Quotes of Note

“We are, as a species, addicted to story.  Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night telling itself stories.” – Jonathan Gottschall in The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

“People like to ask me if writing can be taught, and I say yes.  I can teach you how to write a better sentence, how to write dialogue, maybe even how to construct a plot.  But I can’t teach you how to have something to say.” – Ann Patchett, novelist and bookstore owner

“I think I was a really good reader in the sense that I was a desperate reader, desperate to find out what was good, what was true, how a person should live.” – George Saunders, short story writer

“. . . Curiosity has no end: it is without limits.  It feeds on itself, is never satisfied with what it finds, but must always press on, exhausting itself only with our dying breath.  I read somewhere that a man sentenced to death during the revolutionary Terror read a book in the tumbrel taking him to the scaffold, and turned down the page he had reached before climbing up to the guillotine.” – Jacques Bonnet in Phantoms on the Bookshelves

“Booksellers [in second-hand bookshops in England] tell me that 90 per cent of their overheads arise from their shops, and 90 per cent of their sales from the internet.” – Theodore Dalrymple in “Why second-hand bookshops are just my type

“Every politician wants you to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself.” – Bob Strauss

_ _ _

Some people believe that fiction writers have everything worked out before they begin a novel or short story, and completely control the actions of their characters.  Here are three quotes that contradict that notion.

“. . . with me there is always a point in the book where the characters themselves rise up and take charge and finish the job—say somewhere about page 275.  Of course I don’t know what would happen if I finished the book on page 274.” – William Faulkner in an interview for Paris Review concerning the art of fiction

“Do you know my Tatiana has rejected Onegin?  I never expected it of her.” – Alexander Pushkin speaking of two characters in his novel Eugene Onegin

“Literary characters are not, as is too often believed, paper creatures, but living beings who lead an autonomous existence within the texts and may even commit murder without their author realizing it!” – Pierre Bayard

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