“The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell

I loved Vin like he was a part of me, and he loved me like a stick of gum. He’d spat me out when the flavor went, unwrapped another, and stuffed it in, and not just anyone, but Stella Yearwood.

That’s the problem with boys: They tend to help you only ’cause they fancy you, but there’s no embarrassing way to find out their real motives till it’s too late.

“What if … what if heaven is real, but only in moments? Like a glass of water on a hot day when you’re dying of thirst, or when someone’s nice to you for no reason, or …” Mam’s pancakes with Mars Bar sauce; Dad dashing up from the bar just to tell me. “Sleep tight don’t let the bed bugs bite”; or Jacko and Sharon singing “For She’s a Squishy Marshmallow” instead of “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow” for every single birthday and wetting themselves even though it’s not at all funny; and Brendan giving his old record player to me instead of one of his mates. “S’pose heaven’s not like a painting that’s just hanging there forever, but more like … like the best song anyone ever wrote, but a song you only catch in snatches, while you’re alive, from passing cars, or … upstairs windows when you’re lost…”

Love’s pure free joy when it works, but when it goes bad you pay for the good hours at loan-shark prices.

“Now, what can I do for you sweetheart?”

“Not calling me ‘sweetheart’ would be a good start.”

Life’s a matter of Who Dares Wins.

Being born’s a hell of a lottery.

Hobbies are for pleasure, but rituals keep you going.

He says it again, eyes wide open, and she looks like a girl unwrapping an expensive present she knew she was getting.

Christ, if guys could be girls being hit on by guys, just for one night lines as cheesy as that’d go extinct.

“Not fruit picking. The running-away-from-home deal.”

Quick, deny it. “What makes you think I’ve run away?”

Gwyn ignores this, like a goalie ignoring a shot going a mile wide.

It’s called ‘All the Things I’ll Never, Ever Do to Get By.’ The list stays exactly the same, but its name changes to ‘All the Things I’ve Had to Do to Get By.”

But all I’m saying is, if you’re weighing possible trouble ahead against the trouble you’ve left behind, times the “ahead” trouble by twenty.


Cambridge is full of insiders’ words to keep outsiders out.

Half my fellow Humberits – unless their parents are good and willing milers – are so up to their nostrils find bet and denial that for their first five working years they’ll have to take whatever shit gets flung their way and act like it’s caviar. Not I. I’ll throw it back. Harder.

Men have imagined republics and principalities that never really existed at all. Yet the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what ‘is’ for what ‘should be’ pursues his downfall rather than his preservation; for a man who strives after goodness in all his acts is sure to come to ruin, since there are so many men who are not good.

Spidergirl told me that “here in Rivendell, we actually talk to each other, and share tales from wise cultures, like the Intuit. Wisdom’s the ultimate currency.” As I left, she asked for a “loan” of twenty pounds to buy a few things from Saindsbury’s. I suggested she recite and Intui folktale at the checkout, because wisdom is the ultimate currency.

The insight that “outside the system” means poverty. Ask the Yeti how free he feels.

Persuasion is not about force; it’s about showing a person a door, and making him or her desperate to open it.

Human beings are walking bundles of cravings. Cravings for food, water, shelter, warmth; sex and companionship; status, a tribe to belong to; kicks, control, purpose; and so on, all the way down to chocolate-brown bathroom suites. Love is one way to satisfy some of these cravings. But love’s not just the drug; it’s also the dealer. Love wants love in return. Like drugs, the highs look divine, and I envy the users. But when the side effects kick in – jealousy, the rages, grief, I think, Count me out.

Who is spared love is spared grief.

I resist a joke about being swept off my feet as Holly and I are swept off our feet.

The dread that you’ll be the one who loses it all. Start out in life as a social nobody, and the only direction you can go is up. Start off with your name in the Domesday Book, and the only direction is down the sodding crapper.

khaki baseball cap, which doubles as a ponytail scrunchie.

Oh dear. Despair is as attractive as cold sores.

My blood’s zinging with coffee.

I can’t help but think of his mother wearing the same smile and nothing else.

While the wealthy are no more likely to born stupid than the poor, a wealthy upbringing compounds stupidity while a hardscrabble childhood dilutes it, if only for Darwinian reasons. This is why the elite need a prophylactic barrier of shitty state schools, to prevent clever kids from working-class post codes outsting them from the Enclave of Privilege.

When a woman is interested in you, she’ll let you know; if not, there’s no aftershave, gift, or line you can spin to make her change her mind.

This isn’t lust. Lust wants, does the obvious, and pads back into the forest. Love is greedier. Love wants round-the-clock care; protection; rings, vows, joint accounts; scented candles on birthdays; life insurance. Babies. Love’s a dictator. I know this, yet the blast furnace in my ribcage roars You You You You You You You just the same, and there’s bugger-all I can do about it.

You only value something if you know it will end.

and the day comes when we understand that “All You Need Is Love” is rather less than the whole truth.

I remember holding Holly in my arms, earlier.

But it’s the feeling of love that we love, not the person.

It’s the giddy exhilaration I just experienced, just now.

The feeling of being chosen and desired and cared about.

It’s pretty pathetic when you examine it clearheadedly.

Far wiser to defer judgment than rush to the wrong one.

First Rule of Parenting states that you never wake a peacefully sleeping child.

In order to have sex, women need to feel loved; but in order for men to feel loved, we need to have sex.

if a mob could be calmy reasoned with, it wouldn’t be a mob.

“Liberal?” Major Hackensack said it like the word “pedophile.”

Men marry women hoping they’ll never change. Women marry men hoping they will.

his Harvard-educated wife and orthodontically majestic sons.

I see my reflection on the mirrored wall, and recall a wise man telling me that the secret of happiness is to ignore your reflection in mirrors once you’re over forty.

better a guilty coward than a dead Judas.

leaving me to explain to our classmates’ parents that our Pembridge Place house was a bereft of adults as all but the last two pages of Lord of the Flies. 

betrayals came in various shapes and sizes, but to betray someone’s dream is the unforgivable one.

The glass of dusk is filling by the minute.

This is so slim a hope as to be anorexic.

Normal is whatever you have come to take for granted.