Jonathan Safran Foer

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Jonathan Safran Foer in 2007

Jonathan Safran Foer (born February 21, 1977) is an American fiction writer.


  • I used to think that humor was the only way to appreciate how wonderful and terrible the world is, to celebrate how big life is. But now I think the opposite. Humor is a way of shrinking from that wonderful and terrible world.
  • "I used to tuck her … but now she tucked my feelings into the woven arteries of my veins."
  • But more than that, no unloving words were ever spoken, and everything was held up as another small piece of proof that it can be this way, it doesn't have to be that way; if there is no love in the world, we will make a new world, and we will give it heavy walls, and we will furnish it with soft red interiors, from the inside out, and give it a knocker that resonates like a diamond falling to a jeweler's felt so that we should never hear it. Love me, because love doesn't exist, and I have tried everything that does.
  • Brod’s life was a slow realization that the world was not for her, and that for whatever reason, she would never be happy and honest at the same time. She felt as if she were brimming, always producing and hoarding more love inside her. But there was no release. Table, ivory elephant charm, rainbow, onion, hairdo,mollusk, Shabbos, violence, cuticle, melodrama, ditch, honey, doily … None of it moved her. She addressed her world honestly, searching for something deserving of the volumes of love she knew she had within her, but to each she would have to say, I don’t love you.
  • "You do not have to present not-truths to me, Sasha. I am not a child."(But I do. That is what you always fail to understand. I present not-truths in order to protect you. That is also why I try so inflexibly to be a funny person. Everything is to protect you. I exist in case you need to be protected.)
  • Accepting the compromise of the way we have been, the way we are, and the way we will likely be... may we live together in unwavering love and good health, amen.
  • SADNESSES OF THE COVENANT: Sadness of God's love; Sadness of God's back [sic]; Favorite-child sadness; Sadness of b[ein]g sad in front of one's God; Sadness of the opposite of belief [sic]; What if? Sadness; Sadness of God alone in heaven; Sadness of a God who would need people to pray to Him...
  • So many visitors came to rub and kiss different parts of him for the fulfillment of their various wishes that his entire body had to be rebronzed every month. He was a changing god, destroyed and recreated by his believers, destroyed and recreated by their belief... Those who prayed came to believe less and less in the god of their creation and more and more in their belief.
  • It feels like a moment I've lived a thousand times before, as if everything is familiar, right up to the moment of my death, that it will happen again an infinite number of times, that we will meet, marry, have our children, succeed in the ways we have, fail in the ways we have, all exactly the same, always unable to change a thing. I am again at the bottom of an unstoppable wheel, and when I feel my eyes close for death, as they have and will a thousand times, I awake.
  • She spent the afternoon staring at their front door. "Waiting for someone?" Yankel asked. "What color is this?" He stood very close to the door, letting the end of his nose touch the peephole. He licked the wood and joked, "It certainly tastes like red." "Yes, it is red, isn't it?" "Seems so." She buried her head in her hands. "But couldn’t it be just a bit more red?" (pp. 79-80)
  • My friends are appeased to stay in Odessa for their entire lives. They are appeased to age like their parents, and become parents like their parents. They do not desire anything more than everything they have known.
  • Words never mean what we want them to mean.
  • Every parent who loses a child finds a way to laugh again. The timbre begins to fade. The edge dulls. The hurt lessens. Every love is carved from loss. Mine was. Yours is. Your great-great-great-children's will be. But we learn to live with that love.
  • I never thought about things at all, everything changed, the distance that wedged itself between me and my happiness wasn't the world, it wasn't the bombs and burning buildings, it was me, my thinking, my cancer of never letting go, is ignorance bliss, I don't know, but it's so painful to think, and tell me, what did thinking ever do for me, to what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think, I've thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it. (p. 17)
  • "Why do beautiful songs make you sad?" "Because they aren't true." "Never?" "Nothing is beautiful and true." (p. 43)
  • That secret was a hole in the middle of me that every happy thing fell into. (p. 71)
  • I hope you never love anything as much as I love you. (p. 73)
  • In the end, everyone loses everyone. There was no invention to get around that, and so I felt, that night, like the turtle that everything else in the universe was on top of. (p. 74)
  • When I was your age, my grandfather bought me a ruby bracelet. It was too big for me and would slide up and down my arm. It was almost a necklace. He later told me that he had asked the jeweler to make it that way. Its size was supposed to be a symbol of his love. More rubies, more love. But I could not wear it comfortably. I could not wear it at all. So here is the point of everything I have been trying to say. If I were to give a bracelet to you, now, I would measure your wrist twice. (p. 79)
  • Humans are the only animal that blushes, laughs, has religion, wages war, and kisses with lips. So in a way, the more you kiss with lips, the more human you are. (p. 99)
  • Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living. (p. 113)
  • She wants to know if I love her, that's all anyone wants from anyone else, not love itself but the knowledge that love is there, like new batteries in the flashlight in the emergency kit in the hall closet. (p. 130)
  • I felt that night, on the stage, incredibly close to everything in the universe, but also extremely alone. I wondered, for the first time in my life, if life was worth all the work it took to live. What exactly made it worth it? What's so horrible about being dead forever, and not feeling anything, and not even dreaming? What's so great about feeling and dreaming? (p. 145)
  • So many people enter and leave your life! Hundreds of thousands of people! You have to keep the door open so they can come in! But it also means you have to let them go! (p. 153)
  • "Stalin found out about the community and sent his thugs in, just a few days before I got there, to break all of their arms! That was worse than killing them! It was a horrible sight, Oskar: their arms in crude splints, straight in front of them like zombies! They couldn't feed themselves, because they couldn't get their hands to their mouths! So you know what they did!" "They starved?" "They fed each other! That's the difference between heaven and hell! In hell we starve! In heaven we feed each other!" I don't believe in the afterlife." "Neither do I, but I believe in the story."
    • Mr. Black talking with Oskar
    • "Heavier Boots" (p. 142)
  • There is nothing wrong with compromising, even if you are compromising almost everything. (p. 175)
  • Shyness is when you turn your head away from something you want. Shame is when you turn your head away from something you do not want.
    • "My Feelings" (p. 179)
  • I spent my life learning to feel less.
    Every day I felt less.
    Is that growing old? Or is it something worse?
    You can not protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.
    • Oskar's grandmother to his grandfather after she told him of her pregnancy.
    • "My Feelings" (p. 180)
  • She died in my arms saying, "I don't want to die." That is what death is like. It doesn't matter what uniforms the soldiers are wearing. It doesn't matter how good the weapons are. I thought if everyone could see what I saw, we could never have war anymore. (p. 189)
  • "I feel too much. That's what's going on." "Do you think one can feel too much? Or just feel the wrong ways? "My insides don't match up with my outsides." "Do anyone's inside and outsides match up?" "I don't know. I'm only me." "Maybe that's what a person's personality is: the difference between the inside and the outside." "But it's worse for me." "I wonder if everyone thinks it's worse for him." "Probably. But it really is worse for me."
    • Oskar during a visit to his therapist, Dr. Fein
    • "Happiness, Happiness" (p. 201)
  • It's the tragedy of loving, you can't love anything more than something you miss. (p. 208)
  • I'm so afraid of losing something I love, that I refuse to love anything. (p. 216)
  • Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on. I hope you never think about anything as much as I think about you. (p. 224)
  • It broke my heart into more pieces than my heart was made of, why can't people say what they mean at the time? (p. 279)
  • I wanted to build walls around him, I wanted to separate inside from outside, I wanted to give him an infinitely long blank book and the rest of time. (p. 280)
  • "It's easy to be emotional. You can always make a scene... Highs and lows make you feel that things matter, but they're nothing." "So what's something?" "Being reliable is something. Being good."
    • William Black talking with Oskar
    • "A Simple Solution to an Impossible Problem" (p. 297)
  • The mistakes I've made are dead to me. But I can't take back the things I never did. (p. 309)
  • I said, I want to tell you something She said, you can tell me tomorrow I had never told her how much I loved her. She was my sister. We slept in the same bed. There was never a right time to say it. It was always unnecessary. I thought about waking her. But it was unnecessary. There would be other nights. And how can you say I love you to someone you love? I rolled onto my side and fell asleep next to her. Here is the point of everything I have been trying to tell you, Oskar. It's always necessary. I love you. Grandma.
    • Oskar's grandmother
    • "My Feelings" (p. 314)
  • I put my hand on him. Touching him has always been important to me, it was something I lived for. I never could explain why. Little, nothing touches, my fingers against his shoulder, the outsides of our thighs touching as we squeeled together on the bus. I couldnt explain it, but I needed it. Sometimes I imagined stiching all of our little touches together. How many hundreds of thousands of fingers brushing against each other does it take to make love?
  • There were things I wanted to tell him. But I knew they would hurt him, so I buried them, and let them hurt me. (p. 181)
  • He had a wall of masks from every country he‘d been to, like Armenia and Chile and Ethiopia. It‘s not a horrible world, he told me, but it‘s filled with a lot of horrible people.
  • Ray Black was in prison, so we weren't able to talk to him. I did some research on the internet and found out that he was in prison because he murdered two children after he raped them. There were also pictures of the dead children, and even though I knew it would only hurt me to look at them, I did. I printed them out and put them in *Stuff That Happened To Me*, right after the picture of Jean-Pierre Haigneré, the french astronaut who had to be carried from his spacecraft after returning form the MIR spacestation, because gravity isn't only what makes us fall, it's what makes our muscles strong.
  • By the standards of the international human rights community, the typical working conditions in America's slaughterhouses constitute human rights violations.
  • People care about animals. I believe that. They just don't want to know or to pay. A fourth of all chickens have stress fractures. It's wrong. They're packed body to body, and can't escape their waste, and never see the sun. Their nails grow around the bars of their cages. It's wrong. They feel their slaughters. It's wrong, and people know it's wrong. They don't have to be convinced. They just have to act differently. I'm not better than anyone, and I'm not trying to convince people to live by my standards of what's right. I'm trying to convince them to live by their own.
  • Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else?
  • The responsibility lies with the mentality of the meat industry that treats both animals and "human capital" like machines ... human beings cannot be human (much less humane) under the conditions of a factory farm or slaughterhouse.
  • It's always possible to wake someone from sleep, but no amount of noise will wake someone who is pretending to be asleep.
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