What is your favourite passage of a book?

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Linkman
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What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Linkman » Mon Aug 10, 2015 11:30 am

Sometimes I fantasize about being a writer.

It's a good thing I became an engineer though, because I don't think I am that good at it! That said, when you try to do something yourself (cooking, learning, music, painting, whatever), you appreciate much more when someone else is truly great at it. Do you have a passage in particular that truly makes you wonder how someone can be so eloquent in prose?

My personal favorite is by Raymond Chandler in The Big Sleep. I don't think I've ever read a better description of a character and a setting in such a short amount of words.
It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.
I cannot think of one comma that is misplaced on that paragraph. It is masterful.
"everytime I try to draw xen I end up drawing a kangaroo smoking a cigar while chainsawing a tree" - Deoxy
"I can't believe I'm the only person who voted Stallone. His appeal lies in watching is movies again and again just to hear what the hell he's talking about." - Kilteh

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kiwi

Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by kiwi » Mon Aug 10, 2015 12:08 pm

LINKMAN

DO IT
JUST DO IT
DON'T LET YOUR DREAMS BE DREAMS

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DieselPheonix

Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by DieselPheonix » Mon Aug 10, 2015 1:28 pm

Memetic aberrations are almost certainly not high literature in spite of their virulent tendencies. Having said that, writing is a skill like any other; it takes practice. The specifics will differ from, say, riding a bicycle, of course. One specific is that your writing ability is intricately tied to your reading exposure. The more you read, the more you have to draw from when putting your own words on the page.

For the topic at hand, I am afraid I have not sat down to read much lately. I did pick up the complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at a book store closing, however. Actually, I am concerned about damaging the book as its pages are unusually thin.

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Sven

Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Sven » Mon Aug 10, 2015 3:47 pm

For twelve years, you have been asking: Who is John Galt? This is John Galt speaking. I am the man who loves his life. I am the man who does not sacrifice his love or his values. I am the man who has deprived you of victims and thus has destroyed your world, and if you wish to know why you are perishing -- you who dread knowledge -- I am the man who will now tell you.

You have heard it said that this is an age of moral crisis. You have said it yourself, half in fear, half in hope that the words had no meaning. You have cried that man's sins are destroying the world and you have cursed human nature for its unwillingness to practice the virtues you demanded. Since virtue, to you, consists of sacrifice, you have demanded more sacrifices at every successive disaster.

In the name of a return to morality, you have sacrificed all those evils, which you held as the cause of your plight. You have sacrificed justice to mercy. You have sacrificed independence to unity. You have sacrificed reason to faith. You have sacrificed wealth to need. You have sacrificed self-esteem to self-denial. You have sacrificed happiness to duty.

You have destroyed all that which you held to be evil and achieved all that which you held to be good. Why, then, do you shrink in horror from the sight of the world around you? That world is not the product of your sins; it is the product and the image of your virtues. It is your moral ideal brought into reality in its full and final perfection.

You have fought for it, you have dreamed of it, and you have wished it, and I-I am the man who has granted you your wish.

Your ideal had an implacable enemy, which your code of morality was designed to destroy. I have withdrawn that enemy. I have taken it out of your way and out of your reach. I have removed the source of all those evils you were sacrificing one by one. I have ended your battle. I have stopped your motor. I have deprived your world of man's mind.

Men do not live by the mind, you say? I have withdrawn those who do. The mind is impotent, you say? I have withdrawn those whose mind isn't. There are values higher than the mind, you say? I have withdrawn those for whom there aren't.

While you were dragging to your sacrificial altars the men of justice, of independence, of reason, of wealth, of self-esteem -- I beat you to it, I reached them first. I told them the nature of the game you were playing and the nature of that moral code of yours, which they had been too innocently generous to grasp. I showed them the way to live by another morality-mine. It is mine that they chose to follow.

All the men who have vanished, the men you hated, yet dreaded to lose, it is I who have taken them away from you. Do not attempt to find us. We do not choose to be found. Do not cry that it is our duty to serve you. We do not recognize such duty. Do not cry that you need us. We do not consider need a claim. Do not cry that you own us. You don't. Do not beg us to return. We are on strike, we, the men of the mind.

We are on strike against self-immolation. We are on strike against the creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. We are on strike against the dogma that the pursuit of one's happiness is evil. We are on strike against the doctrine that life is guilt.

There is a difference between our strike and all those you've practiced for centuries: our strike consists, not of making demands, but of granting them. We are evil, according to your morality. We have chosen not to harm you any longer. We are useless, according to your economics. We have chosen not to exploit you any longer. We are dangerous and to be shackled, according to your politics. We have chosen not to endanger you, nor to wear the shackles any longer. We are only an illusion, according to your philosophy. We have chosen not to blind you any longer and have left you free to face reality -- the reality you wanted, the world as you see it now, a world without mind.

We have granted you everything you demanded of us, we who had always been the givers, but have only now understood it. We have no demands to present to you, no terms of bargain about, no compromise to reach. You have nothing to offer us. We do not need you.

Are you now crying: No, this was not what you wanted? A mindless world of ruins was not your goal? You did not want us to leave you? You moral cannibals, I know that you've always known what it was that you wanted. But your game is up, because now we know it, too.

Through centuries of scourges and disasters, brought about by your code of morality, you have cried that your code had been broken, that the scourges were punishment for breaking it, that men were too weak and too selfish to spill all the blood it required. You damned man, you damned existence, you damned this earth, but never dared to question your code.

Your victims took the blame and struggled on, with your curses as reward for their martyrdom-while you went on crying that your code was noble, but human nature was not good enough to practice it. And no one rose to ask the question: Good? -by what standard?

You wanted to know John Galt's identity. I am the man who has asked that question.

Yes, this is an age of moral crisis. Yes, you are bearing punishment for your evil. But it is not man who is now on trial and it is not human nature that will take the blame. It is your moral code that's through, this time. Your moral code has reached its climax, the blind alley at the end of its course. And if you wish to go on living, what you now need is not to return to morality -- you who have never known any -- but to discover it.

You have heard no concepts of morality but the mystical or the social. You have been taught that morality is a code of behavior imposed on you by whim, the whim of a supernatural power or the whim of society, to serve God's purpose or your neighbor's welfare, to please an authority beyond the grave or else next door -- but not to serve your life or pleasure.

Your pleasure, you have been taught, is to be found in immorality, your interests would best be served by evil, and any moral code must be designed not for you, but against you, not to further your life, but to drain it.

For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors -- between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it.

Both sides agreed that morality demands the surrender of your self-interest and of your mind, that the moral and the practical are opposites, that morality is not the province of reason, but the province of faith and force. Both sides agreed that no rational morality is possible, that there is no right or wrong in reason -- that in reason there's no reason to be moral.

Whatever else they fought about, it was against man's mind that all your moralists have stood united. It was man's mind that all their schemes and systems were intended to despoil and destroy. Now choose to perish or to learn that the anti-mind is the anti-life.

Man's mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not. To remain alive, he must act, and before he can act he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain his food without a knowledge of food and of the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch -- or build a cyclotron -- without a knowledge of his aim and of the means to achieve it. To remain alive, he must think.

But to think is an act of choice. The key to what you so recklessly call "human nature", the open secret you live with, yet dread to name, is the fact that man is a being of volitional consciousness. Reason does not work automatically; thinking is not a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct. The function of your stomach, lungs or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not. In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival-so that for you, who are a human being, the question "to be or not to be" is the question "to think or not to think."

[...]

In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title.

Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all.

Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.

But to win it requires your total dedication and a total break with the world of your past, with the doctrine that man is a sacrificial animal who exists for the pleasure of others. Fight for the value of your person. Fight for the virtue of your pride. Fight for the essence of that which is man: for his sovereign rational mind. Fight with the radiant certainty and the absolute rectitude of knowing that yours is the Morality of Life and that yours is the battle for any achievement, any value, any grandeur, any goodness, any joy that has ever existed on this earth.

You will win when you are ready to pronounce the oath I have taken at the start of my battle -- and for those who wish to know the day of my return, I shall now repeat it to the hearing of the world:

"I swear -- by my life and my love of it -- that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

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Narts
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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Narts » Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:20 pm

The entirety of the John Galt speech. All 60 pages of it.

j/k, probably this, because it was the second thing that popped into my mind: (Okay the third. I like Howard Roark's speech too)
Herman Melville wrote:To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell's heart, I stab at thee; For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee.
Then there's a long list of Douglas Adams quips that I won't bother with. Just go read him dammit.

Anyway, if you're thinking of becoming a writer, I think more useful than collecting cool quotes would be to learn about how to construct and structure a story. Using beats, rhythm and all that stuff to make things fall at places so they have the most dramatic effect. I'm a complete armchair author though so don't listen to me.

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Linkman
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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Linkman » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:50 pm

Narts wrote:Anyway, if you're thinking of becoming a writer, I think more useful than collecting cool quotes would be to learn about how to construct and structure a story. Using beats, rhythm and all that stuff to make things fall at places so they have the most dramatic effect. I'm a complete armchair author though so don't listen to me.
Oh, of course! While I appreciate the cheers, the point of this topic was not 'help Linky become a writer' but 'actually talk about literatute instead of just posting whatever book you were reading at the time.'

But thank you for that guys. I might actually motivate myself to read through Atlas Shrugged one day.
"everytime I try to draw xen I end up drawing a kangaroo smoking a cigar while chainsawing a tree" - Deoxy
"I can't believe I'm the only person who voted Stallone. His appeal lies in watching is movies again and again just to hear what the hell he's talking about." - Kilteh

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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Imano Ob » Tue Aug 11, 2015 10:11 am

Not a book, but I don't think anything can beat "For sale: baby shoes, never worn" for me. It's just so... elegant.

That, and I don't actually read a lot, and when I do, I tend not to pay attention to individual passages, so yeah.
This signature is boring. I don't know why you're reading it.

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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Bonesy » Tue Aug 11, 2015 10:41 am

why did the dead baby cross the road? it was stapled to the chicken!

thanks stephen king

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Sven

Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Sven » Tue Aug 11, 2015 10:48 am

i'm joking about the john galt stuff.

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Linkman
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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Linkman » Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:35 am

I know.

I still would like to read Atlas Shrugged one day just to say how much I didn't like it.
"everytime I try to draw xen I end up drawing a kangaroo smoking a cigar while chainsawing a tree" - Deoxy
"I can't believe I'm the only person who voted Stallone. His appeal lies in watching is movies again and again just to hear what the hell he's talking about." - Kilteh

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Narts
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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Narts » Wed Aug 12, 2015 1:55 am

This topic is now about Linkman becoming an Objectivist author.

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hawkesnightmare
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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by hawkesnightmare » Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:18 am

As a few people have said before, it's not from a book. Mine is from a fanfic that would have been a book if JK Rowling wasn't so afraid to let people make stuff with her characters. From Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:
The Defense Professor was staring at the watching Auror and humming.

The Defense Professor has not spoken a single word since he arrived in this particular cell. He has only been humming.

The humming started as a simple children's lullaby, the one that in Muggle Britain begins, Lullaby, and goodnight...

This tune was hummed, without variation, over and over, for seven minutes, to establish the underlying pattern.

Then began the elaborations upon the theme. Phrases hummed too slow, with long pauses in between, so that the listener's mind helplessly waits and waits for the next note, the next phrase. And then, when that next phrase comes, it is so out of key, so unbelievably awfully out of key, not just out of key for the previous phrases but sung at a pitch which does not correspond to any key, that you would have to believe this person had spent hours deliberately practicing their humming just to acquire such perfect anti-pitch.

It bears the same semblance to music as the awful dead voice of a Dementor bears to human speech.

And this horrible, horrible humming is impossible to ignore. It is similar to a known lullaby, but it departs from that pattern unpredictably. It sets up expectations and then violates them, never in any constant pattern that would permit the humming to fade into the background. The listener's brain cannot prevent itself from expecting the anti-musical phrases to complete, nor prevent itself from noticing the surprises.

The only possible explanation for how this mode of humming came to exist is that it was deliberately designed by some unspeakably cruel genius who woke up one day, feeling bored with ordinary torture, who decided to handicap himself and find out whether he could break someone's sanity just by humming at them.

The Auror has been listening to this unimaginably dreadful humming for four hours, while being stared at by a huge, cold, lethal presence that feels equally horrible whether he looks at it directly or lets it hover at the corner of his vision -

The humming stopped.

There was a long wait. Time enough for false hope to rise, and be squashed down by the memory of previous disappointments. And then, as the interval lengthened, and lengthened, that hope rose again unstoppably -

The humming began once more.

The Auror cracked.

From his belt, the Auror took a mirror, tapped it once, and then said, "This is Junior Auror Arjun Altunay, I'm calling in code RJ-L20 on cell three."

"Code RJ-L20?" the mirror said in surprised tones. There was a sound of pages being flipped, then, "You want to be relieved because a prisoner is attempting psychological warfare and succeeding?"

(Amelia Bones really is quite intelligent.)

"What'd the prisoner say to you?" said the mirror.

(This question is not part of procedure RJ-L20, but unfortunately Amelia Bones has failed to include an explicit instruction that the commanding officer should not ask.)

"He's -" said the Auror, and glanced back at the cell. The Defense Professor was now leaning in back in his chair, looking quite relaxed. "He was staring at me! And humming! "

There was a pause.

The mirror spoke again. "And you're calling in an RJ-L20 over that? You're sure you're not just trying to get out of watching him?"

(Amelia Bones is surrounded by idiots.)

"You don't understand!" yelled Auror Altunay. "It's really awful humming!"
If you read and liked the actual Harry Potter books, I recommend reading the fic. It was written extremely well.
daisy: If the UK is worse than the present #5 in the world in terms of GDP come July 1st 2018 I will dye my hair pink.

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Linkman
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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Linkman » Thu Aug 13, 2015 11:38 am

Hawkesni, did you read all of that? A single chapter looks like it might rival one of Rowling's books in length.
"everytime I try to draw xen I end up drawing a kangaroo smoking a cigar while chainsawing a tree" - Deoxy
"I can't believe I'm the only person who voted Stallone. His appeal lies in watching is movies again and again just to hear what the hell he's talking about." - Kilteh

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Pkdragon
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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Pkdragon » Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:14 pm

+1 vote for galt
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That, and watching Euros squirm.

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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Linkman » Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:50 pm

“It isn’t everyday that we want to see a syrupy Van Gogh or hear a piquant fugue by Bach, or make love to a succulent woman, but every day we want to eat; hunger is the recurring desire, the only recurring desire, for sight, sound, sex and power all come to an end, but hunger goes on, and while one might weary of Ravel for ever, one could only ever weary of ravioli for, at most, a day.”
― Luis Fernando Verissimo, The Club of Angels
"everytime I try to draw xen I end up drawing a kangaroo smoking a cigar while chainsawing a tree" - Deoxy
"I can't believe I'm the only person who voted Stallone. His appeal lies in watching is movies again and again just to hear what the hell he's talking about." - Kilteh

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hawkesnightmare
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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by hawkesnightmare » Fri Aug 14, 2015 6:53 am

Linkman wrote:Hawkesni, did you read all of that? A single chapter looks like it might rival one of Rowling's books in length.
I have read the entire fanfic four times over. It's that good. The way he has his paragraph construction makes it look longer than it actually is. If I was really picky, I could probably condense a few paragraphs per chapter, which would cut down on white space and reduce page count.
daisy: If the UK is worse than the present #5 in the world in terms of GDP come July 1st 2018 I will dye my hair pink.

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DieselPheonix

Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by DieselPheonix » Fri Aug 21, 2015 5:06 am

I was reminded of this topic recently and might have had an argument about it. What is the criteria that constitutues a worthwhile passage, what makes it worthwhile? The argument was about memes, of course, but this question was brought to bear by my lack of evidence when it came to deliberations.

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hawkesnightmare
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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by hawkesnightmare » Fri Aug 21, 2015 7:10 am

It seems that what makes a worthwhile passage is its profoundness. Whether it be profoundly silly, profoundly well written, or profoundly profound. Profound.
daisy: If the UK is worse than the present #5 in the world in terms of GDP come July 1st 2018 I will dye my hair pink.

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Linkman
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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Linkman » Fri Aug 21, 2015 9:46 am

DieselPheonix wrote:I was reminded of this topic recently and might have had an argument about it. What is the criteria that constitutues a worthwhile passage, what makes it worthwhile? The argument was about memes, of course, but this question was brought to bear by my lack of evidence when it came to deliberations.
To me it's all about what you're conveying, and how elegantly. The passage I posted is the opening passage of The Big Sleep. The reason I find it so masterful is how quickly it sets the tone for the novel and the main character, and also how it quickly introduces Chandler's hard, in-your-face storytelling.

I would go into detail, but here, somebody else has done it better than I could have.
The Big Sleep wrote:It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

The main hallway of the Sternwood place was two stories high. Over the entrance doors, which would have let in a troop of Indian elephants, there was a broad stained-glass panel showing a knight in dark armor rescuing a lady who was tied to a tree and didn’t have any clothes on but some very long and convenient hair. The knight had pushed the vizor of his helmet back to be sociable, and he was fiddling with the knots on the ropes that tied the lady to the tree and not getting anywhere. I stood there and thought that if I lived in the house, I would sooner or later have to climb up there and help him. he didn’t seem to be really trying.
What information do we learn from these two paragraphs? A private detective has dressed up in a nice suit in order to call on a wealthy client who lives in a mansion.

Those are the facts, but Chandler’s words tell us much more. Why describe the outfit in such detail, even down to the socks? If you pick up a hint of sarcasm in that little bit of over-description, it is confirmed in the next sentence: “I was neat, clean shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it.” That declaration conveys more than the surface meaning of the words. As one of my students put it, “Someone who is usually sober doesn’t need to point out that he is sober.” The same is true for being clean and shaved. Marlowe may be revealing a few weaknesses in that sentence, but also a few strengths: he’s frank, down-to-earth, and he has a self-deprecating sense of humor. I like him already.

Almost every sentence in these two paragraphs has something to commend it. For example, take at “I was calling on four million dollars.” A lesser writer might have settled for something like, “I was calling on a wealthy client.” Chandler’s sentence is better than that in both tone and content. We now know how wealthy General Sternwood is (his four million is in late 1930s dollars), and more importantly, the tone indicates Marlowe is not over-awed by money.

[...]

The opening paragraphs of The Big Sleep let us know we are starting a journey with a narrator who knows what he’s doing, both as a detective and as a storyteller. We like him from the start, and we can’t wait to see what he’ll do next. He doesn’t disappoint.
So what makes a passage good? How well the author manages to convey emotion and storytelling, I think.
"everytime I try to draw xen I end up drawing a kangaroo smoking a cigar while chainsawing a tree" - Deoxy
"I can't believe I'm the only person who voted Stallone. His appeal lies in watching is movies again and again just to hear what the hell he's talking about." - Kilteh

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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by monkymeet » Sat Aug 22, 2015 2:52 am

Cliche'd, but I've always loves this line from Neuromancer:
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
Doubly so as it actually suggests a completely different meaning now with the death of CRTs. The original meaning has been lost for the new generation and paints a completely different picture. It's pretty wack.

also cuz cyberpunk is totes cool
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Narts
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Re: What is your favourite passage of a book?

Post by Narts » Sat Aug 22, 2015 3:52 am

I love that line too with all my two megabytes of hot ramz

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