Quotes from A Psalm for the Wild-Built

A Psalm for the Wild-Built is the most pleasant book I read in the last year. It was pleasant to read in that every word and every sentence was clearly, deliberately and precisely chosen. And it is a pleasant to read in that the feeling evoked while learning about the world are goodwill and joy rather than depression or apathy.

Reviews of it focus on the plot, but that misses the word building and spectacular writing. It’s more of a slice of life vignette than a plot dependent book. Focusing on the plot of a tea monk having an existential crisis then meeting a robot a few hundred years after robots gained sentience and exiled the world misses that.

Chapter 6 especially where Dex prepares dinner while Mosscap (the robot) helps and asks questions about why humans prepare food and eat meals was the best example of the pleasantness. It could easily stand alone as a short story or a one act play but is hard to summarize and still convey the essence of it.

Below are the quotes that conveyed the tone and energy of the book best.

Sometimes, a person reaches a point in their life when it becomes absolutely essential to get the fuck out of the city It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent your entire adult life in a city, as was the case for Sibling Dex. It doesn’t matter if the city is a good city, as Panga’s only City was. It doesn’t matter that your friends are there, as well as every building you love, every park whose best hidden corners you know, every street your feet instinctively follow without needing to check for directions. The City was beautiful, it really was. A towering architectural celbration of curves and polish and colored lights, laced with the connective thread of elevated rail lines and smooth footpaths, flocked with leaves that spilled lushly from every balcony and center divider, each inhaled breath perfumed with cooking spice, fresh nectar, laundry drying in the pristine air. The City was a healthy place, a thriving place. A never-ending harmony of making, doing, growing, trying, laughing, running, living.

Sibling Dex was so tired of it


Handling their first therapy client as a tea monk

“My cat died last night,” she said, right before bursting into tears

Dex realized with a stomach-souring thud that they were standing on the wrong side of the vast gulf between having read about doing a thing and doing the thing.


There was a strange comfort about being in an unfamiliar town not too far from home, where the familiarity was limited to building materials and social customer. It was the ideal mix of getting away yet not standing out.


Despite these blessings, sometimes Dex could not sleep. In those hours, they frequently asked themself what it was they were doing. They never truly felt like they got a handle on that. They kept doing it all the same.


Mr. Cody was distracted by the front-facing infant gnawing wetly on the carrier strap “Come on, don’t do that,” he said in a voice that had no illusions of his request being respected.


Dex put their hands on their hips and surveyed the scene. They nodded –not a trader nod, or a service nod. A satisfied nod. The kind of nod that nodded best when it had no audience

p 48

Talking with the robot

“I would have thought people would have studied the Awakening in our absence”

“I’m sure someone somewhere does, but it’s hard to study something that isn’t there to be studied. And trying to make more of you is an ethical mess. There’s just some things in the universe that are better left un-fucked-with”


“You’re a generalist, That’s a focus”


“I’d find it rude if I went to anyone’s home and wasn’t offered food. I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t. But yeah, my family was particularly serious about this. They work the farmland in Haydale, and it produces a lot of food. We had a surplus. A surplus has to be shared”

p 108

Dex didn’t care. Their palms and forearms were scraped and bloody.

Dex didn’t care. Bloodsucks were taking full advantage of the feast at hand. A blister was forming on their foot, a spot unaccustomed to being rubbed by a shoe in an unfamiliar angle. The sky was getting darker. The air was getting thinner. The mountain seemed to go on forever.

Dex didn’t care.

Mosscap said nearly nothing as the two went along, aside from the occasional quiet suggestion of ‘this way looks easier’ or ‘mind that root’ Dex resented the robot’s company. They did not want the Mosscap there. They did not want anyone there. They wanted to climb the fucking mountain, because they had decided they would, and then, when they got to the hermitage, then…then…


While camping in the actual wild for the first time

“On the tea route, they spent far more nights camped out than they did in village guesthouses. But there, they had their wagon, their boundary against the world. Here, listening to the rain fall, watching the rain fall, watching the light vanish, Dex began to understand why the concept of inside had been invented”


“…Everybody needed a cup of tea sometimes. Just an hour or two to sit and do something nice, and then they could get back to whatever it was.”

“Find the strength to do both” Mosscap said, quoting the phrase painted on the wagon.

“Exactly,” Dex said.

“But what’s both?

Dex recited: “‘Without constructs, you will unravel few mysteries. Without knowledge of the mysteries, your constructs will fail. These pursuits are what make us, but without comfort, you will lack the strength to sustain either’… and that’s what I learned in the shrine. I thought, wow, y’know, a cup of tea may not be the most important thing in the world - or a steam bath, or a pretty garden. They’re so superfluous in the grand scheme of things. But the people who did actually important work - building, feeding, teaching, healing - they all came to the shrine. It was the little nudge that helped important things get done”

p134 -135