Quotes of Note

“It had gotten to the point where I said to myself, ‘Now look, Sacks, you really must write this thing. I’ll give you 10 days or else we’re going to have to kill ourselves.’ This worked. It scared me into starting.” – Oliver Sacks quoted in a Vanity Fair article

“They came back with the news that in a cave in the Jungle sat Fear, and that he had no hair, and went upon his hind legs. Then we of the Jungle followed the herd till we came to that cave, and Fear stood at the mouth of it, and he was, as the buffaloes had said, hairless, and he walked upon his hinder legs. When he saw us he cried out, and his voice filled us with the fear that we have now of that voice when we hear it, and we ran away, tramping upon and tearing each other because we were afraid.” – Rudyard Kipling, The Second Jungle Book

“William Sloan, a modern publisher, reminded authors of autobiographies that readers do not open their books thinking and begging, ‘Tell me about you.’ By instinct (and these are my words and not exactly Sloan’s) they are signaling, ‘Tell me about me, as I use you as a mirror to my soul or a window to my world.’ This does not mean that readers are necessarily narcissistic. It does mean that they cannot remove themselves from the transaction implied by our words ‘autobiographer’ or ‘reader.’ ” – Martin E. Marty in the Introduction to The Confessions of St. Augustine (translated by Rex Warner)

“I want to buy a book—perhaps it’s a specific book, identified in a review or mentioned by a friend, or perhaps simple intellectual restlessness has put me in the mood to browse a bookstore shelf and find something new. As I descend to the streets of the city where I live, I recall that many fine unread books remain on my overstocked shelves at home. I’m aware of them every hour of the day, even when I look up from the book I’m currently reading. They remind me of promises made to read them when they were bought; some of these promises are now decades old. My shelves also hold certain already-read volumes that deserve a careful, more mature rereading. I should turn back.” – Ken Kalfus, from “A Book Buyer’s Lament” in The New Yorker

“I opened it at page 96 – the secret page on which I write my name to catch out borrowers and book-sharks.” – Flann O’Brien, “The Forgetting of Eaten Bread”

“My father had a small library of a hundred or so, from which I tried a collected Writings of Victor Hugo, mysteriously inscribed in my father’s hand, ‘G. M. Davenport, April 24, 1934, Havana, Cuba,’ where I am positive my father never set foot.” – Guy Davenport, “On Reading”

“I want you to meet Jonathan Swift, the author of that evil political book, Gulliver’s Travels! And this other fellow is Charles Darwin, and this one is Schopenhauer, and this one is Einstein, and this one here at my elbow is Mr. Albert Schweitzer, a very kind philosopher indeed. Here we all are, Montag. Aristophanes and Mahatma Gandhi and Gautama Buddha and Confucius and Thomas Love Peacock and Thomas Jefferson and Mr. Lincoln, if you please. We are also Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”

Everyone laughed quietly.

“It can’t be,” said Montag.

“It is,” replied Granger, smiling. “We’re book-burners, too. We read the books and burn them, afraid they’d be found. Micro-filming didn’t pay off; we were always traveling, we didn’t want to bury the film and come back later. Always the chance of discovery. Better to keep it in the old heads, where no one can see it or suspect it. We are all bits and pieces of history and literature and international law, Byron, Tom Paine, Machiavelli, or Christ, it’s here.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“Those who claim to know her [Sara Zeelen-Levallois], or know of her, have talked of poems whose syntax and diction twist language into new shapes, forming tiny bright daggers sharp enough to pierce the heart. Others have spoken of a novel so compendious and yet so precise it would change our thinking about the form, the last true revolutionary work, a thing that would turn lives inside out after only its first page. Some have claimed she wrote short stories, brief tales that twist and turn, things that would checkmate Chekhov, carve Carver into pieces. Stories that need but a few brief pages to reconfigure your soul.” – C. D. Rose, The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure [a delightful faux-biography of failed writers]

“Of course I believe in luck. How else does one explain the successes of one’s enemies?” – Jean Cocteau

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