With each review, I add on the right side of the page in a text box, a quote from the author or someone who has said something relating to the content.
In order to preserve that long history of quotes, as each is deleted when I post a new review, I collect them all here, where they take on a new meaning, no longer tied to a text, but free to be interpreted by you and I as we like.
“My practise is remembering that although whatever is happening, including my emotional response to it, is the lawful consequence of myriad causes that are beyond my control, the relationship I hold toward it all is within my control. I can choose on behalf of happiness.” Sylvia Boorstein, Happiness is an Inside Job
“I know I am as guilty as I can be, but I have my happiness which I guard like a wolf, and I have authority now and a certain amount of daring, which I never had before.” Jane Bowles, Two Serious Ladies
‘In the arc of an unremarkable life, a life whose triumphs are small and personal, whose trials are ordinary enough, as tempered in their pain as in their resolution of pain, the claim of exclusivity in love requires both a certain kind of courage and a good dose of delusion.’ Alice McDermott, Charming Billy
‘The paradox is this – we do love lies. The truth is dull and half-asleep. But lies are nimble, spirited, alive. And lying is a craft.’ Jim Crace, The Gift of Stones
“Harriet had asked her new husband to take her with him. she clung to him and pleaded – she who never whined or complained, who carried herself so well. But she was a woman who longed for the unfamiliar and strange. As a child she’d seen it waiting for her, in dreams or in the colossal darkness of the sky: some wild world which lay outside the realm of everything she knew.” Rose Tremain, The Colour
“There’s a big moon shining on the yard, chalking our way onto the lane and along the road. Kinsella takes my hand in his. As soon as he takes it, I realise my father has never once held my hand, and some part of me wants Kinsella to let me go so I won’t have to feel this. It’s a hard feeling but as we walk along I begin to settle and let the difference between my life at home and the one I have here be. He takes small steps so we can walk in time. I think about the woman in the cottage, of how she walked and spoke, and conclude that there are huge differences between people.” Claire Keegan, Foster
“Writing for me is thinking, and it’s also a way to position myself in the world, particularly when I don’t like what’s going on.” Toni Morrison
“When I was born, I had thirteen names. Each name was from a different generation, beginning with my father and going back from him. I was the first one in our village to have thirteen names. Our family was considered blessed to have such a history. Everyone in our family had been born and died on that land. We fed it with our bodies longer than any other, and it was assumed I would do the same, and so would my children. I knew from a very young age, though, that I would never want that .” Dinaw Mengestu, All Our Names
“I don’t ask people about socialism, I ask about love, jealousy, childhood, old age, music, dances, hairstyles. The myriad sundry details of a vanished way of life. This is the only way to chase the catastrophe into the framework of the mundane and attempt to tell a story.” Svetlana Alexievich, Winner of Nobel Prize for Literature, 2015
He asked the receptionist to translate the name of the place. The clerk laughed and said it was called Fire, Walk With Me.”It sounds like the title of a David Lynch film,” said Fate.
The clerk shrugged and said that all of Mexico was a collage of diverse and wide-ranging homages.
“Every single thing in this country is an homage to to everything in the world, even the things that haven’t happened yet,” he said. Roberto Bolaño, 3. The Part About Fate, 2666
“…people will tell you that in places like the Caribbean, West Africa and so on, we have two distinct elements. We have history which is written in books about the white people — how they came to Guadeloupe, how they colonized Guadeloupe, how they became the masters of Guadeloupe — and you have memory, which is the actual facts of the people of Guadeloupe and Martinique — the way they lived, the way they suffered, the way they enjoyed life. We are trained to rely more on our memories and the memories of people around us than on books.” Maryse Condé, Interview with Megan Doll, Bookslut
“Is Siobhan here?” I asked, for in truth I only wished I could endure the innocence of more canine chitchat.
In truth, I was guilty and the guilty want to be unburdened; talk of innocence only weighs us down. Jennifer Tseng, Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness
“Guests can be, and often are, delightful, but they should never be allowed to get the upper hand.” Elizabeth von Arnim, All the Dogs in My Life, A Memoir
‘He raised her and smiled with such kindness and affection that I felt sensations of a peculiar and overpowering nature; they were a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as I have never before experienced, either from hunger or cold, warmth or food; and I withdrew from the window, unable to bear these emotions.’ Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus
‘Earlier, when the Excalibur had docked, North had spied on the landlockers from under the canvas top of her coracle. They all seemed haggard and hunched in their hard-won refinery, as if even the crust of soil they’d allowed the circus was too much. It didn’t matter that damplings outnumbered landlockers ten to one; they had land, and land meant food, and food meant power, and no one was allowed to forget that.’ Kirsty Logan, The Gracekeepers
‘My father’s skin was the colour of corruption: copper, gold, ore; his eyes were grey, his hair was red, his nose was long and narrow; his father was a Scots-man, his mother of the African people, and this distinction between “man and “people” was an important distinction, for one of them came off the boat as part of a horde, already demonized, mind blank to everything but human suffering, each face the same as the one next to it; the other came off the boat of his own volition, seeking to fulfil a destiny, a vision of himself he carried in his mind’s eye.’
<i>the autobiography of my mother</i>
“What people see as fearlessness is really persistence. Because I am focused on the solution, I don’t see danger. Because I don’t see danger, I don’t allow my mind to imagine what might happen to me, which is my definition of fear. If you don’t foresee the danger and see only the solution, then you can defy anyone and appear strong and fearless.” Wangari Maathai, Unbowed, One Woman’s Story
And if this is the same, dark, endless night that has been going on ever since that afternoon, why bother recalling a time that does not exist, a time that lies like sand on my heart?
Like sand, the silence will bury the houses. Like sand, the houses will crumble. I can hear them moaning. Solitary. Somber. Smothered by the wind and the vegetation.
They will all fall little by little, in no particular order, without hope, dragging the others with them as they fall. Some will collapse only very slowly beneath the weight of moss and solitude. Others will collapse suddenly, violently, clumsily, , like animals brought down by the bullets of a patient, inexorable hunter. But all of them, sooner or later, some resisting longer than others, will, in the end, , restore to the earth what has always belonged to the earth, what the earth has been waiting for since the first inhabitant of Ainielle first stole it.
Julio Llamazares, The Yellow Rain
I feel like a homing pigeon
longing for my dovecote
Havana is in my heart
city of poets
city of freedom
streets of words
alleys of wonder
written and spoken
shared and daydreamed
embraced and rejected
replaced or loaded
onto the wings
Margarita Engle, The Poet Slave of Cuba – A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano
I sank into a big armchair, intent on capturing this moment: my grandparents, the smell of the Romeo y Julieta, the perfect idleness of a Saturday afternoon that seemed eternal. It didn’t last long. In that moment the glass seemed half-full, yet a nagging doubt prevented me from draining it.
Maybe that’s the way I’ve always been, from the moment I emerged from my mother’s belly and was launched into the world; I know what I want and how to get it, but once I have it in my grasp there is always some part of me that refuses to relax, to enjoy the moment; a part of me that is already worrying about what will come next, about a future that has not yet taken shape.
That afternoon remains in my memory as the first time I became aware of my limitations. I can never live entirely in the moment. There is always a part of me that is absent, not where I am seen to be, where I seem to be,a part that is somewhere in the future, waiting for the call “action stations”. Marcelo Figueras, Kamchatka
‘When we understand them, things are good to us, they’re on our side, as soon as there’s any confusion, I’ve noticed, as soon as we don’t understand them, things hurt us. I kept looking out for Stan, trying to spot him way out to sea, wanting him so badly but unable to speak, and sleep was no longer a refuge, just a place. A place where anything can happen, anything can pounce on you, and you go down, you go down somewhere deep, no one to catch you, you just keep falling. I went there. Crushed. Punished. Worn down.’ Véronique Olmi, Beside The Sea
‘Don’t drink the water and do not touch it,’ he told them. It was a beautiful lake that had formed after the explosion on an atomic bomb. A fairy-tale lake, right there in the middle of the flat, level steppe, a stretch of emerald-green water, reflecting the rare stray cloud. No movement, no waves, no ripples, no trembling – a bottle-green, glassy surface with only cautious reflections of the boys’ and girls’ faces as they peeped at its bottom by the shore. Could there possibly be some fairy-tale fish or monster of the deep to be found in this static, dense water? Hamid Ismailov, The Dead Lake
“I want to catch words one day. I want to hold them
Then blow gently,
Watch them float
Right out of my hands” Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming
“Her mind grew sharp with excitement as her feet picked up the choreography – and suddenly she understood the language of the dance.
Go South! sang the bee’s steps. For this long!
There were fields – she described the pattern of the crops –
the heavy waving heads of grain, the great west current of air that always blew through them – more fields, the stream, count two fences…
Then East! And the forager ran again, swirling, and buzzing her abdomen to urge more sisters to follow. Many bees shouted in excitement and ran to leap into the air themselves, but Flora followed close behind this wonderful bee, copying her steps.” Laline Paull, The Bees
“Don’t be timid. You’re a writer, use your role, test it, make something of it. These are decisive times, everything is turning upside down. Participate, be present. And begin with the scum in your area, put their backs to the wall.”
“By writing. Frighten Soccavo to death, and others like him. Promise you’ll do it?”
She gave me the name of an editor at l’Unita. Elena Ferrante,Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
“I don’t think you can really understand, not being a writer yourself, how much an erroneous outlook can inhibit the free development of your creative faculties.
That’s why nothing could be further from my earlier work than the novel I’m planning today.
All the logic and consistency that I demanded from my characters, I also used to insist on for myself, in order to make them genuine. It wasn’t natural.
We so often prefer to lead lives that aren’t authentic rather than fail to live up to the portrait we drew of ourselves right at the beginning.
It’s absurd – and by doing it we run the risk of distorting what’s best in us.”
The Vatican Cellars
“Slowly, however, as the film went on, she saw that no matter what they watched, it would remind them of their circumstances more than anything that had been said all day in the house. She did not know whether it was right or wrong for her to sit like this with them in a silence broken only by the dramatic music and the soft voices coming from the television…
The message in this was so obvious that Nora did not have to wonder what the boys were thinking about, they were thinking that this was what their father had done. She was thinking it too, and it registered the same for all of them, she thought, so that when it was over there was no need to mention it.” Colm Tóibín, Nora Webster
“There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. and then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes.
Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer.
And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are . Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk
“In her way, her strangeness, her naivete, her craving for the other half of her equation was the consequence of an idle imagination.
Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings; had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with with all she yearned for.
And like any artist with no art form, she became dangerous.” Toni Morrison, Sula
“People will feel I see too much good in people. So it’s a criticism I have to put up with and I’ve tried to adjust to, because whether it is so or not, it is something which I think is profitable.
It’s a good thing to assume, to act on the basis that…others are men of integrity and honour…because you tend to attract integrity and honour if that is how you regard those with whom you work.” Nelson Mandela, Good Morning, Mr Mandela, by Zelda la Grange
“You know, this Nissen hut, this was the Italians’ escape. They didn’t build a tunnel…they built a chapel. It’s a symbol.”
“Hope. Tell the men, Jack, to leave the chapel and the statue. Make sure nobody misunderstands what I am saying.”
“You’re the boss.” Philip Paris, The Italian Chapel
“Dear God,” Elena said. “These older daughters and their mothers! I can’t get free of them. You’re all so tough and petrified and hopeless.”
And Rosa wept and was comforted. Tove Jansson, The Great Journey, Art in Nature
“I looked at the colours I had mixed. I always tried to choose many shades of a single colour, then slice into it, break the colour up with something unexpected. Now they were both in my doorway. Mum and Svenn, smiling at me. They’ve succeeded I thought, in finding someone they resemble to the point of disappearing.” Hanne Ørstavik, The Blue Room
“A missing woman is just another leaf that goes down the gutter in a rainstorm, she said. No one cares about Ruth, my mother added. She was stolen like a car.” Jennifer Clement, Prayers or the Stolen
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Mark Twain
“There is no better way to know us
Than as two wolves, come separately to a wood.” Ted Hughes
“The stranger was the first to come upon a cave on the east side, but I was the first to notice the curious drawings on the rock walls….
The little figures so free of all connection, exiled here in the heart of wilderness. There were too many questions here, and the dreariness of no answers. Here people had come and gone, again come and gone, dreary, to all eternity.” Wilma Stockenström, The Expedition to the Baobab Tree
“It was simply that she was only fully alive when she devoted herself to her singular ability to draw, and when she drew she was naturally always alone.” Tove Jansson, The True Deceiver
“I thought that it’s useless to race if we always have to travel the same incomprehensible road of our personality. Some creatures are born to live, others to work, others to watch life. I had a small, miserable role as a spectator. Impossible to get out of it. Impossible to free myself. A dreadful grief was the only reality for me then.” Carmen Laforet, Nada
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.
To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again.
To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” Henry David Thoreau, Walking
“The length of his walk uniformly made the length of his writing. If shut up in the house, he did not write at all.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“And yet by early autumn, once or twice a week, at certain moments of the day, sitting out in the Jardin des Plantes beneath massive hedges or reading beside her father’s workbench, Marie-Laure looks up from her book and believes she can smell gasoline under the the wind. As if a great river of machinery is steaming slowly, irrevocably, toward her.” Anthony Doerr, All The Light We Cannot See
“History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another’s pain in the heart our own.” Professor Julius Lester
“The spirit of an artist’s gifts can wake our own.” Lewis Hyde, The Gift
“Eddie had come to understand that what a man saw and what actually existed in the natural world often were contradictory. The human eye was not capable of true sight, for it was constrained by its own humanness, clouded by regret, and opinion, and faith.
It was the eye of the camera that captured the world as it truly was. For this reason photography was not only Eddie’s profession, it was his calling. ” Alice Hoffman, The Museum of Extraordinary Things
“It is not wise to mix ones friends…
Put each of them in a drawer,
and don’t open one drawer
without being certain that
the others are tightly shut.” Michel Déon, The Foundling Boy (Le jeune homme vert)
“And all the stars were crashing round
As I laid eyes on what I’d found.” The Decemberists, The Crane Wife 1
“I asked myself what it is that forms the truth of a person, what happens when you grow up without memories, who were those people who had known me and of whom I knew nothing, whether some part of them – a word, an image, a smell – had stayed with me.” Hélène Gestern, The People in the Photo
“We all resemble more or less
our Mother Eve: we’re never falling
for what’s been given us to take;
to his mysterious tree the snake
is calling us, for ever calling –
and once forbidden fruit is seen,
no paradise can stay serene.” Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin
“And even if something had once been committed to paper, did it mean that it was still true? Always true?
Unlike the relative permanence of paint, words were temporal. You uttered them and they evanesced, but if you wrote them, they remained, though whether the written word was any more truthful than the spoken was a mystery to her.
Only paint was honest.” Robin Oliveira, I Always Loved You: A Novel
“The stories had renewed in me a sense of the purpose of my life. This feeling, an inexplicable renewal of enthusiasm after storytelling, is familiar to many people. It does not seem to matter greatly what the subject is, as long as the context is intimate and the story is told for its own sake.” Barry Lopez, Landscape and Narrative
Seeing Vladimir had defected,
Eugene, at Olga’s side. was racked
by fresh ennui as he reflected
with pleasure on his vengeful act. Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin
Now, she devours, with what attention,
delicious novels, laps them up;
and all their ravishing invention
with sheer enchantment fills her cup!
Theses figures from the world of seeming
embodied by the power of dreaming,
are coloured in a single tone,
all blend into Eugene alone. Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin
“If you truly love a book, you should sleep with it, write in it, read aloud from it, and fill its pages with muffin crumbs.” – Anne Fadiman
“How could we possibly stay there in front of a book nursing our disappointment when everything was drawing us out of doors; the birds chasing one another in the branches by the window; the thought of our classmates escaping into the open country; but most of all a feverish desire to explore the part of the route verified by our vagabond guide – the last resource in our nearly empty sack, the one key yet to be tried…” Alain-Fournier, Le Grand Meaulnes, The Lost Domain
“Idle again by dedication,
oppressed by emptiness of soul,
he strove to achieve the appropriation
of other’s thought – a splendid goal;
with shelves of books deployed for action,
he read, and read – no satisfaction:
here’s boredom, madness or pretence,
here there’s no conscience, here no sense;…” Alexander Pushkin,Eugene Onegin
“It’s always been difficult for me to speak and express my innermost thoughts. I prefer to write. When I sit down and write, words grow very docile, they come and feed out of my hand like little birds, and I can do almost what I want with them; whereas when I try to marshal them in open air, they fly away from me.” – Philippe Claudel, Brodeck’s Report
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Jorge Luis Borges
“Life always gives us
exactly the teacher we need
at every moment.
This includes every mosquito,
every red light,
every traffic jam,
every obnoxious supervisor (or employee),
every illness, every loss,
every moment of joy or depression,
every piece of garbage,
Every moment is the guru.” Charlotte Joko Beck
“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.” J.M. Barrie,Peter Pan
“He knew the secret police had infiltrated Croatian communities abroad, and he did not attend a single Mass in his own language until the end of communism.” Courtney Angela BrkicThe First Rule of Swimming
“There are people like me all over, the ones who want to remember, like I told Grace, different from the ones who want to forget.” Aminatta FornaThe Hired Man
I want to carry you
and for you to carry me
the way voices are said to carry
over water. – Billy Collins, Aimless Love
“How I wished during those sleepless hours that I belonged to a different nation, or, better still, to none at all.” – W.G.Sebald, Vertigo
“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t.
I never painted dreams.
I painted my own reality.” – Frida Kahlo
“The silence of plants calms the mind. I am glad that plants do not run off like animals or fly away like birds. They stay put for hundreds of years, like oaks, or they vanish for winter and rise from the ground like the blue lily of the east, and they spread joyously like the balsam that flings its seeds far.” – Kristina CarlsonMr Darwin’s Gardener
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway
“Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.” – Fyodor DostoevskyThe Idiot
“Books seem to me to be magic, and I wanted to be part of the magic. And after a while it wasn’t enough, and I started making up a very imitative type of story, set in Canada – which was kind of odd, but it didn’t bother me. It was a kind of recompense for not being able to get right into the world of the book. Books were so important to me. They were far more important than life.” – Alice MunroGuardian interview
“I am not sure I trust you.”
“You can trust me with your life, My King.”
“But not with my wine, obviously. Give it back.” – Megan Whalen Turner, The King of Attolia
“You do not write your life with words…
You write it with actions.
What you think is not important.
It is only important what you do.” – Patrick NessA Monster Calls
“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.” – Alice Walker
“All things are so very uncertain, and that’s exactly what makes me feel reassured.” Tove Jansson
Every year, the bright Scandinavian summer nights fade away without anyone’s noticing. One evening in August you have an errand outdoors, and all of a sudden it’s pitch-black. A great warm, dark, silence surrounds the house. It is still summer, but the summer is no longer alive. It has come to a standstill; nothing withers, and autumn is not ready to begin. There are no stars yet, just darkness. The can of kerosene is brought up from the cellar and left in the hall, and the lamp is hung up on its peg beside the door. Tove JanssonA Summer Book
“So now I sing, I sing when the water orders me to sing. She is my mistress, she fuels me, she protects me from my own pain, from my own grief. I feel nothing, I am calm, I am one with her.” – Caroline SmailesThe Drowning of Arthur Braxton
“There are empty spaces that must be respected — those often long periods when a person can’t see the pictures or find the words and needs to be left alone.” Tove Jansson Fair Play
“When we speak positively and refrain from evil speech, we surround ourselves with more and more positive energy, therefore sustaining our spiritual growth.
Conversely, when we speak negatively about others, our words stay with us wherever we go, blocking our happiness.
For instance, when we wake up in a bad mood for no apparent reason, Kabbalists explain there is a reason. The energy we created by maligning someone’s character yesterday adversely affects us today.
And if we don’t go through a process of cleansing that energy by apologizing or committing to never do it again, it continues to stay with and influence us in negative ways.
As a great Kabbalist once said, “Pay more attention to what goes out of your mouth than to what goes in.”.”
Michael Bergco-director of the Kabbalah Centre
“If we were in Tibet, I could walk out and stay with my parents until Evan was ready to come get me and work out our issues. When he came to get me, it wouldn’t be only our problem. We would both have to explain what we were arguing about to my parents and any older siblings present, describing exactly what happened , how we were feeling, and what we were thinking. Older people would tell us what we were doing wrong and what we needed to do to improve the situation.” Kunsang DolmaA Hundred Thousand White Stones
“We’ve long left the houses and stores behind, now we’re just driving between stretches and stretches of maize fields, which make me keep expecting to see hoers bent double, tilling; boys walking in front of ox-drawn plows, leading the oxen, the sounds of their whistles and cracking whips in the air, hoes hitting the earth, voices of women urging one another with song.
There are always moments like this, where it almost looks like the familiar things from back home will just come out of nowhere, like ghosts.” – NoViolet BulawayoWe Need New Names
“Obinze had imagined, foolishly, that Emenike would take him in, show him the way. He knew of the many stories of friends and relatives, who, in the harsh glare of life abroad, became unreliable, even hostile, versions of their former selves.” Chimamnda Ngozi Adichie Americanah
“There’s a red metal heart in the centre of the low front gate, skewered on a rotating hinge. It’s flaking now; the red is nearly gone. It needs to be scraped and sanded and painted and oiled. It still spins in the wind though. I can hear it creak, creak, creak as I walk away. A flaking, creaking, spinning heart.” – Donal RyanThe Spinning Heart
“It was neither a sign nor a coincidence that we were going to have mussels that evening. Yes, it was slightly unusual, and afterwards we sometimes spoke of the mussels as a sign, but they definitely weren’t; we also said they were a bad omen – that’s nonsense too. Nor were the mussels a coincidence. This evening of all evenings, we’d say, we decided to eat mussels. But it really wasn’t like that; you couldn’t call it a coincidence. after the event, of course, we tried to interpret our decision as a sign or coincidence, because what came in the wake of our abortive feast was so monumental that none of us have got over it yet.” – Birgit Vanderbeke, The Mussel Feast
“Asking myself what were the most important things in my childhood, I get the answer ‘Falling in love, riding and reading.’.” – Diana Athill Stet, an Editor’s Life
“Como Picasso y Almodavar,
Blahník pertenece al genio
Español mas universal.” – Guillermo Cabrera Infante
“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.” – Jack Handey
“My country of Afghanistan is a land of stories. We honour those who take us away from the hardship of life with a fine tale. In winter when I was a child, I would sit with my family and our neighbours in our yurt around a low table. Opposite each other at the table, two master storytellers would commence a duel. The story duel might go on for hours. We decided the winner in a quiet way, just by nodding at the man who had told what we considered the finest tale. From fragments of tales I could remember, and events in my own life and those of people I knew, we fashioned the stories of The Honey Thief.” Najaf Mazari, The Honey Thief
JEFFREY BROWN: And what was it like to construct that, though, as a novelist? Did you know how all these connections were going to happen?
COLUM MCCANN: Honestly?
JEFFREY BROWN: Honestly.
COLUM MCCANN: I had no clue whatsoever. It drove me nuts.
And, you know, what you want to do is create the appearance of ease.
JEFFREY BROWN: I appreciate your saying “honestly” before you answer the question.
COLUM MCCANN: Yes, I know, because it — you know, it was tough. I never — you know, it’s sort of a process of exploring. You set out. Your boat goes out. And you think you’re going to crash. And often you do shipwreck, but every now and then, you find a little island. And then you go exploring. And that’s what it felt like for me.
Colum McCann in interview with Jeffrey Brown
“When I teach a psychotherapeutic technique, I often include Charles Dickens’A Christmas Carol on the reading list. I do this because I believe it’s a story about an extraordinary psychological transformation, and that Dickens teaches us something essential about how people change.
Scrooge doesn’t change because he is frightened – he changes because he’s haunted…Ultimately, Scrooge changes because the ghosts unpick his delusion that you can live a life without loss.
As Scrooge grieves for those he had loved but put out of his mind, he begins to regain the world he had lost. He comes to life.” Stephen Grosz, The Examined Life
“Why am I making such a great effort and taxing my endurance and energy to write this book that no-one will read? Why do I have to write? Because I have always written, all my life, and have always striven to do so, and have always faltered on the way and hardly ever succeeded in getting published….
What is lacking? I have a feeling for language…” Elisabeth De Waal, The Exiles Return
“We never tell the whole story whole, because a life isn’t a story; it’s a whole Milky Way of events and we are forever picking out constellations from it to fit who and where we are.” Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
“At the end of all those hot, tiring afternoons, I wonder what the point has been. Perhaps it is this: that as long as there are places to visit and things to find out, my mother and I still exist in the present; are engaged, still, in conversation. And then I think of the places I can’t go.” Emma Brockes, She Left Me the Gun
“There are some things in the heart that do not die and the loves of early childhood are the strongest loves of all.” Irfan Orga, Portrait of a Turkish Family
Water that’s poured inside will sink the boat
While water underneath keeps it afloat
Driving wealth from his heart to keep it pure
King Solomon preferred the title “Poor”
That sealed jar in the stormy sea out there
Floats on the waves because it’s full of air
When you’ve the air of dervishood inside
You’ll float above the world and there abide… Rumi
“You know about the Mother Goddess – the first female god, a fat woman with a lion on one side and a child between her legs. She was the first god of humankind.
Do you know why the ancient people of Anatolia chose her as their god? Because men were not aware of their roles as impregnators. They thought that it was the wind, the rain, the rivers, in short, nature, that impregnated women. And this was not at all a strange idea at the time. People viewed themselves as part of nature. They thought birth was magic, a miracle.” – Ahmet Ümit – Patasana
“Painting is the silence of thought and the music of sight.” – Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red
“My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.” – Anaïs Nin
“Remember, remember always, that all of us,
and you and I especially,
are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”- Margaret Mitchell
“I Love A Sunburnt Country”
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of drought and flooding rains,
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me.
Dorothea MacKellar extract from her poem I Love a Sunburnt Country
“It’s no good to complain about your flock,” she advised.
“A flock is nothing but the put-together of all your past choices.” – Barbara Kingsolver – Flight Behaviour
“So we beat on,
boats against the current,
borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us.
If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for?
So that it will make us happy, as you write?
Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to.
But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide.
A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.
That is my belief.”
Cat Owner’s Prayer
Because I’m only human,
It’s sometimes hard to be
The wise, all-knowing creature
That my cat expects of me.
And so I pray for special help
To somehow understand
The subtle implications
Of each proud meowed command.
Oh, let me not forget that chairs
Were put on earth to shred;
And what I like to call a lap
Is actually a bed.
I know it’s really lots to ask
But please, oh please, take pity;
And though I’m only human,
Make me worthy of my kitty!
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I got a little tired of this idea of an authorial voice of complete knowledge or perfect wisdom….
I wanted to express that feeling of self-alienation or the sense of not really having a self at all.” – Zadie Smith, Interview Magazine
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” – Charles William Eliot
She ordered a martini and encouraged me to, but said she couldn’t drink it with her medication. She just liked seeing it in front of her, like the old days, all set to do its little magic. Richard Ford extract from Canada
Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination. – Bertrand Russell
Give me my scallop shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gauge,
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage. Sir Walter Raleigh – from his poem The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi
“How objects are handed on is all about story-telling. I am giving you this because I love you. Or because it was given to me. Because I bought it somewhere special. Because you will care for it. Because it will complicate your life. Because it will make someone else envious. There is no easy story in legacy. What is remembered and what is forgotten?” Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes, A Hidden Inheritance
“There are some men whose only mission among others is to act as intermediaries; one crosses them like bridges and keeps going.” Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education
Dear Jansson san
Thank you for your very wise letter.
I understand the forest’s big in Finland and the sea too but your house is very small.
It’s a beautiful thought, to meet a writer only in her books.
I’m learning all the time.
I wish you good health and a long life.
Your Tamiko Atsumi
Tove Jansson an extract from Correspondence, A Winter Book
“Though my body comes down mechanically, having been trained that way by punctual parents, my soul never thinks of beginning to wake up for other people till lunch-time, and never does so completely till it has been taken out of doors and aired in the sunshine.
Who can begin conventional amiability the first thing in the morning? It is the hour of savage instincts and natural tendencies; it is the triumph of the Disagreeable and the Cross.
I am convinced that the Muses and the Graces never thought of having breakfast anywhere but in bed.” Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth and her German Garden
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” – Rumi
“We deceive ourselves when we fancy that only weakness needs support. Strength needs it far more.” – Madame Swetchine
“A bag has no intentions or desires of its own, it embraces every object that we ask it to hold. You trust the bag, and it, in return, trusts you. To me, a bag is patience; a bag is profound discretion” – Yoko Ogawa, from Sewing for the Heart, Revenge
“If we work always in words, sometimes we need to recuperate in a place where language doesn’t join up, where we’re thrown back on a few elementary nouns. Sea. Bird. Sky.” – Kathleen Jamie, Findings
“The existence of forgetting has never been proved: we only know that some things do not come to our mind when we want them to.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
“The more one is able to leave one’s cultural home, the more easily is one able to judge it, and the whole world as well, with the spiritual detachment and generosity necessary for true vision.” – Edward Said, Orientalism
“It is greed that blurs our conscience just as a black cloud covers the sun or the moon. Feelings between father and son, teacher and student, brother and brother can all be maligned and destroyed by greed.” – Dương Thu Hương
‘“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” – Madeleine L’Engle
‘Remember this, Komar,’ I told him, ‘The stupid neither forgive or forget; the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget. And, if the years have taught me anything, it is a wisdom of sorts.’ – Martin Booth, The Industry of Souls
“Novel-writing can be a cold-blooded business. One uses whatever happens to be lying around in memory and employs it to suit one’s ends. Then again, during the months whilst one is writing about the past, a story is coloured by what presently is happening to its writer. So, imperceptibly, the tone of voice changes, original intentions slip away. And I found myself looking through another window at a darker landscape inhabited by neither the present nor the past.” – J.L.Carr
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” – Charles William Eliot
“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” – Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist
“My candle burns at both ends,
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends
It gives a lovely light!” – Edna St.Vincent Millay
“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.” J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
“Writing is a struggle against silence.” Carlos Fuentes
“That’s what the world is, after all: an endless battle of contrasting memories.” Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” – George Bernard Shaw
“Luck is everything… My good luck in life was to be a really frightened person. I’m fortunate to be a coward, to have a low threshold of fear, because a hero couldn’t make a good suspense film.” – Alfred Hitchcock
“It’s always been difficult for me to speak and express my innermost thoughts. I prefer to write. When I sit down and write, words grow very docile, they come and feed out of my hand like little birds, and I can do almost what I want with them; whereas when I try to marshal them in open air, they fly away from me.”
― Philippe Claudel, Brodeck: A novel
“Never meet a person’s anger directly. Deflect, distract him, even agree with him. Unbalance his mind, and you can lead him anywhere you want.” Tan Twang Eng, The Gift of Rain
“Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to stay whimpering at the back door.” ― Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies
“Lulled in the countless chambers of the brain, our thoughts are linked by many a hidden chain; awake but one, and in, what myriads rise!” – Alexander Pope
“Be sure to enjoy language, experiment with ways of talking, be exuberant when you don’t feel like it – language can make your world a better place to live.” – Deborah Levy
“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami
To write, Marguerite Duras remarked, is also not to speak. It is to keep silent. It is to howl noiselessly.
“no man is safe who happens to fall in company with a lady of somewhat mature age, with an excitable imagination and a cacoethes scribendi“― Observer newspaper 1856
“We clung to it – the possibility that he existed among us, even as a ghost, even as an echo or shadow – because to let go was to relinquish our hope, to admit and submit to utter, irreversible despair.”― Vaddey Ratner, In the Shadow of the Banyan
“If you want to know a country, read its writers.” ― Aminatta Forna
“In the red tent, the truth is known. In the red tent, where days pass like a gentle stream, as the gift of Innana courses through us, cleansing the body of last month’s death, preparing the body to receive the new month’s life, women give thanks — for repose and restoration, for the knowledge that life comes from between our legs, and that life costs blood.” – Anita Diamant, The Red Tent
“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?” – Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1846)
“And he knows then that his hands are made from the same stuff as those that worked here long ago. That there is memory deep in these hands, in the bones and the flesh.” – Vanessa Gebbie, The Coward’s Tale
“A bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.” – Ecclesiastes 10:20
“The person you are (in total, at that moment in time) is what creates the story you’re writing. It’s infused in every piece of punctuation, in the plot, in the most minor character who crosses the page. It’s all your voice.” — Victor Lavalle
“It is what our imagination feasts off, the bone, not the meat, the bits that are left behind. The less you are given the more you can make up; once you make a story up, it is hard not to believe it yourself.” — Jackie Kay, Red Dust Road
“Our whole spiritual transformation brings us to the point where we realise that in our own being, we are enough.” — Ram Dass
“And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.” — Thomas Hardy, excerpt from The Convergence Of The Twain
“The Man Booker Prize is a very strange thing. It’s a huge thing in an author’s career. When you go back to your desk and you’re confronted with the blank paper, the blank screen, you’re faced with the realisation that you are only as good as your next sentence. But, of course, I do have this Man Booker stamp of quality which, with readers… will do me nothing but good.” — Hilary Mantel, Man Booker Prize-winner 2009
“She was fine when she left here.” – Belfast Residents on the Titanic
“Prodigal Summer, the season of extravagant procreation. It could wear out everything in its path with its passionate excesses, but nothing alive with wings or a heart or a seed curled into itself in the ground could resist welcoming it back when it came.” – Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer
“We’ll always have Paris.” – Howard Koch
“We encounter books at different times in life, often appreciating them, apprehending them, in different ways. But their language is constant. The best sentences orient us, like stars in the sky, like landmarks on a trail.” ― Jhumpa Lahiri, My Life’s Sentences
“You fix what you can fix and you let the rest go. If there ain’t nothin to be done about it it aint even a problem. It’s just a aggravation.”― Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men
Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for. – Ray Bradbury
“Thus great Achilles, who had shown his zeal In healing wounds, died of a wounded heel.” – O.W.Holmes
“A country is considered the more civilised the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak and a powerful one too powerful.” — Primo Levi
“Wine makes a symphony of a good meal.” – Fernande Garvin, in ‘The Art of French Cooking’
“Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” – David Lloyd George
“A perfect woman, nobly plann’d, to warn, to comfort, and command; And yet a spirit still, and bright with something of an angel light.” – William Wordsworth, 19th Century Poet
“For just when ideas fail, a word comes in to save the situation.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“If one way be better than another, that you may be sure is Nature’s way.” – Aristotle
“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”
– A.A. Milne, ‘When We Were Very Young’
“I know I am but summer to your heart, and not the full four seasons of the year.” – Edna St. Vincent Millay
“A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.” – Chinese Proverb
“There is no essential truth about being a female writer. The best writing comes from the boundaries, the ungendered spaces between male and female…..” – Yvonne Vera in Writing Near the Bone
“A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells people you’re at home.” – Author Unknown
“Were it up to me to begin again, I would make the same choice. Roses on the fence. I would travel the same roads that might or might not lead to Cordoba. I would lay my shadow down on two rocks, so that birds could nest on one of the boughs. I would break open my shadow for the scent of almond to float in a cloud of dust and grow tired on the slopes.”
– Mahmoud Darwish extract from the poem ‘Were It Up to Me to Begin Again’
“In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.” – Alice Walker
“I’m ambitious. I worry, I have to believe that what I’m writing is exceptional, that it will be admired, and I get excited believing this but collapse when I lose faith.” –Emmanuel Carrère
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I learn. Involve me and I remember.” – Benjamin Franklin
‘What is understood by essence, in the pure sense as used by mediaeval alchemists, for example, is the actual energy, the ‘soul’ of the plant.’ -Marguerite Maury
‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’ -Nelson Mandela
Pero yo ya no soy yo Ni mi casa es ya mi casa. But now I am no longer I nor is my house any longer my house. ― Federico Garcia Lorca
“And there stand those stupid languages, helpless as two bridges that go over the same river side by side but are separated from each other by an abyss. It is a mere bagatelle, an accident, and yet it separates…” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, in a letter to his wife, September 2, 1902, from Paris
“Dear, sweet Mabel,” she said. “We never know what is going to happen, do we? Life is always throwing us this way and that. That’s where the adventure is. Not knowing where you’ll end up or how you’ll fare. It’s all a mystery, and when we say any different we’re just lying to ourselves. Tell me, when have you felt most alive?” ― Eowyn Ivey, The Snow Child
“People never explain to you exactly what they think and feel and how their thoughts and feelings work, do they? They don’t have time. Or the right words. But that’s what books do. It’s as though your daily life is a film in the cinema. It can be fun, looking at those pictures. But if you want to know what lies behind the flat screen you have to read a book. That explains it all.” ― Sebastian Faulks, A Week in December
‘We don’t own Mother Earth, the Earth owns us’ – Mandawuy Yunupingu, lead singer of Yothu Yindi
“All this for the factory, for their possessions, for something that was, to their eyes more durable and faithful than love, women or their own children.” – Irène NémirovskyAll Our Worldly Goods
“Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, are all very good words for the lips.” – Charles Dickens
“When you’re twenty, love is like a fever, it makes you almost delirious. When it’s over you can hardly remember how it happened…Fire in the blood, how quickly it burns itself out.” – Irène Némirovsky
“The early mist had vanished and the fields lay like a silver shield under the sun. It was one of the days when the glitter of winter shines through a pale haze of spring.” – Edith Wharton Ethan Frome
“Treat the earth well, It was not given to you by your parents, It was loaned to you by your children.” – Indian Proverb
“Can one think that because we are engineers, beauty does not preoccupy us or that we do not try to build beautiful, as well as solid and long lasting structures? Aren’t the genuine functions of strength always in keeping with unwritten conditions of harmony? Besides, there is an attraction, a special charm in the colossal to which ordinary theories of art do not apply.” – Gustave Eiffel
“Every culture that has lost myth has lost, by the same token, its natural healthy creativity. Only a horizon ringed about with myths can unify a culture.” – Nietzsche, in The Birth of Tragedy
“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” – Confucius
“If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:”
– Rudyard Kipling, from the poem ‘If’
“Mathematics is the sister, as well as the servant, of the arts and is touched by the same madness and genius.” – Marston Morse
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” – Italo Calvino
“Books have led some to learning and others to madness.” – Petrarch
“All stories interest me, and some haunt me until I end up writing them. Certain themes keep coming up: justice, loyalty, violence, death, political and social issues, freedom.” – Isabel Allende
“If you can discover what you are like, if you can discover what you truly believe about most of the major matters of life, you will be able to write a story which is honest and original and unique” –Dorothea Brande
“Eternal truths are ultimately invisible, and you won’t find them in material things or natural phenomena, or even in human emotions.” – Yoko Ogawa
“Courage is grace under pressure.” – Ernest Hemingway
“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” – Honoré de Balzac
“Everything can change but not the language that we carry inside us.” – Italo Calvino
“Beloved, you are my sister, you are my daughter, you are my face; you are me.” – Toni Morrison, Beloved
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop (620 BC – 560 BC), ‘The Lion and the Mouse’
“Imagination rules the world.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
” A nice girl should never go anywhere without a loaded gun and a big knife.” – Sarah Prine