Quotes of Note

“Reading scorns distance, and could transport me instantly into the most faraway countries with the strangest customs.  And it did the same for centuries of the past: I had only to open a book to be able to walk through seventeenth-century Paris, at the risk of having a chamber-pot emptied over my head, to defend the walls of Byzantium as they tottered before falling to the Ottomans, or to stroll through Pompeii the night before it was buried under a tidal wave of ash and lava.” – Jacques Bonnet in Phantoms on the Bookshelves

“Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” – Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson

“If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would offer them missionaries for dinner.” – H. L. Mencken

“We are all worms, but I do believe I am a glowworm.” – Winston Churchill

“Never marry for money.  You can borrow it cheaper.” – Scottish Proverb

“Old: chronologically gifted” – George O. Ludcke, Wall Street Journal (Try to keep this in mind as the years roll by.)

“Literature differs from life in that life is amorphously full of detail, and rarely directs us toward it, whereas literature teaches us to notice.  Literature makes us better noticers of life; we get to practice on life itself; which in turn makes us better readers of detail in literature; which in turn makes us better readers of life.” – James Wood, How Fiction Works

_ _ _

Raymond L. Ditmars (1876-1942) was the curator of mammals and reptiles at the New York Zoological Park (now the Bronx Zoo) for many years.  He was also one of the world’s foremost herpetologists (people who studies reptiles).  This excerpt comes from his 1931 book Strange Animals I Have Known.

.  . . one morning my secretary put her hand over the telephone so that the party could not hear what she said.

“It’s a lady and she insists on speaking to you personally.”

I glanced up wearily from the scientific report I was working on which was already overdue. “Is it important?” I asked.

“Must be judging from the tone.”

I took the receiver.  Yes, the lady’s voice was worried.  Mental pictures of a pet monkey in hysterics, a dog with rabies, even a tame bear gone mad and terrifying a whole neighborhood, flashed across my mind.

“Please help me, Dr. Ditmars,” entreated the voice in my ear.  “I hate to bother you.  But there is no one else in town.”

I thought rapidly.  Must be a snake bite.  This happens to be one of my specialties.  I glanced up at the shelf where the serums were kept.  My eye swung to the clock.  It was nearly noon.  The traffic would be bad.  I couldn’t make a rush without a motor-cycle escort.

“There is absolutely no one else I know,” the unhappy voice went on, “who can tell me the name of an animal in five letters that is a reptile and is spelled something like skunk, but can’t be because a skunk isn’t a reptile, and—“

“Hello,” I interrupted.  “Hello.  You mean a ‘skink’!”

With an involuntary growl of anger I hung up.  But my secretary’s smile of sympathy took the edge off my indignation.  She knew as well as I that it was all in a day’s work for the staff of the New York Zoological Park to be the court of last resort for baffled cross-word puzzle workers!”

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