I only wanted absolute quiet to think out why I had developed a sad attitude toward sadness, a melancholy attitude toward melancholy and a tragic attitude toward tragedy — why I had become identified with the objects of my horror or compassion.
There’s a writer for you,” he said. “Knows everything and at the same time he knows nothing.”
[narrator]It was my first inkling that he was a writer. And while I like writers—because if you ask a writer anything you usually get an answer—still it belittled him in my eyes. Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person. It’s like actors, who try so pathetically not to look in mirrors. Who lean backward trying—only to see their faces in the reflecting chandeliers.
It is youth's felicity as well as its insufficiency that it can never live in the present, but must always be measuring up the day against its own radiantly imagined future—flowers and gold, girls and stars, they are only prefigurations and prophecies of that incomparable, unattainable young dream.
Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves - that's the truth. We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives - experiences so great and moving that it doesn't seem at the time anyone else has been so caught up and so pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.
Then we learn our trade, well or less well, and we tell our two or three stories - each time in a new disguise - maybe ten times, maybe a hundred, as long as people will listen.
From the ruins, lonely and inexplicable as the sphinx, rose the Empire State Building.
And just as it had been tradition of mine to climb to the Plaza roof to take leave of the beautiful city extending as far as the eyes could see, so now I went to the roof of that last and most magnificent of towers.
Then I understood. Everything was explained. I had discovered the crowning error of the city. Its Pandora's box.
Full of vaunting pride, the New Yorker had climbed here, and seen with dismay what he had never suspected. That the city was not the endless sucession of canyons that he had supposed, but that it had limits, fading out into the country on all sides into an expanse of green and blue. That alone was limitless.
And with the awful realization that New York was a city after all and not a universe, the whole shining ediface that he had reared in his mind came crashing down.
That was the gift of Alfred Smith to the citizens of New York.
Amory, sorry for them, was still not sorry for himself - art, politics, religion, whatever his medium should be, he knew he was safe now, free from all hysteria - he could accept what was acceptable, roam, grow, rebel, sleep deep through many nights...
There was no God in his heart, he knew; his ideas were still in riot; there was ever the pain of memory; the regret for his lost youth - yet the waters of disillusion had left a deposit on his soul, responsibility and a love of life, the faint stirring of old ambitions and unrealized dreams...
And he could not tell why the struggle was worth while, why he had determined to use to the utmost himself and his heritage from the personalities he had passed...
He stretched out his arms to the crystalline, radiant sky.
"I know myself," he cried, "but that is all.