“Hazards” of Introversion

I recently finished reading an intriguing novel called “Hazards of Time Travel” by Joyce Carol Oates.  I thoroughly enjoyed her writing style & ended up reading several passages aloud to my son Brandon.  This happened a few weekends back while we were waiting for my husband’s band, Interstate Revival, to take the stage at White’s in Saginaw, MI.  So many passages from this book were meaningful to me that I wanted to share them here in my virtual “quote library”…so please enjoy.


My title for this post is a play on the the title of the book & how so many of the passages that really spoke to me seemed to articulate aspects of introversion–a place where I’ve largely come to live of late…

P 17  “Especially suspicious were students who were good at science–these were believed to be too ‘questioning’ and ‘skeptic’ about the guidelines for curriculum at the school, so experiments were no longer part of our science courses, only just ‘science facts’ to be memorized…”

P 33  “The question of Why? was never asked–and so I’d asked it in class, and in my valedictory address.  It had not occurred to me that this was Treason-Speech, or that I was Questioning Authority.

P 58  “I did not cross the green.  The open, vulnerable expanse of the green.  Making my way like a wounded wild creature close beside buildings and through narrow passageways in order not to attract attention.”

P 59  “…for surely there were others like myself.  Like one trapped in a small cage who has no awareness of others similarly trapped, and in her desperation no sympathy to spare, I could only think of my own situation.”

P 63  “There was no one in this world who loved me, no one who even knew me.  No one who would claim me.  I was utterly alone.”

P 75  “So lonely!  It was as if my body had been gutted from within…I wondered if I would discover someone like myself?  Or–someone like myself would discover me?”

P 76-77  “It was possible to be invisible in large lecture halls and to imagine that no one was observing me…Wherever it was possible, I was invisible…All my determination was to survive.”

P 88  “A soul in Exile.  I was convinced, I’d come into contact with a kindred soul.”

P 101  “…how ironic, and Exiled Individual enlisted to cure antisocial behavior!

P 103  “…learned in my psychology lecture class, it had become a technique to discredit ‘rebellious’ individuals by suggesting that they were mentally ill–emotionally unstable.

P 109  “My invisibility was like a magic coat that kept me warm but also compounded my loneliness.”

P 114  “…it seemed that once again without thinking I had insufficiently held myself back.”

P 159  “Can you still love someone whose face you are forgetting?  Whose voice you can no longer hear?”

P 165  “The punishment of Exile is loneliness.  There is no state more terrifying than loneliness though you would not think so, when you are not lonely; when you are secure in ‘your’ life.”

P 166  “Theirs was a profound sorrow, all the more piteous for being mute.”

P 177  “…my personality is naturally ‘subversive’–that’s to say, skeptical–and ‘questioning of authority.'”

P 180  “I felt particularly sorry for this elderly gentleman who seemed, like a species of underground mole, to have spent his entire professional life in a burrow, to no purpose.”

P 187  “Originality, subtlety, and skepticism were not valued.  The more you knew of the material, the more complexity you saw in it, and so the more difficult it often was to provide a simple, crude answer…Only in essays could you hope to be original–but in essays you could also sabotage your own chances.”

P 196  “…(he) regarded me with a  quizzical sort of admiration.  You could see he was a man who like being surprised.  In a lowered voice, though no one was likely to overhear us, he said, ‘You’ll get used to intellectual ‘insult,’ my dear.'”

P 222  “…it’s pretty suffocating here–our ‘hotbed of mediocrity.'”

P 223  “…I’d been moody, sad, angry, even despondent–so trapped by the perimeters of my life…unable to comprehend the complexities…”

P 228  “It was a surprise to him…to discover music that was labyrinthine like thinking and feeling commingled.  Music that didn’t need to be deafening to penetrate the soul.”

P 232  “No one so vindictive as those who’ve been co-opted by the enemy.  For much of their energy is fueled by shame.”

P 245  “…the somber wisdom I’d acquired…You can live a life even if it is not the life you would have chosen.  You can live breath by breath.  You can live.

P 248  “I felt trapped, as in a child’s cartoon-world…had a name for it–intellectual insult…There is terror in such revelations.  You can’t be deceived.  You can’t ‘suspend disbelief.’  You are trapped inside your own head.”

P 263  “I felt like a soft, winged thing, a moth that has been batted out of the air.  Not hard enough to break its wings, but hard enough to knock it stunned to earth, and the wings slow-moving, wounded and mute in wonderment.”

P 282  “I understood that it was wiser to give no answer than to give an incorrect answer, that might be held against me.”

P 301  “Amnesia is all that saves us from the abyss…All we can do is persevere in our own time.  No one has to deal with more than one day at a time.  That’s the blessing of our temporal universe–time is spread out horizontally, you might say; it doesn’t all happen at once, as at the instant of the ‘big bang’…But it can’t be the case that any of us…can be wholly well.”

P 302  “We must live here…The ‘future’ exists only in the way that the other side of the earth exists, whether we can see it or not…those clouds in the eastern sky that look so sculpted–they exist in our immediate future because they are being blown in this direction, from Lake Michigan.  In some time–it might be an hour, or several hours–the clouds will be overhead, the sunshine will be obscured.  But now, we can see the clouds approaching, we can see into the distance and so, in a sense, we can see into the future.  Most things are too distant for us to see, however, and we have to surrender the effort. ‘One breath at a time”…”

P 314  “And it was quite likely that we would never meet.  Indeed, how was it possible that we’d ever met?  Ever glimpsed each other?  It was not possible.  Yet it had happened.  Tears ran down my cheeks.  I was overcome with joy indistinguishable from grief.”

Well, this is probably an incomplete archive of the quotes that hit me when reading this thought-provoking book, since I did not make a note of the given quotes during the reading process.  So much of what I read there initially really resonated since much of what happened was within the heart & mind of the main character, an introvert’s delight!  I had a lot of fun sharing various quotes with Brandon, & occasionally with my husband, Michael on our mid-Winter Saginaw musical adventure.  This post is primarily to prompt that special personal memory since my recall of previous events seems to be increasingly fuzzy as time goes by.






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