Stranger in a Strange Land
Important Quotations Explained
"It is later than you think" could not be expressed in Martian—nor could "Haste makes waste," though for a different reason: the first notion was inconceivable while the latter was an unexpressed Martian basic, as unnecessary as telling a fish to bathe. But "As it was in the Beginning, is now and ever shall be" was so Martian in mood that it could be translated more easily than "two plus two makes four"—which was not a truism on Mars.
Around a minor G-type star toward one edge of a medium-sized galaxy planets swung as they had for billions of years, under a modified inverse square law that shaped space. Four were big enough, as planets go, to be noticeable; the rest were pebbles, concealed in the fiery skirts of the primary or lost in the black reaches of space. All, as is always the case, were infected with that oddity of distorted entropy called life; on the third and fourth planets surface temperatures cycled around the freezing point of hydrogen monoxide; in consequence they had developed life forms similar enough to permit a degree of social contact.
["]You don't have any feeling for what makes a chump a chump. A real magician can make the marks open their mouths by picking a quarter out of the air. That levitation you do—I've never seen it done before, but the marks don't warm to it. No psychology. Now take me, I can't even pick a quarter out of the air. I got no act—except the one that counts. I know marks. I know what he hungers for, even if he don't. That's showmanship, son, whether you're a politician, a preacher pounding a pulpit—or a magician. Find out what the chumps want and you can leave half your props in your trunk."
["]His idea is that whenever you encounter any other grokking thing—man, woman, or stray cat you are meeting your 'other end.' The universe is a thing we whipped up among us and agreed to forget the gag."
Jubal looked sour. "Solipsism and pantheism. Together they explain anything. Cancel out any inconvenient fact, reconcile all theories, include any facts or delusions you like. But it's cotton candy, all taste and no substance—as unsatisfactory as solving a story by saying: '—then the little boy fell out of bed and woke up.'"
The sky held scattered clouds; at that instant the sun came out from behind one and a shaft of light hit him.
His clothes vanished. He stood before them, a golden youth, clothed only in beauty—beauty that made Jubal's heart ache, thinking that Michelangelo in his ancient years would have climbed down from his high scaffolding to record it for generations unborn. Mike said gently, "Look at me. I am a son of man."
The scene cut for a ten-second plug, a line of can-can dancers singing[.]
Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!