Quotes of Note

“One guy asked me years ago what’s the difference between fiction and non-fiction, and I said, ‘The lies are in different places.’ ” – David Adams Richards in a Hazlitt interview

“Of course, it’s a highly conjectural, iffy business—trying to read through someone else’s eyes. Or even, I’d add, through one’s own. Given enough years between visits, rereading a book can feel startlingly alien. Recently, I opened a collection by a contemporary poet who had meant much to me in college. Here was a stanza beside which I’d written in the margin, in a penmanship larger and somehow more hopeful-looking than my present hand, ‘Brilliant!’ I stared and stared at the passage, seeking to reawaken a distant excitement: What did he see in it? But I couldn’t. The moment would have been less unnerving, I suppose, if I’d scrutinized the passage and determined, with some comforting recourse to the superior discernment of age, that it was, in fact, clumsy or orotund [pompous] or emptily romantic. But it seemed merely bland. I longed to get back into the head of that fervent undergraduate, to read sympathetically through his eyes. I was naturally quite interested in him, and approached him with goodwill, but for all his fervency he remained stubbornly aloof. In the end, he was a stranger.” – Brad Leithauser, “Reading Through Someone Else’s Eyes

“Aging can offer us the time to deliberately reorient ourselves toward the inner life, an infinitely more reliable refuge than anything the world can offer. To open these inner vistas is to enter a time of awakening, to lighten our attachment to self, the cause of all of our unease. We have the opportunity to, first, recognize that living attached to our own sense of self is a small, confined, and stressed way to live and, then, to wholeheartedly engage in practices that will free that myopic attachment.” – Kathleen Dowling Singh, The Grace of Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older

“Either intelligent life exists in outer space or it doesn’t.  Either thought is frightening.” – Arthur C. Clark

“Fiction is our most intimate and acute means of communication, at a profound level, about our deepest apprehensions and intuitions on the meaning of life and death.” – John Cheever

“[A library] isn’t just a library. It is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you–and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life.” – Isaac Asimov

“Insufficient critical attention has been paid to the fact that the two towering geniuses of early modern English literature, [John] Milton and [William] Shakespeare, were both the sons of moneylenders.  This profession was very controversial, and the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries saw a series of debates in pulpit, press, and parliament about its legal and moral status.  John Milton senior seems to have avoided criminal prosecution, but Shakespeare’s father was twice convicted of usury by the Royal Exchequer.  Many people felt that taking interest on a loan ipso facto constituted the sin, and the crime, of usury, which was regarded as an unnatural vice akin to sodomy and as an antisocial practice demonstrating a rapacious avarice utterly at odds with Christian charity.  Milton must have been aware that his father’s money, on which he lived well into adulthood, had been acquired by means that were widely considered disreputable.” – David Hawkes, Introduction to John Milton’s Paradise Lost (Barnes & Noble Classics edition)

“In reality there is no kind of evidence or argument by which one can show that Shakespeare, or any other writer, is ‘good.’  Nor is there any way of definitely proving that—for instance—Warwick Deeping [a prolific English novelist and short story writer] is ‘bad.’  Ultimately there is no test of literary merit except survival, which is itself an index to majority opinion.” – George Orwell

“It is the responsibility of writers to listen to gossip and pass it on.  It is the way all storytellers learn about life.” – Grace Paley

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” – Cicero

“A gossip is one who talks to you about others, a bore is one who talks to you about himself, and a brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself.” – Lisa Kirk, Singer and Entertainer

“Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good.  Luckily, this is not difficult.” – Charlotte Whitton, Mayor of Ottowa, Canada in June, 1963

“The best time to plan a book is when you’re doing the dishes.” – Agatha Christie

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’ ” – C. S. Lewis

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – G. K. Chesterton

“Fifty percent of people won’t vote, and fifty percent don’t read newspapers. I hope it’s the same fifty percent.” – Gore Vidal, author and gadfly

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