The Magus - by John Fowles

She was about thirty, a born spinster, with a lack of sexuality so total that her smart clothes and too heavy makeup made her pathetic; like an unsuccessful geisha.

The thing I felt most clearly, when the first corner was turned, was that I had escaped. Obscurer, but no less strong, was the feeling that she loved me more than I loved her, and that consequently I had in some indefinable way won. So on top of the excitement of the voyage into the unknown, the taking wing again, I had an agreeable feeling of emotional triumph. A dry feeling; but I liked things dry.

Duty largely consists of pretending that the trivial is critical. And I was never accomplished at that.

At nineteen one is not content simply to do things. They have to be justified as well.

"I think intelligence is terrible. It magnifies all one's faults. Complicates things that ought to be simple."

"Your body's so pretty. It's meant to be caressed."

I remembered an old Urfe law: that girls possess sexual tact in inverse proportion to their standard of education. She seemed to want me to rape her.

In spite of the circumstances it was one of the best breakfasts of my life. Every flavor had a Proustian, mescalin intensity.

All my life I had tried to turn life into fiction, to hold reality away; always I had acted as if a third person was watching and listening and giving me marks for good or bad behavior -- a god like a novelist, to whom I turned, like a character with the power to please, the sensitivity to feel slighted, the ability to adapt himself to whatever he believed the novelistgod wanted. This leechlike variation of the supergo I had created myself, fostered myself, and because of it I had always been incapable of acting freely. It was not my defense; but my despot.

"Neither I nor my children pretend to be ordinary people. They were not brought up to be ordinary. We are rich and we are intelligent and we mean to live rich, intelligent lives."

Her mouth without a cigarette was like a yacht without a mast; one presumed disaster.

I disliked Mitford because he was crass and mean, but even more because he was a caricature, an extension, of certain qualities in myself; he had on his skin, visible, the carcinoma I nursed inside.

He had a relaxed way about him that seemed inculcated by education, by reading some book on How To Be At Ease With Strangers, rather than by any intuitive gift. Nothing, one felt, had ever gone wrong in his life; but he had a sort of freshness, an enthusiasm, an energy that couldn't be totally canceled by envy. Let him have his fall; but he made you hope to see him rise again.

He produced a wallet and handed me a photo. A prettyish black-haired girl smiled rather intensely out at me. She had too small a mouth; I thought I detected the ghostly beginnings of the mask of the bitchgoddess Ambition.