15 July 2010

"Where you come from is gone..."

I've previously written a post about an impressive first line by Flannery O'Connor.  Here's another insightful quote:
Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.
A strong echo of Thomas Wolfe's "You Can't Go Home Again" -
"You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time — back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."
The inability to return to the happiness of one's past is a truth that probably no one learns until too late.  Overall, I prefer Wolfe's expression of it to O'Connor's, which includes pessimism about one's present.

Text and photo from A Writer's Ruminations, via Libraryland.


  1. Those quotes remind me of the line about the Friend of Your Youth from All the King's Men (one of my favorite books). It's a depressing concept, but I find it strangely comforting - I don't have to justify to myself why I still like a person with whom I have no common values, interests, or beliefs, and I know that no matter what I screw up, there's a cadre of people who will still like me, even if they don't understand me.

    Excerpted from the version on Google Books.

    The Friend of Your Youth is the only friend you will ever have, for he does not really see you. He sees in his mind a face which does not exist anymore, speaks a name - Spike, Bud, Snip, Red, Rusty, Jack, Dave - which belongs to that now nonexistent face but which by some inane and doddering confusion of the universe is for the moment attached to a not too happily met and boring stranger. But he humors the drooling doddering confusion of the universe and continues to address politely that dull stranger by the name which properly belogns to the boy face and to the time when the boy voice called thinly across the late afternoon water or murmured by a campfire at night or in the middle of a crowded street said, "Gee, lsiten to this - 'On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble; His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves-'" The Friend of Your Youth is your friend because he does not see you anymore.

    And perhaps he never saw you. What he saw was simply part of the furniture of the wonderful opening world. Friendship was something he suddenly discovered and had to give away as a recognition of and payment for the breathlessly opening world which momently divulged itself like a moonflower. It didn't matter a damn to whom he gave it, for the fact of giving was what mattered, and if you happened to be handy you were automatically endowed with all the appropriate attributes of a friend and forever after your reality is irrelevant. The Friend of Your Youth is the only friend you will ever have, for he hasn't the slightest concern with calculating his interest or your virtue. He doesn't give a damn, for the moment, about Getting Ahead or Needs Must Admiring the Best, the two official criteria in adult friendships, and when the boring stranger appears, he puts out his hand and smiles (not really seeing your face) and speaks your name (which doesn't really belong to your face), saying, "Well, Jack, damned glad you came, come on in, boy!"

  2. Good quote, Hannah. I have All The King's Men on my shelf of "keeper" books to reread when I get old(er), but hadn't remembered those paragraphs.

  3. So, please tell us where in O'Conner's work one finds the line that begins, "Where you come from is gone..."

    1. I found the answer in less than a minute, using a website called "Google."

      Here's the link for you: https://www.google.com/


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