“Question, Dave. At what age is it appropriate to stop dreaming of the year I sweep the Nobels, and really hunker down and specialize on the talent that’s gonna win me international acclaim and sex? Fourteen? Eighteen? Six? I got to tell you, nothing discourages the ambitious twelve-year-old like a bilingual Japanese fifth grader who gets onstage at skits, all humble and nervous, and busts fiery concertos out her violin like it’s nothing, or like a linguist mom who tells me that if I were to make it my life’s pursuit to learn the little fiddle prodigy’s primary language, it’s already too late for my brain to pick up on the nuances necessary for fitting in. I’m too late to dominate at something, aren’t I? If I’m too late, it’s fine, I just need to hear you say it so I can transition out of having goals and start nudging whoever’s beside me at skits and going, “Yeah, but at least I’ve got a life.” Well. Not there yet. I’ll work on it.”—Gabe Durham, Fun Camp
“People who knew me and sympathized with me were determined to set me up with the other people they sympathized with and were always surprised when I would turn down their offer of what they thought of as romantic charity. “What’s the harm?” they would ask me, truly surprised. The harm, besides those hours that actually do matter when you barely have one night off every couple of weeks, is the little mark you get on you every time you open up a door to a hope and then close it fast in disappointment. It leaves a nick, or a dent, and those nicks and dents are not invisible. I used to see them all the time.”—B.J. Novak, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
“…part of trying to attract those poet-men was to look a little like I had wandered onto campus by accident after having spent ten years with the wolves behind some farmhouse, living off scraps and reveling in the pure air like a half–girl Mowgli, half–woman Thoreau.”—Aimee Bender, The Color Master: Stories
“I sighed, then hated myself for sighing, such an impotent and ultimately dishonest thing to do, the refuge of those lacking the courage to articulate their displeasure.”—Ron Currie Jr., Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles
“I entered Excessive Modesty Mode. Nothing is stupider and more ineffective than Excessive Modesty Mode. It is a mode in which you show that you’re modest by arguing with someone who is trying to compliment you. Essentially, you are going out of your way to try to convince someone that you’re a jerk.”—Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
“If one did not have at least a little luck, one would never survive childhood. But luck can be spent, like money; and lost, like a memory; and wasted, like a life.”—Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
“Was this what the human reproductive urge was like, a pointless and powerful desire to replicate wonderful, irreplaceable me, even when the me in question was a monster who truly had no right to live among humans? That would certainly explain how a great many of the monumentally unpleasant cretins I encountered every day came to be.”—Jeff Lindsay, Dearly Devoted Dexter
“Dating is probably the most fraught human interaction there is. You’re sizing people up to see if they’re worth your time and attention, and they’re doing the same to you. It’s meritocracy applied to personal life, but there’s no accountability. We submit ourselves to these intimate inspections and simultaneously inflict them on others and try to keep our psyches intact - to keep from becoming cold and callous - and we hope that at the end of it we wind up happier than our grandparents, who didn’t spend this vast period of their lives, these prime years, so thoroughly alone, coldly and explicitly anatomized again and again.”—Adelle Waldman, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.