My favorite quotes from We Need to Talk About Kevin

It’s difficult to pick out favorite quotes from We Need to Talk About Kevin, both because every sentence is truly beautiful and because repetition seems to somehow imply endorsement, a hard pill to swallow when the topic is mass murder (or even just rampant cynicism). But here are some tidbits I enjoyed.

“I always prefer socializing at night—it is implicitly more wanton.”

“Only a country that feels invulernable can afford political turmoil as entertainment.”

“Hitherto, I had always regarded the United States as a place to leave. After you brazenly asked me out—an executive with whom you had a business relationship—you goaded me to admit that had I been born elsewhere, the U.S. of A. was perhaps the first country I would make a beeline to visit: whatever else I might think of it, the place that called the shots and pulled the strings, that made the movies and sold the Coca-Cola and shipped Star Trek all the way to Java; the center of the action, a country that you needed a relationship with even if that relationship was hostile; a country that demanded if not acceptance at least rejection—anything but neglect. The country in every other country’s face, that would visit you whether you liked it or not almost anywhere on the planet.”

“An honest list of all that I did not want to nurture, from the garden-variety moron to the grotesquely overweight, might run damningly to a second page. “

“The gap between most people’s capacity to conjure beauty from scratch and to merely recognize it when they see it is the width of the Atlantic Ocean.”

“Tragedy seems to bring out all varieties of unexpected qualities in people. It was as if some folks got dunked in plastic, vacuum-sealed like backpacking dinners, and could do nothing but sweat in their private hell. And others seemed to have just the opposite problem, as if disaster had dipped them in acid instead, stripping off the outside layer of skin that once protected them from the slings and arrows of other people’s outrageous fortunes. For these sorts, just walking down the street in the wake of every stranger’s ill wind became an agony, an aching slog through this man’s fresh divorce and this woman’s throat cancer. They were in hell, too, but it was everybody’s hell, this big, shoreless, sloshing sea of toxic waste.”

“The vanity of protective parents goes beyond look-at-us-we’re-such-responsible-guardians. Our prohibitions also bulwark our self-importance. They fortify the construct that we adults are all initiates. By conceit, we have earned access to an unwritten Talmud whose soul-shattering content we are sworn to conceal from ‘innocents’ for their own good. By pandering to this myth of the naif, we service our own legend. Presumably we have looked the horror in the face, like staring into the naked eye of the sun, blistering into turbulent, corrupted creatures, enigmas even to ourselves. Gross with revelation, we would turn back the clock if we could, but there is no unknowing of this awful canon, no return to the blissfully insipid world of childhood, no choice but to shoulder this weighty black sagacity, whose finest purpose is to shelter our air-headed midgets from a glimpse of the abyss. The sacrifice is flatteringly tragic.”

“In a country that doesn’t discriminate between fame and infamy, the latter presents itself as plainly more achievable.”

“People around here can’t just go for a walk, they have to be getting with some kind of program. And you know, this may be at the heart of it, what’s my beef. All those intangibles of life, the really good but really elusive stuff that makes life worth living—Americans seem to believe they can all be obtained by joining a group, or signing up to a subscription, or going on a special diet, or undergoing aromatherapy. It’s not just that Americans think they can buy everything; they think that if you follow the instructions on the label, the product has to work. Then when the product doesn’t work and they’re still unhappy even though the right to happiness is enshrined in the Constitution, they sue the bejesus out of each other.”

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