Quotes of Note

“You should always write your best against dead writers . . . and beat them one by one. Why do you want to fight Dostoevsky in your first fight?  Beat Turgenieff—which we both did soundly . . . Then nail yourself de Maupassant . . . Then try and take Stendhal.” – Ernest Hemingway’s advice to William Faulkner

“In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.” – Carl Sagan

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.  Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” – Oscar Wilde

“The good writer seems to be writing about himself, but has his eye always on that thread of the Universe which runs through himself and all things.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“One writes a repellent book (and Portnoy’s Complaint was taken by many to be solely that) not to be repellent but to represent the repellent, to air the repellent, to expose it, to reveal how it looks and what it is. Chekhov wisely advised that the writer’s task lies not in solving problems but in properly presenting the problem.” – Philip Roth in a recent essay for T: The New York Times Style Magazine

“Boy, did I have a hard time with Moby-Dick.  I read it for an assignment ten years ago and realized after the first few pages that without some sort of reward system I was never going to make any progress.  I told myself that I couldn’t bathe, shave, brush my teeth, or change my clothes until I had finished it.  In the end, I stunk much more than the book did.” – David Sedares in By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review

“As a child I scribbled; and my favorite pastime during the hours given me for recreation was to ‘write stories.’ Still, I had a dearer pleasure than this, which was the formation of castles in the air—the indulging in waking dreams—the following up trains of thought, which had for their subject the formation of a succession of imaginary incidents.” – Mary Shelley

“I read my eyes out and can’t read half enough. . . The more one reads the more one sees we have to read.” – John Adams

“In the louring darkness I turned page after page [of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles], more than a little scared, gradually learning the origin of the dreaded curse of the Baskervilles.  At the end of the book’s second chapter, you may recall, the tension escalates unbearably.  Holmes and Watson have just been told how Sir Charles Baskerville has been found dead, apparently running away from the safety of his own house.  Their informant Dr. Mortimer pauses, then adds, hesitantly, that near the body he had spotted footprints on the damp ground.  A man’s or a woman’s? eagerly inquires the great detective, to which question he receives the most thrilling answer in all of twentieth-century literature: ‘Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!’  I shivered with fearful pleasure scrunched further down under my thick blanket, and took another bite of my Baby Ruth candy bar, as happy as I will ever be.” – Michael Dirda, On Conan Doyle: or The Whole Art of Storytelling

“When I first heard that Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, I immediately wondered: Did he fall — or was he pushed?” – Mystery Writer P. D. James who recently died at the age of 94

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