Lines from works that you love.

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Lines from works that you love.

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okt 12, 2007, 2:29 am

What are some lines from poems or stories or novels that you love? Just a sentence or two. Also, first lines of stories that really work for you.

okt 12, 2007, 8:37 am

From my favorite novel, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee :

"Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough."

okt 12, 2007, 10:36 am

The best opening line I can think of, from Elmore Leonard's GLITZ:

"The night Vincent got shot, he saw it coming."

And from Raymond Chandler's THE LADY IN THE LAKE:

“There was the doorway with the green curtains across it. Never sit with your back to a green curtain. It always turns out badly. Who had I said that to? A girl with a gun…”

okt 12, 2007, 2:25 pm

From Dashiel Hammett:

Tony liked Sue. Babe liked Sue. Sue liked Babe. Tony didn't like that.

Redigeret: okt 12, 2007, 2:55 pm

"It's hard to be optimistic on the reservation. When a glass sits on a table here, people don't wonder if it's half filled or half empty. They just hope it's good beer." --Sherman Alexie, "The Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation Doesn't Flash Red Anymore," The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in heaven.

Redigeret: okt 13, 2007, 2:25 am

"Northern Lights. ... Their fires lobbed over, higher, higher, then died out in blackness. At times the whole sky was ringed in shooting points and puckers of light gathering and falling, pulsing, fading, rhythmical as breathing. All of a piece. As if the sky were a pattern of nerves and our thought and memories traveled across it. As if the sky were one gigantic memory for us all." Louise Erdrich, "The World's Greatest Fishermen," Love Medicine.

okt 12, 2007, 9:05 pm

This is gonna be one of those threads I post a zillion responses too. I apologize in advance. For now - a couple of Fitzgerald quotes:

"Writers aren't people exactly. Or, if they're any good, they're like a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person."
(The Last Tycoon)

"I'll tell you a family secret," she whispered enthusiastically. "It's about the butler's nose. Do you want to hear about the butler's nose?"
"That's why I came over to-night."
"Well, he wasn't always a butler; he used to be a silver poisher for some people in New York that had a silver service for two hundred people. He had to polish it from morning till night, until finally it began to affect his nose---"
"Things went from bad to worse," suggested Miss Baker.
"Yes. Things went from bad to worse, until finally he had to give up his position."

okt 12, 2007, 9:11 pm

It's been too long since I read Gatsby - I didn't remember about the butler's nose. If I'd read it more recently, I would never have forgotten it. Poor man. I have chemical sensitivities myself, so I feel for him. Wonder what happened to him after he gave up his position?

okt 12, 2007, 9:15 pm

I just love the exchange - "Do you want to hear about the butler's nose?" "That's why I came over to-night."

Brilliant! Hilarious!

okt 12, 2007, 9:47 pm

Well - I have just joined this delightful and inspiring group. Thank you.

Here is a quote from the latest book I (re) read - Persuasion. I hope this is not too soppy for everyone but here goes:

"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me that I am not too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever".

I think that is one of the most romantic speeches in literature - and I always imagine that Captain Wentworth is saying it to ME!

okt 12, 2007, 10:58 pm

I don't have a copy at hand but wasn't the first line of CATCHER IN THE RYE:

"Anyway, it was September and all..."

That's pretty darn good, the only book by Salinger I can still tolerate...

Redigeret: okt 12, 2007, 11:59 pm

Ooh, I've got another.


"If I hadn't been in a dressing-gown and he in pink pajamas with a blue stripe, and if he hadn't been glaring quite so much as if he were shortly to commit a murder, the tableau would have looked rather like one of those advertisements you see in the magazines, where the experienced elder is patting the young man's arm, and saying to him, 'My boy, if you subscribe to the Mutt-Jeff Correspondence School of Oswego, Kan, as I did, you may some day, like me, become Third Assistant Vice-President of the Schenectady Consolidated Nail-File and Eyebrow Tweezer Corporation.' "

okt 13, 2007, 12:58 am

The more posts, the merrier, ambushed.

Cliff: the first line of The Catcher in the Rye is:

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."


Redigeret: okt 13, 2007, 1:29 am

Hmm...okay, it wasn't the first line of CATCHER...but it appears somewhere in CATCHER because I used it in a literary collage I did on the murder of John Lennon. If you recall, his killer (I refuse to write or speak his foul name) was holding a copy of CATCHER in his hand when the police arrived on the scene to arrest him.

I should have run to the basement and dug out my copy.

Thanks for the correction, I hate getting stuff like that wrong.

By the way (re: #12), which Wodehouse was that?

okt 13, 2007, 2:20 am

Cliff, I wasn't correcting, just embellishing (lol). I'd forgotten myself how long that first line is. I remember being very captivated with Catcher the first time I read it and for many years it was one of my favorite books. I still like the phrase, "that David Copperfield kind of crap." I guess Catcher will always have a special place in my heart.

However, I like his short stories more now. You don't like the rest of Salinger's work? I did my Master's thesis on Salinger's short stories. I was always quite taken with the Glass children. Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters is a novella I also enjoy.

okt 13, 2007, 2:25 am

OMG, I must read The Last Tycoon. What a great line. I do not remember anything about the butler's nose in Gatsby! Oh dear.

#10: "Half agony, half hope" --that's a keeper, all right.

#3: Love that about the green curtain.

xenchu: Funny, funny line.

okt 13, 2007, 10:50 am

The 1st. lines of Dodie Smith's "I Capture the Castle"

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board which I have padded with our dog's blanket & the tea-cosy. I can't say that I am really comfortable, and there is a depressing smell of carbolic soap, but this is the only part of the kitchen where there is any daylight left. And I have found that sitting in a place where you have never sat before can be inspiring -- I wrpte my very best poem while sitting in the hen-house.
The rest of the book is just as good.

okt 13, 2007, 11:23 am


With the exception of CATCHER, I actively detest Salinger's work. I read it when I was younger but I couldn't re-read 90% of it now without smirking. It's trite, overly sentimental, contrived, unbelievable. He has not dated at all well and I think the same is true for Capote, with the exception of IN COLD BLOOD, which, like CATCHER, is timeless.

Tom Robbins is another writer I left behind, after getting in to him back in the early 80's. Certain writers stay with you all your life, others are like relationships where eventually you grow apart and must separate, move on to other things...

Redigeret: okt 13, 2007, 11:58 am

#14 - It's either Carry On, Jeeves or Very Good, Jeeves - I read them a few months ago in the course of two days and they sort of swim together, but I want to say it's the latter.

Also, regarding Catcher - I wanted to share this - a picture.

okt 13, 2007, 12:26 pm

#18 - literature and writing (and art) is a great example of meritocracy. Your idea of longevity and generational appeal of a book is so relevant to the argument of discerning truly good art.

The artist who can be read across generations and time periods and holds the reader's attention, gains the title of genius. The others are populist, driven by marketing ploys, societal trends, time period interests, etc. but they not lasting art.

Interestingly, the popular masses usually screw up recognizing the true artists as they are often ground-breaking, innovative, thinking outside the box - think back to Van Gogh.

The challenge is discerning between the two. I agree with you about Robbins, Capote, who are good examples of 'in' people, fading to obscurity.

I would have to re-read Salinger to decide - but maybe that is the answer as it has not 'stayed' with me.

Sorry - got off topic completely. Will go and look for more great lines!!

okt 13, 2007, 8:43 pm

How's this for an opening line, from an all time best (for me), Anthony Burgess' EARTHLY POWERS:

"It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me."

It's funny, LT's dictionary didn't recognize "catamite" and underlined it. That's a pretty conservative reference book...

okt 13, 2007, 8:53 pm

Here's the first line of Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son:

A salesman who shared his liquor and steered while sleeping…A Cherokee filled with bourbon…A VW no more than a bubble of hashish fumes, captained by a college student…

And a family from Marshalltown who head-onned and killed forever a man driving west out of Bethany, Missouri…

…I rose up sopping wet from sleeping under the pouring rain, and something less than conscious, thanks to the first three of the people I've already named—the salesman and the Indian and the student—all of whom had given me drugs.

okt 13, 2007, 9:02 pm

Terrific book (JESUS' SON) and terrific movie too.

Johnson was just shortlisted for the National Book Award for TREE OF SMOKE, make sure to add that one and the new Richard Russo to your "must read" list, everyone...

okt 13, 2007, 9:07 pm

#17-#22: All great comments. Cliff, my Salinger is back at my office, so I can't pull out any good quotes from his stories right now. I think that Salinger is a sort of rare bird, so I'm not surprised that you have a strong reaction against his short work. I'm sure many feel similarly. As for Capote, I think many of his short stories are beautiful and timeless (not all). I particularly like the one about the little boy and the old woman who go everywhere looking for booze for the Christmas cakes, who make and fly kites. I'll quote some from that story later. #22, NativeRoses, I love, loVE, LOVE Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son!

okt 13, 2007, 9:10 pm

I'm waiting for Russo's Bridge of Sighs and Tree of Smoke from my library. I love Russo's work; my favorites are Nobody's Fool and and Straight Man.

okt 13, 2007, 9:35 pm

Cliff - just to reveal a complete lack of knowledge - what is a 'catamite'???

okt 13, 2007, 9:38 pm

STRAIGHT MAN had me laughing hysterically at various points. Russo sends up the inter-department rivalries and ego contests of academia with sheer brilliance.

Theresa, there's NO HOPE of convincing me that any of Salinger's work beyond CATCHER is still worth reading. You can pluck out a few nice lines but it's his treacly attachment to the Glass family that I find annoying. I never believed any of the characters and the writing was too overwrought. Not for me. Capote is overly precious--I tried to read GLASS HARP a few months ago and gave up in disgust. He writes like a 93 year old grandma who's taken a few too many creative writing courses from a bad poet...

okt 13, 2007, 9:47 pm

Whoa!- strong rhetoric about the 93 year old grandma and treacle. (although I have to agree)....

okt 13, 2007, 11:18 pm

Oh score, I thought the new Russo didn't come out till next month. The Risk Pool might be my favorite novel of all time.

okt 13, 2007, 11:20 pm

re 26
A catamite is a young boy kept for sexual purposes by an adult male.

I had to find some references, but here are some of my favorite lines:

To think that two and two are four
And neither five nor three
The heart of man has long been sore
And long 'tis like to be. ...
A.E. Housman, Selected Poems

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity . . . Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes---and ships---and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages---and kings---
And why the sea is boiling hot---
And whether pigs have wings.”
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

okt 13, 2007, 11:34 pm


I love the Housman quote. More poetry everyone...

okt 14, 2007, 12:07 am

This is the ending of Kerouac's Brooklyn Bridge Blues - I have it on mp3 so I can't guarantee any of the breaks/capitalizations, and the exclamation marks are from inflection.

"I wanted to call my mother
On the phone and say
I didn't say I was going
I've crossed the river now
I'm over the bridge now
I'm on the other shore now
I've reached the other side!
The little glicks and dibbles of returning human humorisms I may allow
It's mountaintop for me!
I'm a glutton!
I like food!
I'm irritable when I'm hungry!
I like a good supper!
I like sex!
Conquer lust and Buddha will arise in me.

And now that I've achieved superhuman perfection of compassion and knowledge
Naturally I've lost human talents of writing
Nowhere to go!
All's been done
I can only tell you what God would tell you
Dry your tears -
All women are nuts -
Dry up your sins, me."

okt 14, 2007, 3:32 am

#20 “The artist who can be read across generations and time periods and holds the reader’s attention, gains the title of genius.”

I’m sorry, but this is a blatantly false statement. First, if we evaluate literature by the work’s ability to hold “the reader’s” attention, then, according to most high school students, Homer sucks, Keats blows, and Yeats is full of shit. A fundamental question is: who the hell is “the” reader? Secondly, why is this reader’s point of view valid? If I propose astrophysical theories (I, who have no knowledge of the subject), is my theory valid? Worth hearing? So, who is this reader? And why is his/her opinion valid?

Furthermore, because most of “the readers” are bored by things like technical skill, metaphysical wit, and, well, poetry, why don’t we just say there’s never been a great poet because today’s kids just don’t seem to give a crap? Never has there been a poetic genius because today’s youths don’t get interested in poetry: this seems a cataclysmic mentality. The works are not great because they continue to hold readers’ attention spans; the works are great because there are objective criteria for a work of literature to be successful. Nobody reads George Meredith’s book of poems, Modern Love (LT doesn't even list the book), but they are great poems. People don’t pick up Thomas Hardy’s Collected Poems, but they are great poems. Who reads Edward Thomas? The readers of the world don’t give a crap about John Crowe Ransom, but his poems are impeccable. To evaluate literature based upon the fickle “taste” of mass readership is to commoditize art.


I find Other Voices, Other Rooms to be very anti-grandma-ish. Please elaborate your concerns. Is the problem that his prose is florid? I can sort of understand that complaint against his first book, but I don’t think, no matter the problems, that Capote’s books aren’t “worth” reading. There are works that are shit, utterly lacking ambition; most of these end up on best-seller lists. Capote’s fiction constantly struggles to discover, to break-through stylistically: I value even his failures. And, I think, if we are to learn what fiction is, what it can and can’t do, his works are a pretty damn decent place to start. Much better than most of what’s in print these days.

“It is positively immoral, indecent, and vulgar to live more than forty years.” - Dostoevsky

“The objective accent falls on WHAT is said, the subjective accent on HOW it is said.” - Kierkegaard

“It is not necessary to accept everything as true, one must only accept it as necessary.” - Kafka “Before the Law”

“There are no longer protagonists; there is only the chorus.” - Ortega

‘Aetas parentum pejor avis tulit
Nos nequiores, mox daturos
Progeniem vitiosiorem.’” - Horace Odes III.6

Redigeret: okt 14, 2007, 11:49 am


I put very little stock in what "kids" think is great literature or poetry. My aesthetics when I was in high school are utterly different from the way I think now. Kids are not the arbiters of taste, nor will they determine if future generations will deem a work a classic or not. Of course a student would hate reading poetry, it's difficult and allusive (elusive) and requires he/she to think about something beyond the confines of their hormone-fueled self-obsessions.

Generations of students have hated reading Shakespeare but that hasn't kept the bard from immortality. Ask a kid who Homer is and you'll only get "Simpsons" references. That didn't keep Fagles new (brilliant) translations from selling well all over the world. Homer, too, will last as long as humans exist in one form or another.

People don't read Thomas Hardy's "Collected Poems"? I prefer them to his proseworks. I don't think Hardy is bound for the rubbish heap of literature, consigned to obsolescence. Too many of his poems are still included in those Norton anthologies that university kids have had to study for years.

"Please elaborate my concerns" re: Capote? Have I not done that? With the exception of IN COLD BLOOD and maybe a piece or two from MUSIC FOR CHAMELEONS he just doesn't strike me as a GREAT author. Subjective opinion but, then, whose opinion isn't? Southern writers have often been a problem for me, their richer style clashes with my direct, non-decorous approach to reading and writing. Faulkner is not to my tastes either (my favorite piece of writing by the man was his Nobel acceptance speech, when he says that humankind will not just survive, we will PREVAIL).

* * * * * *

Found another terrific line I like, this one from the dedication page Camilo Jose Cela's THE FAMILY OF PASCUAL DUARTE:

"I dedicate this 13th and definitive edition of PASCUAL DUARTE to my enemies, who have been of such help to me in my career."

Never mess with writers, we always have the last word...

okt 14, 2007, 3:16 pm

Cliff: you said, "Never mess with writers, we always have the last word..."

Oh dear, a lot of us here are writers. I guess that means we will be adding to these topics forever (I hope).

okt 14, 2007, 3:23 pm

Cliff, in the short time we've known each other, I have figured out that I will never convince you of anything, so I definitely won't try to do that. Once I get my copy of Salinger's stories, I'll quote from them and simply talk about why the stories were meaningful to me.

I like what Gregory Orr says about why we enjoy certain poems (this can be extended to fiction as well): that it takes us to a threshold within us. Salinger doesn't do that for you, and that's cool. Salinger isn't for everybody. You seem to have definitely made up your mind that his stories about the Glass children are not for you.

Although...and this is probably the English teacher in me talking...sometimes a reader has to try harder to understand an author. I still struggle with Emily Dickinson. She really doesn't speak to me, but I feel there is something in myself that is lacking. This isn't the case with all authors that I don't care to read, but it is definitely the case with Emily.

okt 14, 2007, 3:25 pm

Jim, I am glad to see you back here.

I am also fascinated by Capote's struggle as a writer.

okt 14, 2007, 3:27 pm

#32: Wow: is this available on CD?

okt 14, 2007, 3:58 pm

#38 - I'm not sure if it's on a CD or not. I downloaded it from Limewire or wherever, several years ago. If you're not squeamish about legalities, you can get it here.

okt 14, 2007, 4:12 pm


I do try hard with certain works and writers--it took me 10 years of reading bios and articles on Joyce before I tackled ULYSSES. I read all of Salinger in my early 20's and found him interesting then but subsequently my readings have led me further afield. I don't think he or Capote are difficult or enigmatic writers at all...on the contrary I find that they found one note and stuck to it through much of their careers (again, only a personal view). Perhaps in 15 years I'll re-find them...but I have my doubts.

okt 14, 2007, 7:42 pm

#33 & #20 The quote about being read across generations...this does not include school children. What is included is the person who purchases a work of writing (or a work of art or music) because that work he/she chooses to examine it & if people have been examining & enjoying a work over years & over geographical distances & that work is still being requested then that work can be called "classic". School children are exposed to examples of our civilization, they are not expected to appreciate every thing they come in contact with. What is important is that they experience the contact.

okt 14, 2007, 11:16 pm

#40: Cliff, oh, I know, I wasn't saying you should try harder; we all change and grow away from certain writers. We are constantly in a state of flux.

okt 14, 2007, 11:40 pm

Oh, I just can't let this go: Cliff, you wrote: "He writes like a 93 year old grandma..."

Could we put away the idea that grandmothers are benign, puttering forces in the world? We seem to understand that men are mentally vital into old age, why not women?

I'm 51, not a grandmother but old enough to be. Doris Lessing, who is in her eighties, just won a Nobel Prize. I think we need to change our idea of what grandmothers are like!

I'm just saying...

What do the rest of you think?

okt 14, 2007, 11:53 pm

FYI ... About Lessing:

She was described by the Swedish Academy as "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny".3 Lessing is only the eleventh woman to win the prize in its 106-year history,45 and also the oldest person ever to win the literature award.6


okt 15, 2007, 12:12 am

...and I love that Doris rather brusquely shrugged off the "epicist of female experience" label, knowing full well that in order to be considered a truly great writer, one's message must be universal and not demarcated by gender, class, race or any of that other attendant bullshit. The Nobel Committee is showing it's rather liberal roots, the same kind of blinkered thinking that kept them from choosing Borges and Celine as rightful recipients...

God bless ya, doll...

okt 15, 2007, 12:16 am


You didn't finish my quote, which doesn't put down grandmothers at all. Here's the full version:

"(Capote) writes like a 93 year old grandma who's taken a few too many creative writing courses from a bad poet."

Taken in context, most grandmas have no need to take offense...

okt 15, 2007, 12:22 am

Cliff, I know, but then it would be ANYONE who has taken a few too many CW courses from a bad poet--why single out the 93 yo Grandma?

A grandmotherly hug your way... Theresa

okt 15, 2007, 12:24 am

Re Lessing: she's a fierce one, all right.

okt 15, 2007, 12:26 am


I was more referring to his effete, overly mannered and formal tone of his writing (no doubt owing to his roots in the South). Not that he was addled or puttering, his style is just too precious for my liking. Again, I remove IN COLD BLOOD from my criticisms, it is a remarkable work...

okt 15, 2007, 12:30 am

OK - #33 - Point taken - the sentence does not stand alone as a truth - it is poorly stated. But I absolutely did not mean that the average reader of today defines 'good' literature. And by 'attention', I was not referring to the attention span of the present day population, but the interest/attention of the universal reader through the ages.

I was not making any reference to mass readership or the populist, commodity-driven mass culture of our times AT ALL. But your ideas are well taken.

What I was trying to say, and you have further illustrated, is that really great literature stands the test of time. Keats and Shakespeare and Yeats and Hardy are all still around, still enjoyed etc. Other works, popular at that time with the 'masses', have not lasted.

You do not necessarily need to be a Professor of Literature at Harvard to enjoy great literature - although it may enhance, enrich and speed it up (especially if you know how to read). The more specialized the topic, the more you need to understand before embarking - astrophysics requires understanding of that science subject; reading Jane Austen is enhanced by understanding the social/moral mores of the early 19th Century, and so on.

There is not alot of crap around still being read from the 15th, 16th, 17th century that I know of.

Timeless that stands the test of time.....etc, etc.

By the way - many people I know read Thomas Hardy's poems - I do.

okt 15, 2007, 1:56 am

Yes, but a grandmother's style is not necessarly effete or precious. That's what I'm trying to say. I'm saying we need to go beyond the stereotypical notion of what a grandmother *is*. Do you see?

Another hug from one old enough to be a grandmother--would you like a cookie too? (LOL).

okt 15, 2007, 9:50 am

Hugs and cookie accepted...and reciprocated. And a cup of orange pekoe grandma was an English lady, tea at 3:00 on the afternoon, even when it was forty below with 6 feet of snow outside...

Redigeret: okt 15, 2007, 9:35 pm

"We did not inherit the Earth from our parents. We are borrowing it from our children." ~ Chief Seattle, a blurb from Jonathan Schell's Fate of the Earth

Redigeret: okt 16, 2007, 11:55 am

From Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer:

"Anyway, the fascinating thing was that I read in National Geographic that there are more people alive now than have died in all of human history. In other words, if everyone wanted to play Hamlet at once, they couldn't, because there aren't enough skulls!"

Redigeret: okt 23, 2007, 2:37 pm

"He was running the vacuum cleaner when the telephone rang."

Short story writer Raymond Carver:
"For several days I'd been going around with this sentence in my head: "He was running the vacuum cleaner when the telephone rang." I knew a story was there and that it wanted telling. I felt it in my bones, that a story belonged with that beginning, if I could just have the time to write it. I found the time, an entire day -- twelve, fifteen hours even -- if I wanted to make use of it. I did, and I sat down in the morning and wrote the first sentence, and other sentences promptly began to attach themselves. I made the story just as I'd make a poem; one line and then the next, and the next. Pretty soon I could see a story, the one I'd been wanting to write.

I have that opening line and then everything seems to radiate out from that line."

The story eventually became Put Yourself in My Shoes.

okt 24, 2007, 11:59 am

I read somewhere that Carver is dropping off folks' radar and I have to wonder why. He captured the little moments, small dramas of life with such clarity and precision. Nothing is mundane when examined through the eyes of a scrupulous artist like Carver.

Developing writers could do worse if they were seeking out someone who could teach them or two about crafting short stories. Technically, the man is almost without peer in that format, at least in terms of American writers over the past 30-40 years...

okt 24, 2007, 2:27 pm

#56 I also read that about Carver; I think it was in Poets & Writers magazine (in reference to what MFA students are reading these days).

nov 17, 2007, 5:20 pm

Back to #1..."The street door above him flew open, and a person was sucked up through it into the enormous darkness beyond. Something unbelievable began to suggest itself." P486 Tree of Smoke

Fest's perspective of his fleeing assassin and his own shocking, impending, death...A great scene from this book. This may need more context I suppose. I didn't want to go beyond the original intent.

nov 28, 2007, 9:37 am

Just started TREE OF SMOKE and already know I'm in the hands of a superb author. The authoritativeness of the prose, the confidence and intelligence of the creative mind in charge--I love reading writers that kick my ass, that make me wish I could do nearly as well. It's humbling but it's also incredibly motivating.

Delillo does that for me, Cormac McCarthy, Annie Dillard, Beckett, Borges, Pynchon...these folks raise the bar and give the rest of us something to shoot for...

nov 28, 2007, 4:03 pm

Two of my favorites...

"Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe."
Toni Morrison - The Bluest Eye

"Sometimes there is someone who is selected to be a lion or an eagle when the rest of us are selected to be sheep and sparrows, and this someone is not caught up by destiny, but makes destiny for themselves, as if they have a greater knowledge of what must be done, and an understanding of the direction in which the world must go."
Louis de Bernieres - Birds Without Wings

dec 4, 2007, 4:01 pm

Crane's The Open Boat:

None of the men knew the color of the sky

dec 16, 2007, 9:08 pm

Lhea, i love that quote from Toni Morrison.

Here's one of William T. Vollmann's sentences in Whores for Gloria:

When everything -- EVERYTHING -- about life makes you want to grin, and it just gets sunnier and funnier until after a while you can only see the teeth in the smiles and then you feel . . . -- well, not "on the edge", exactly, for the world has no edge; but as if you have always been over the edge, and the smiling and laughing is a sort of spastic reflex like crying or retching (really, it's all the same);-- when you drink red wine in a cup and try to categorize the geometry of the gleam-patterns you see on the liquid's surface--and you may find, my firneds, that you can almost do it: you agree with yourself upon the existence of a light-shape like the outline of a hemisphere drawn in concave at the equator; but another sip and it changes to a gleam-ring all around the rim of the wine circle; and another and it is reddish-black everywhere with the unsteady image of your face in it, your skin redder adn your mouth blacker than the wine, and another and you see white specks swimming in the cup: they are not reflections at all, but bits of grease or rice or cereal, or maybe cheek-cells that got washed out of your mouth (the age-old question: is the imperfection, the filth, in you or in the glass?);--but then your attention is diverted forever by the ugly purple stain around the edge of the cup where your lips have been; when everything is so confusing that you can never be sure whether or not your whore is a woman until she pulls her underpants down; when nothing is clear, and whore-chasing is a merry-go-round of death (if you don't catch a disease that will will you, wny, you will go around again, not because you want to die but because until you do everything remains unclear); when you get drunken crushes on women whose drunken mothers used to try to stab them; when the names of streets are like Nabokov's wearisome cleverness; when only the pretty shapes of women have integrity and when you close your eyes still see them leaning and crossing their legs and milking their tits at you, THEN you may on occasion like Jimmy find yourself looking down a long black block, down the tunnels of infinity to a streetlamp, a corner and a woman's waiting silhouette.

dec 17, 2007, 7:27 am

Vollmann is extraordinary. I read an interview with him in which it's indicated he basically suffers from graphophilia, he literally CAN'T stop writing. Thus his amazing productivity, a prolific writer who, like most prolific writers, isn't terrible, doesn't seem to compromise the integrity of the work. Vollmann's incomparable intelligence probably plays a role but you have to wonder how long this guy can keep up the sheer PACE...

dec 20, 2007, 5:54 pm

This is from Isabel Allende's book Paula the biography of her daughter who passed when she was only 28. At the time she wrote these words, her daughter had been in a deep coma for several months & was not expected to recover.

"Where was my daughter before I brought her into the world? "Where will she goes when she dies?"
"Paula is already in God. God is what binds, what holds together the fabric of life...What you call love," My mother replied.""

dec 21, 2007, 3:37 pm

From David Hawkins,

"The nobility of man is in his constant struggle with his own unasked-for existence in a world that is a house of mirrors--his sole support, and his faith in the process of life itself."

Redigeret: dec 22, 2007, 3:54 am

The first lines of Robert Boswell's "A Walk in Winter":

"Snow weighted the limbs of trees. Mounds of snow lined the shoulders of the country road and cloaked the adjacent fields. Snow lathered the air. Snow brought Conrad home."

dec 22, 2007, 3:56 am

#61: I love that Crane quote. I love the story, "The Open Boat."

dec 23, 2007, 5:17 pm

From the story "Title," from John Barth's Lost in the Funhouse. The whole book could go down as lines I love. But I'll spare you.

"Why do you suppose it is, she asked, long participial phrase of the breathless variety characteristic of dialogue attributions in nineteenth-century fiction, that literate people such as we talk like characters in a story? Even supplying the dialogue-tags, she added with wry disgust. Don't put words in her mouth. The same old story, an old-fashioned one at that. Even if I should fill in the blank with my idle pen? Nothing new about that, to make a fact out of a figure. At least it's good for something. Every story is penned in red ink, to make a figure out of a fact. This whole idea is insane.

And might therefore be got away with."

dec 25, 2007, 4:33 pm

If I were on a Dessert Island - yes, that's right dessert. Who would want to be stuck on the other kind?

Well, anyway, if I were on a dessert island and had only five books, one of them would be The Sotweed Factor. When I read this at a fairly early age it really spun my head around the possibilities of language.

feb 24, 2008, 8:42 am

From The Snow Geese by William Fiennes

"Between 15 & 20 bald eagles were perching in a dead cottonwood at the edge of the floodwater lake. The tree resembled a candelabra, the eagles white heads like flames on thick black candles. One eagle took flight from the limb of the tree. The branch shuddered. The eagle fanned its white tail as it banked away from the cottonwood, gaining height. Farther away, beyond the cottonwood, more eagles were gliding in circles, lifted on a thermal column; a kettle of 20 or 30 birds soaring without effort or fluster, in carousels, turning & turning on the updraft.

maj 26, 2008, 10:39 am

From As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner:

"We go on, with a motion so soporific, so dreamlike as to be uninferant of progress, as though time and not space were decreasing between us and it."

From The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman:

"If I maintain my silence about my secret it is my prisoner...If I let it slip from my tongue, I am its prisoner." (Actually a quote from that book, but attributed to Schopenhauer)

maj 28, 2008, 6:09 pm

I love those quotes. Considering the work that you do, I can see how the second is relevant! I agree, as my writing unleashes many of my own secrets and I am free.

maj 29, 2008, 3:36 pm

I'm not going to type anything out because I'm writing this on a teensy iPod keyboard, but The Mystery of Edwin Drood has some amazing stylistic passages, and I highly recommend it for any style freaks out there.

Redigeret: maj 30, 2008, 10:10 am

"And so they entwined their lives to drink from the pools of each other's sadness. From these special watering holes, each man drew strength."

From Brick Lane by Monica Ali