe sometimes— the wrong way is the right way? You can take the wrong path and it still comes out where you want to be?”

76. “Everything came alive in her company; she cast a charmed theatrical light about her so that to see anything through her eyes was to see it in brighter colors than ordinary”

77. “Because-they are saying, ‘one of the great art recoveries of history.’ And this is the part I hoped would please you- maybe not who knows, but I hoped. Museum masterworks, returned to public ownership! Stewardship of cultural treasure! Great joy! All the angels are singing! but it would never have happened, if not for you.”

78. “Sometimes it’s about playing a poor hand well.”

79. “…as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch.”

80. “If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement, the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? Or—like Boris—is it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name? It’s”

81. “The world is much stranger than we know or can say.”

82. “The days were so much alike I barely noticed the months pass.”

83. “a starry ache that lifted me up above the windswept city like a kite: my head in the rainclouds, my heart in the sky.”

84. “We looked at each other, for a long strange moment that I’ve never forgotten, actually, like two animals meeting at twilight, during which some clear, personable spark seemed to fly up through his eyes and I saw the creature he really was—and he, I believe, saw me. For an instant we were wired together and humming, like two engines on the same circuit.”

85. “You know, sometimes there’s a light at the table, like a visible halo, and you’re it, you know? You’re the light?”

86. “It was a stillness I knew; this was how a house closed in on itself when someone had died.”

87. “It happened in New York, April 10th, nineteen years ago. Even my hand balks at the date. I had to push to write it down, just to keep the pen moving on the paper. It used to be a perfectly ordinary day, but now it sticks up on the calendar like a rusty nail.”

88. “He’s telling you that living things don’t last—it’s all temporary. Death in life.”

89. “it would be a long, long time before I heard anything from Boris again.”

90. “It made me feel less mortal, less ordinary. It was support and vindication; it was sustenance and sum. It was the keystone that held the whole cathedral up. And it was awful to learn, by having it so suddenly vanish from under me, that all my adult life I’d been privately sustained by that great, hidden, savage joy: the conviction that my whole life was balanced atop a secret that might at any movement blow me part.”

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