Quotes of Note

“He was always so plausible.  Many People have believed that his version of events was the true one, give or take a few murders, a few beautiful seductresses, a few one-eyed monsters.  Even I believed him, from time to time.  I knew he was tricky and a liar, I just didn’t think he would play his tricks and try out his lies on me.  Hadn’t I been faithful?  Hadn’t I waited, and waited, and waited, despite the temptation—almost the compulsion—to do otherwise?  And what did I amount to, once the official version gained ground?  An edifying legend.  A stick used to beat other women with.  Why couldn’t they be as considerate, as trustworthy, as all-suffering as I had been?  That was the line they took, the singers, the yarn-spinners.  Don’t follow my example, I want to scream in your ears—yes, yours!  But when I try to scream, I sound like an owl.” – Penelope speaking of her husband, Odysseus, in Margaret Atwoods novella The Penelopiad (2005)

“Or go to a tiny graveyard on the Nebraska prairie north of the little town of Red Cloud and look about until you find a small headstone.  It reads ‘Anna Pavelka, 1869 – 1955.’

“By every fashionable index used to measure success and importance, Anna Pavelka was nobody.  Three weeks ago my wife Rosalee and I were among several hundred visitors who arrived in a caravan of Red Cloud school buses to pay her homage.  Who was she and why did we bother?

“She was born Anna Sadilek in Mizzovic, Bohemia, present-day Czechoslovakia, in 1869.  In 1883, at age fourteen, she sailed with her family to America to settle on the treeless Nebraska prairie in a sod hut. Some time later, in despair over the struggle and isolation of his alien new life, her father killed himself.  As a suicide he was denied burial in the Catholic cemetery.  They buried him instead beside the road and the road makes a little jog at the spot there still.

“Annie afterward worked as a ‘hired girl’ in Red Cloud.  She fell in love. She left town with a railroad man she hoped to marry, but was deserted by him and forced to return.  She bore an illegitimate child.  Later, she married John Pavelka, also of Bohemia, who had been a tailor’s apprentice in New York, a city man, and who knew little of farming.  She ran the farm and she bore him, I believe, eleven more children. She spent her life on the farm there on the prairie.

“And that’s about all there is to the story—except that she adored her children and her farm and she was also known to a younger woman from Red Cloud named Willa Cather who transformed her life into a very great and enduring American novel called My Antonia.  The Antonia of the story—the Anna Sadilek Pavelka of real life—was a figure of heroic staying power. But it is her faith and joy in life, her warmth that matter most.  ‘At first I near go crazy with lonesomeness,’ says her city-man husband at the close of the novel, remembering his first years in Nebraska, ‘but my woman is got such a warm heart.’

“Anna Pavelka reaches out to us because of what Oliver Wendell Holmes called ‘the transfiguring touch’ of Willa Cather’s art, because of what she, through Willa Cather, says about the human spirit.” – David McCullough, Brave Companions: Portraits in History

“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountains which sustain life, not the top.” – Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

“Proust doesn’t write day hikes. He doesn’t write those four-day hikes you can take in New Zealand where a boat takes your bags for you from hotel to hotel so you don’t have to weigh yourself down as you get your 10–12 miles in. Proust is more like the Appalachian Trail.” – Kati Stevens, “Reading Proust Is Like Climbing a Mountain – Prepare Accordingly”

Vanity Fair: “How would you like to die?”

Herman Wouk: “Not much.” – Author Herman Wouk in a Vanity Fair magazine Proust Questionnaire interview when he was 97.

“Life is a lot like jazz . . . it’s best when you improvise.” – George Gershwin

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

“Ideas are like rabbits.  You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” – John Steinbeck

“Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone.  It has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone.  And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone” – Paul Tillich, The Eternal Now

“Confronted by an absolutely infuriating review it is sometimes helpful for the victim to do a little personal research on the critic.  Is there any truth to the rumor that he had no formal education beyond the age of eleven?  In any event, is he able to construct a simple English sentence?  Do his participles dangle?  When moved by lyricism does he write ‘I had a fun time’?  Was he ever arrested for burglary?  I don’t know that you will prove anything this way, but it is perfectly harmless and quite soothing.” – Jeanne Kerr

“I haven’t had a fight since I was eleven. I only won that because she had an asthma attack.” – John Wayne


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