What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life by him who interests his heart in everything.
        - Laurence Sterne, "A Sentimental Journey"

What did I want? I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, "The game's afoot!" I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and Lost Dauphin.
I wanted Prester John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and to eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be the way they had promised me it was going to be, instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.
I had had one chance — for ten minutes yesterday afternoon. Helen of Troy, whatever your true name may be — and I had known it — and I had let it slip away. Maybe one chance is all you ever get.
        - Robert A. Heinlein, "Glory Road"

"I live in two worlds. One is a world of books. I've been a resident of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina, and strolled down Swann's Way. It's a rewarding world."
        - Rory Gilmore, "The Gilmore Girls"

The Reader! You, dogged, uninsultable, print-oriented bastard, it's you I'm adressing, who else, from inside this monstrous fiction. You've read me this far, then? Even this far?
How is it you don't go to a movie, watch tv, stare at a wall, play tennis with a friend, make amorous advances to the person who comes in mind when I speak of amorous advances? Can nothing surfeit, saturate you, turn you off? Where's your shame?
        - John Barth, "Lost in the Funhouse"

History takes its origins in the individual, and man is distinguished from the animals by the fact that he is always a person, unique and never to be repeated. Unlike science and natural philosophy, art and religion address themselves to the individual person, to his heart and soul. They are concerned with the phases of inner life, not all of which each individual may experience, but which are characteristic of the history of mankind.
        - David McDuff

"Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time, allowing us to voyage through time."
        - Carl Sagan, "Cosmos"

Except a living man. there is nothing more wonderful than a book! a message to us from the dead—from human souls we never saw, who lived, perhaps, thousands of miles away. And yet these, in those little sheets of paper, speak to us, arouse us, terrify us, teach us, comfort us, open their hearts to us as brothers.
        - Charles Kinglsey

Literature renews language, rescuing it from the shallow grave of day-to-day talk.
        - John Carey, "What Good Are The Arts?"

The kind of 'difficulty' claimed for high modernist art frequently seems questionable from another angle. There are many intellectual tasks, ranging from mathematical problems to crossword puzzles, which can justly be called 'difficult' in that they have correct solutions that are hard to work out. To say that a modernist work of art-T.S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land, for example-is 'difficult' is to use the word in a quite different sense. There is no agreement about what The Waste Land as a whole means, and for some sections of it no explanation has been found that seems even remotely satisfactory. The idea that the poem has a solution, like a crossword puzzle, would, in any case, be treated with disdain by its admirers. However, if it has no correct solution then its 'difficulty' is quite different from the difficulty of soluble tasks. Our normal word for things that cannot be understood is 'unintelligible', and in descriptions of high art, particularly high modernist art, this might be more accurate than 'difficult'."
        - John Carey, "What Good Are The Arts?"

A surprising number of people — including many students of literature — will tell you they haven't really lived in a book since they were children.
        - AS Byatt, in her controversial review of the "Harry Potter" series of novels, for "IHT"

"We read fine things but never feel them to the full until we have gone the same steps as the author."
        - John Keats

Writing is not an end in itself but life transmuted into radiance.
        - Brooks Atkinson, commenting on the work of Sean O'Casey, in "The New York Times"

"The artist's life is to be where life is, active life, found in neither ivory tower nor concrete shelter; he must be out listening to everything, looking at everything, and thinking it all out afterward."
        - Sean O'Casey

Most of what I know about the world has been learnt through fiction. Stuff that people made up... But when I say these books enabled me to “know about the world”, I mean that they gave me a deeper understanding than the mere nuts and bolts of historical events; that is, how undemocratically the government behaves, who invaded whom, when and where, what the labour camp was like, which calibre of bullet was used by the execution squad, and so on. I realised all this the other day when, finally, exasperated, I threw aside my copy of John Updike’s latest novel, Terrorist, and decided instead to watch Deal or No Deal on Channel 4. I had read just 64 pages, and it had been a struggle to get that far... Somehow, fiction had lost its power to enthral or inform. The interesting corollary is that while fiction may have lowered its sights, truly great writing can be found these days just down the aisle, in nonfiction. You would be hard-pressed to find a more exquisitely crafted book than Gordon Burn’s Happy Like Murderers, the grim story of Frederick and Rosemary West. Or, for that matter, Michael Burleigh’s Earthly Powers: The Conflict between Religion & Politics from the French Revolution to the Great War. It is a mixed-up world where the greatest literary inventiveness, the most imaginative writing, is found in matters of fact.
        - Rod Liddle, "The Times"

I think every man and every woman should write a book before it's too late. Even if it's not published it could be left there to be perused by anybody who might come along... It's an awful shame that men should die filled with untapped wisdom and knowledge, a shame that they should fade away with no one benefitting from their stores of agony and grief and suffering from the sum of their experiences in the journey from cradle to grave. There's a book in everyone... What good is money if it cannot be spent. In the same way, what good is knowledge if it cannot be pased on. By knowledge I mean the good and the bad experiences that will help those that you are leaving behind. The book is there, inside you, in your face and in your hands and in your heart and mind.
        - John B. Keane

The seriousness or otherwise of the subject matter is often irrelevent to the question of whether a book is any good. F Scott Fitzgerald wrote a great and beautiful novel which mainly involved shallow people going to parties in a rich guy's house. By contrast, all sorts of terrible books are published every month about men slaughtering people for no reason — a serious matter which, in itself, does not make the author worthy of serious consideration.
        - Declan Lynch, "The Irish Independent"

Culture is worth a little risk.
        - Norman Mailer

I think one of the hallmarks of great art is that it can win you over to a point of view, not in the sense of changing your opinions, but by placing the reader in an emotional frame of mind in which certain opinions are inevitable, at least for as long as the pages are turning.
        - Abigail Nussbaum

It will be my birthday on Tuesday. Last year, I reached the painful conclusion that there wasn’t enough time left to read every book ever written. This year, my gloomy realisation is even more painful — I will not be able to correct everyone’s mistakes before I depart.
        - Daniel Finkelstein, "The Times"

"A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking."
        - Jerry Seinfeld

Visits to the local library are among my earliest memories. I recall its smell vividly -- the fustiness -- and its scale, the towering check-out desk and the shelves I couldn't reach... Today is World Book Day, in the middle of Library Ireland Week. Sometimes I still feel like that small girl of seven who pinches herself at the largesse on offer in libraries; at the worlds we can access through the pages of a book. I was mesmerised by it and, to be honest, there's not much I find as enthralling today as I did at seven. But libraries continue to captivate me.
        - Martina Devlin, "The Irish Independent"

Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine; they are the life, the soul of reading; take them out of this book for instance, you might as well take the book along with them.
        - from Laurence Sterne's "Tristram Shandy"

Plunge into a book as you would a pool of clear water.
        - Ancient Egyptian scribal text

People say life is the thing but I prefer reading.
        - Logan Smith

While fiction is often impossible, it should not be implausible.
        - Aristotle (attributed)


There exists a secret society with branches throughout the world, and its plot is to spread the rumor that a universial plot exists

- Umberto Eco, "Foucault's Pendulum" A narrator should not supply interpretations of his work; otherwise he would have not written a novel, which is a machine for generating interpretations. - Umberto Eco, Postscript to "The Name of the Rose" For what I saw at the abbey then (and will now recount) caused me to think that often inquisitors create heretics. And not only in the sense that they imagine heretics where these do not exist, but also that inquisitors repress the heretical putrefaction so vehemently that many are driven to share in it, in their hatred for the judges. Truly, a circle conceived by the Devil. God preserve us. - Umberto Eco, "The Name of the Rose: First Day" "But why doesn't the Gospel ever say that Christ laughed?" I asked, for no good reason. "Is Jorge right?"
"Legions of scholars have wondered whether Christ laughed. The question doesn't interest me much. I believe he never laughed, because, omniscient as the son of God had to be, he knew how we Christians would behave. . . ." - Umberto Eco "The Name of the Rose: Second Day" Some things you can feel coming. You don't fall in love because you fall in love; you fall in love because of the need, desperate, to fall in love. When you feel that need, you have to watch your step: like having drunk a philter, the kind that makes you fall in love with the first thing you meet. It could be a duck-billed platypus. - Umberto Eco, "Foucault's Pendulum" You can be obsessed by remorse all your life, not because you chose the wrong thing-- you can always repent, atone : but because you never had the chance to prove to yourself that you would have chosen the right thing. - Umberto Eco, "Foucault's Pendulum" To escape the power of the unknown, to prove to yourself that you don't believe in it, you accept its spells. Like an avowed atheist who sees the Devil at night, you reason: He certainly doesn't exist; this is therefore an illusion, perhaps a result of indigestion. But the Devil is sure that he exists, and believes in his upside-down theology. What, then, will frighten him? You make the sign of the cross, and he vanishes in a puff of brimstone. - Umberto Eco, "Foucault's Pendulum" Act like a lunatic and you will be inscrutable forever. - Umberto Eco, "Foucault's Pendulum" "I felt like poisoning a monk."
        - Umberto Eco, explaining what inpsired him to write "The Name of the Rose"

Despite his labyrinthine erudition, Eco has difficulty bringing his mind into contact with reality.
        - John Carey reviews "On Literature" by Umberto Eco for Britain's "Sunday Times"


Verily, I have often laughed at the weaklings who thought themselves good because they had no claws.

- Friedrich Nietzsche,"Thus Spoke Zarathustra" For what purpose humanity is there should not even concern us: why you are there, that you should ask yourself: and if you have no ready answer, then set for yourself goals, high and noble goals, and perish in pursuit of them! I know of no better life purpose than to perish in attempting the great and the impossible... - Friedrich Nietzsche, unpublished note 1873 He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. - Friedrich Nietzsche,"Jenseits von Gut und Bose, IV, 146." The thought of suicide is a great source of comfort: with it a calm passage is to be made across many a night. - Friedrich Nietzsche, "Jenseits von Gut und Bose, IV, 157." What if a demon were to creep after you one day or night, in your loneliest loneness, and say : "This life which you live and have lived, must be lived again by you, and innumerable times more. And there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh - everything unspeakably small and great in your life - must come again to you, and in the same sequence and series...". Would you not throw yourself down and curse the demon who spoke to you thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment, in which you would answer him : "Thou art a god, and never have I heard anything more divine!" - Frederick Nietzsche, "The Gay Science", 1882 #

For Christmas that year, Julian gave Sassy a miniature Tyrolean village. The craftsmanship was remarkable. There was a tiny cathedral whose stained-glass windows made fruit salad of sunlight. There was a plaza and ein Biergarten. The Biegarten got quite noisy on Saturday nights. There was a bakery that smelled always of hot bread and strudel. There was a town hall and a police station, with cutaway sections that revealed standard amounts of red tape and corruption. There were little Tyroleans in leather britches, intricately stitched, and beneath the britches, genitalia of equally fine workmanship. There were ski shops and many other interesting things, including an orphanage. The orphanage was designed to catch fire and burn down every Christmas Eve. Orphans would dash into the snow with their nightgowns blazing. Terrible. Around the second week of January, a fire inspector would come and poke through the ruins, muttering, "If they had only listened to me, those children would be alive today".
        - Tom Robbins, "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues"

"What do you believe in?"
"Ha-ha, ho-ho and hee-hee."
        - Sissy and The Chink in Tom Robbins' "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues"

I took one glance at her in that hospital bed under the dull light and recognised the look on her face, which I'd seen on donors often enough before. It was like she was willing her eyes to see right inside herself, so she could patrol and marshal all the better the separate areas of pain in her body.
        - Narration, from Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go"

"I was weeping for an altogether different reason. When I watched you dancing that day, I saw something else. I saw a new world coming rapidly. More scientific, efficient, yes. More cures for the old sicknesses. Very good. But a harsh, cruel world. And I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to her breast the old kind world, one that she knew in her heart could not remain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go. That is what I saw. It wasn't really you, what you were doing, I knew that. But I saw you and it broke my heart."
        - The Madame, in Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go"

There was only one catch and that was Catch22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask, and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch22, and let out a respectful whistle.
        - Joseph Heller, "Catch 22"

Some people are born mediocre, some people achieve mediocrity, and some people have mediocrity thrust upon them.
        - Joseph Heller, "Catch 22"

Big Brother is watching you.
        - George Orwell, "1984"

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
        - George Orwell, "Animal Farm"

All of us should treasure his Oriental wisdom and his preaching of a Zen-like detachment, as exemplified by his constant reminder to clerks, tellers, or others who grew excited by his presence in their banks: "Just lie down on the floor and keep calm."
        - Robert Wilson, "John Dillinger Died for You"

"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid."
        - Raymond Chandler, "The Simple Art Of Murder"


"She's got an indiscreet voice", I remarked. "It's full of..." I hesitated.
"Her voice is full of money", he said suddenly.
That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money - that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it.

- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Great Gatsby" I used to think she was quite intelligent, in my stupidity. The reason I did was because she knew quite a lot about the theater and plays and literature and all that stuff. If somebody knows quite a lot about those things, it takes you quite a while to find out whether they're really stupid or not. It took me years to find out... - J. D. Salinger, "The Catcher in the Rye" He seemed to approach the grave as a hyperbolic curve approaches a line, less directly as he got near, till it was doubtful if he would ever reach it at all. - Thomas Hardy, "Far From the Madding Crowd" "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her."

"He (Mr. Knightley) had been in love with Emma, and jealous of Frank Churchill, from about the same period, one sentiment having probably enlightened him as to the other."

- Jane Austen, "Emma" "'And what are you reading, Miss--?' 'Oh! It is only a novel!' replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. 'It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda'; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language."
        - Jane Austen, "Northanger Abbey"

"She ventured to hope he did not always read only poetry, and to say, that she thought it was the misfortune of poetry to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely; and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly."
        - Anne advises Captain Berwick, in "Persuasion" by Jane Austen

"We certainly do not forget you as soon as you forget us. It is, perhaps, our fate rather than our merit. We cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us. You are forced on exertion. You have always a profession, pursuits, business of some sort or other, to take you back into the world immediately, and continual occupation and change soon weaken impressions."
        - Anne, on a woman's depth of emotion, in "Persuasion" by Jane Austen

Jane Austen we know never let two men converse alone in any novel because what they said would be unknown to her.
       - Jane Gardam, reviewing "Jane Austen and Crime" in "The Spectator"

"There is much pain that is quite noiseless; and that make human agonies are often a mere whisper in the of hurrying existence. There are glances of hatred that stab and raise no cry of murder; robberies that leave man of woman for ever beggared of peace and joy, yet kept secret by the sufferer-committed to no sound except that of low moans in the night, seen in no writing except that made on the face by the slow months of suppressed anguish and early morning tears. Many an inherited sorrow that has marred a life has been breathed into no human ear."
        - George Eliot, "Felix Holt, the Radical" (submitted by Mary Achee)

Jane Austen's famous opening sentence ("It is a truth universally acknowledged ...") is intended to flatter the reader with feelings of worldly superiority to the claustrophobic society she writes about. But a couple centuries later, the joke is on the reader. Thanks to novelists like Austen and Anthony Trollope, people today whose own lives are different in almost every conceivable way share a feeling and a fondness for provincial life in Britain in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Yes, of course, there's yet another twist on Austen's joke: These novels actually do explore universal and timeless aspects of the human condition. But the pleasure of escaping into their particular small and long-gone world is at least an equal part of their appeal. The 19th century was a time when Britain mattered. And then, as now, the countryside, not London, was the essence of Britain to the Brits themselves. Today Britain doesn't matter much. But who the new vicar will be in some fictional village 200 years ago still matters a lot. It is history's consolation prize. Nineteenth-century English village life will always loom large in the world's imagination, like Greenland in a Mercator projection map. Today America matters, for the moment. Some day, possibly soon, we won't. Where in America is the essence of our society, and is anybody creating the mocking but affectionate portrait of it that will still seduce people in the 23rd century?
        - Michael Kinsley, "Slate Magazine"

Jane Austen wrote six of the most beloved novels in the English language, we are informed at the end of "Becoming Jane," and so she did. The key word is "beloved." Her admirers do not analyze her books so much as they just plain love them to pieces.
        - Roger Ebert, from his movie review of "Becoming Jane"


Big-endians and small-endians.

- Jonathon Swift, "Gulliver’s Travels" There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. - C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia "The time has come," the walrus said, "to talk of many things: Of shoes - and ships - and sealing max - Of cabbages and Kings - and why the sea is boiling hot - and whether pigs have wings." - Lewis Carroll "I quite agree with you," said the Duchess; "and the moral of that is -- `Be what you would seem to be' -- or, if you'd like it put more simply -- `Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.'" Ask me no questions and Ill tell you no fibs. - Oliver Goldsmith, "She Stoops to Conquer" I am, in point of fact, a particularly haughty and exclusive person, of pre-Adamite ancestral descent. You will understand this when I tell you that I can trace my ancestry back to a protoplasmal primordial atomic globule. Consequently, my family pride is something inconceivable. I can't help it. I was born sneering. - Pooh-Bah, "The Mikado", Gilbert & Sullivan "Whats your best thing, then?" Jim took another long sip. "Must be good at something, Bill, everyone is."
Now this was an unfortunate question to ask of Roach just then for it occupied most of his waking hours. Indeed he had recently come to doubt whether he had any purpose on earth at all. - Jim Prideaux & Bill Roach, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" : John Le Carre Did it matter if a grain of dust in a whirlwind retained its dignity?

        - from CS Forester's "Horatio Hornblower" series


If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.
        - Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, "The Leopard"

Once I read an article by a man born and brought up in one of the countless brick terraces of south Manchester. He wrote that the supreme moment of his life had come when, as a little boy, he had gone out into the street during an air raid and looked at the sky. Suddenly he realised that somebody, at least, knew that he existed; somebody cared enough to be trying to kill him.

- From "Games With Shadows", Neal Ascherson, p.8 We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken. - Dostoevsky, "Crime and Punishment" All is for the best, in this best of all possible worlds - Voltaire If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away. - Henry David Thoreau, "Walden," 1854 Nature! We are surrounded and embraced by her: powerless to separate ourselves from her, and powerless to penetrate beyond her. Without asking, or warning, she snatches us up into her circling dance, and whirls us on until we are tired, and drop from her arms. - Goethe People a thousand years from now - this is the way we were in the provinces north of New York at the beginning of the 20th century. This is the way we were: in our growing up and in our marrying and in our living and in our living and in our dying.

        - Thornton Wilder, "Our Town"

"People are meant to go through life two by two. 'Tain't natural to be lonesome."

        - Mrs Gibbs in Thornton Wilder's, "Our Town"

"Over there are some Civil War veterans. Iron flags on their graves, New Hampshire boys had a notion that the Union ought to be kept together, though they'd never seen more than fifty miles of it themselves. All they knew was the name, friends - the United States of America. The United States of America. And they went and died for it."

        - The Stage Manager describes the cemetery, in Thornton Wilder's "Our Town"

"Wait! One more look. Good-bye, Good-bye, world. Good-bye, Grover's Corner... Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking, and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dressed and hot baths... and sleeping and waking. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?"

        - Emily, in Thornton Wilder's "Our Town"


A man goes to a tailor to try on a new custom-made suit. The first thing he notices is that the arms are too long.
"No problem," says the tailor. "Just bend them at the elbow and hold them out in front of you. See, now it's fine."
"But the collar is up around my ears!"
"It's nothing. Just hunch your back up a little ... no, a little more ... that's it."
"But I'm stepping on my cuffs!" the man cries in desperation.
"No, bend you knees a little to take up the slack. There you go. Look in the mirror - the suit fits perfectly."
So, twisted like a pretzel, the man lurches out onto the street. Reba and Florence see him go by.
"Oh, look," says Reba, "that poor man!"
"Yes," says Florence, "but what a beautiful suit."

- Arthur Naiman, "Every Goy's Guide to Yiddish" #

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, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all doing direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

- Charles Dickens, opening line of "A Tale of Two Cities" It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known. - Charles Dickens, ending lines of "A Tale of Two Cities" No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else. - Charles Dickens Old Marley was dead as a doornail...
The wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile. - Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Carol" #

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta : the tip of my tongue making a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

In fact, I would have the reader see 'nine' and 'fourteen' as the boundaries - the mirrory beaches and rosy rocks - of an enchanted island haunted by those nymphets of mine and surrounded by a vast misty sea. Between those age limits, are all girl-children nymphets? Of course not. Otherwise, we who are in the know, we lone voyagers, we nympholets, would have long gone insane.

The trouble was that these gentlemen had not, and I had, caught glimpses of an incomparably more poignant bliss. The dimmest of my pollutive dreams was a thousand times more dazzling than all the adultery the most virile writer of genius or the most talented impotent might imagine.


There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie and Dim. And we sat in the Korova Milkbar, trying to make up our razudoks what to do with the evening. The Korova Milkbar sold milk-plus; milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and get you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence.
        - Alex, Your humble narrator, in "A Clockwork Orange"

And the first thing that flashed into my gulliver was that I'd like to have her right down there on the floor with the old in-out, real savage.
        - Alex, well, you figure it out

"What you got back home, little sister, to play your fuxxy warbles on? I bet you got little save pitiful portable picnic players. Come with uncle and hear all proper. Hear angel trumpets and devil trombone. You are invited."
        - Alex invites a girl to listen to some classical music

Real horrorshow
        - It's quite good, by all accounts

Alex descends into hell for a bottle of milk
        - Title of a U2 b-side

"You don't need anything. You have everything."
"No, I don't."
"Oh, s**t, Rip, what don't you have?"
"I don't have anything to lose."
        - Clay and Rip, "Less Than Zero"


I have stolen more quotes and thoughts and purely elegant little starbursts of writing from the Book of Revelation than anything else in the English language - and it is not because I am a biblical scholar, or because of any religious faith, but because I love the wild power of the language and the purity of the madness that governs it and makes it music.

- Hunter S. Thompson, Generation of Swine By speech first, but far more by writing, man has been able to put something of himself beyond death. In tradition and in books an integral part of the individual persists, for it can influence the minds and actions of other people in different places and at different times: a row of black marks on a page can move a man to tears, though the bones of him that wrote it are long ago crumbled to dust. - Sir Julian Sorrell Huxley Many people, other than the authors, contribute to the making of a book, from the first person who had the bright idea of alphabetic writing through the inventor of movable type to the lumberjacks who felled the trees that were pulped for its printing. It is not customary to acknowledge the trees themselves, though their commitment is total.
        - Forsyth and Rada, "Machine Learning"

Book lovers are thought by unbookish people to be gentle and unworldly, and perhaps a few of them are so. But there are others who will lie and scheme and steal to get books as wildly and unconscionably as the dope-taker in pursuit of his drug. They may not want the books to read immediately, or at all; they want them to possess, to range on their shelves, to have at command. They want books as a Turk is thought to want concubines - not to be hastily deflowered, but to be kept at their master's call, and enjoyed more often in thought than in reality.
        - Robertson Davies, Tempest-Tost (1951)

A print addict is a man who reads in elevators. People occasionally look at me curiously when they see me standing there, reading a paragraph or two as the elevator goes up. To me, it's curious that there are people who do not read in elevators. What can they be thinking about?
        - Robert Fulford , "The Pastimes of a Print Addict" (1966)

"We buy so many books because we think we're buying the time to read them."
        - Schopenhauer

Literary-minded men choose "Hamlet" because every man sees himself as a disinherited monarch. Women choose "Alice in Wonderland" because every woman sees herself as the only reasonable creature among crazy people who think they are disinherited monarchs.
        - Adam Gopnik, "The New Yorker"


It is not really difficult to construct a series of inferences, each dependent upon its predecessor and each simple in itself. If, after doing so, one simply knocks out all the central inferences and presents one's audience with the starting-point and the conclusion, one may produce a startling, though perhaps a meretricious, effect.
        - Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Dancing Men"

When you have eliminated the impossible, that which remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
        - Sherlock Holmes, "The Sign of Four"

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.
        - Sherlock Holmes, "A Scandal in Bohemia"

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident."
        - Inspector Gregory and Sherlock Holmes, "Silver Blaze"

"See the value of imagination. It is the one quality which Inspector Gregory lacks. We imagined what might have happened, acted upon the supposition, and find ourselves justified. Let us proceed."
        - Holmes, to Watson, as they find the trail, "Silver Blaze"

"I am not tired. I have a curious constitution. I never remember feeling tired by work, though idleness exhausts me completely."
        - Sherlock Holmes, "The Sign of Four"

"The game is afoot."
        - Sherlock Holmes & Shakespeare

"Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon details. My first glance is always at a woman's sleeve. In a man, it is perhaps better to take the knee of the trouser."

"Chance has put in our way a most singular and whimsical problem, and its solution is its own reward."

- Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure Of The Blue Carbuncle" "My dear Watson, you as a medical man are continually gaining light as to the tendencies of a child by the study of the parents. Don't you see that the converse is equally valid. I have frequently gained my first real insight into the character of parents by studying their children."
        - Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure Of The Copper Beeches"

"A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones."
        - Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure Of The Creeping Man"

"I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one's self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one's own powers."
        - Sherlock Holmes, "The Greek Interpreter"

I said that he was my superior in observation and deduction. If the art of the detective began and ended in reasoning from an armchair, my brother would be the greatest criminal agent that ever lived. But he has no ambition and no energy. He will not even go out of his way to verify his own solutions, and would rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right.
        - Sherlock describes his brother Mycroft, "The Greek Interpreter"

"However, wretch as he was, he was still living under the shield of British law, and I have no doubt, Inspector, that you will see that, though that shield may fail to guard, the sword of justice is still there to avenge."
        - Sherlock Holmes, "The Resident Patient"

"The London criminal is certainly a dull fellow. Look out of this window, Watson. See how the figures loom up, are dimly seen, and then blend once more into the cloudbank. The thief or the murderer could roam London on such a day as the tiger does the jungle, unseen until he pounces, and then evident only to his victim."
"There have been numerous petty thefts."
"This great and sombre stage is set for something more worthy than that. It is fortunate for this community that I am not a criminal."
"It is, indeed!"
        - Holmes and Watson, with London under a blanket of fog, "The Bruce Partington Plans"

"The whole force of the State is at your back if you should need it."
"I’m afraid that all the queen’s horses and all the queen’s men cannot avail in this matter."
        - Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, "The Bruce Partington Plans"

"Any truth is better than indefinite doubt."
        - Sherlock Holmes, "The Yellow Face"

"As a rule, the more bizarre a thing is, the less mysterious it proves to be."
        - Sherlock Holmes

"By a man's finger-nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boots, by his trouser-knees, by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt-cuff — By each of these things a man's calling is plainly revealed. That all united should fail to enlighten the competent inquirer in any case is almost inconceivable. You know that a conjurer gets no credit when once he has explained his trick; and if I show you too much of my method of working, you will come to the conclusion that I am a very ordinary individual after all."
        - Sherlock Holmes, "A Study In Scarlet"

"You mentioned your name as if I should recognize it, but beyond the obvious facts that you are a bachelor, a solicitor, a freemason, and an asthmatic, I know nothing whatever about you."
        - Sherlock Holmes, "The Norwood Builder"

I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as free as air -- or as free as an income of eleven shillings and sixpence a day will permit a man to be. Under such circumstances, I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained.
        - Dr. Watson, in "A Study in Scarlet"

His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing... My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System.
        - Watson, describing Holmes in "A Study in Scarlet"

"I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.  A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it... It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent.  Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before.  It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."
"But the Solar System!"
"What the deuce is it to me? You say that we go round the sun.  If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work."
        - Holmes and Watson, in "A Study in Scarlet"

"It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light.  Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it.  I confess, my dear fellow, that I am very much in your debt."
       - Holmes to Watson, "The Hound of the Baskervilles"

"The setting is a worthy one, if the devil did desire to have a hand in the affairs of men."
        - Holmes, surveying the Grimpen moors, "The Hound of the Baskervilles"

"He foresaw that she would be very much more useful to him in the character of a free woman."
        - Holmes, about Miss Stapleton, "The Hound of the Baskervilles"

Far away on the path we saw Sir Henry looking back, his face white in the moonlight, his hands raised in horror, glaring helplessly at the frightful thing which was hunting him down. But that cry of pain from the hound had blown all our fears to the winds.  If he was vulnerable he was mortal, and if we could wound him we could kill him.  Never have I seen a man run as Holmes ran that night.
        - Watson, chasing down "The Hound of the Baskervilles"

"I followed you."
"I saw no one."
"That is what you may expect to see when I follow you."
        - Holmes and Dr. Leon Sterndale, "The Devil's Foot"

"Let me say right here, Mr. Holmes, that money is nothing to me in this case. You can burn it if it’s any use in lighting you to the truth. This woman is innocent and this woman has to be cleared, and it’s up to you to do it. Name your figure!"
"My professional charges are upon a fixed scale, I do not vary them, save when I remit them altogether."
        - Gibson and Holmes, "The Problem of Thor Bridge"

"There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind none the less and a cleaner, better stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared."
        - Sherlock Holmes, "His Last Bow"

"Have you tried to drive a harpoon through a body? No? Tut, tut, my dear sir, you must really pay attention to these details."
        - Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure Of Black Peter"

"It is always a joy to meet an American, Mr. Moulton, for I am one of those who believes that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes."
        - Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor"

"You'll be interested to hear that I am engaged... To Milverton's housemaid."
"Good heavens, Holmes!"
"I wanted information, Watson."
"Surely you have gone too far?"
"It was a most necessary step."
"...But the girl, Holmes?"
"You can't help it, my dear Watson. You must play your cards as best you can when such a stake is on the table. However, I rejoice to say that I have a hated rival who will certainly cut me out the instant that my back is turned."
        - Holmes and Watson, "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton"

"She does not shine as a wife even in her own account of what occurred. I am not exactly a whole-souled admirer of womankind, as you are aware, Watson, but my experience of life has taught me that there are few wives, having any regard for their husband's, who would let any man's spoken word stand between them and that husband's dead body. Should I ever marry Watson, I should to inspire my wife with some feeling which would prevent her from being walked-off by a housekeeper when my corpse was lying within a few yards of her."
        - Holmes, about Mrs Douglas, "The Valley of Fear"

"I think there are certain crimes which the law cannot touch, and which therefore, to some extent, justify private revenge."
        - Holmes, "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton"

I write these few lines through the courtesy of Mr. Moriarty, who awaits my convenience for the final discussion of those questions which lie between us. He has been giving me a sketch of the methods by which he avoided the English police and kept himself informed of our movements. They certainly confirm the very high opinion which I had formed of his abilities.
I am pleased to think that I shall be able to free society from any further effects of his presence, though I fear that it is at a cost which will give pain to my friends, and especially, my dear Watson, to you. I have already explained to you, however, that my career had in any case reached its crisis, and that no possible conclusion to it could be more congenial to me than this. Indeed, if I may make a full confession to you, I was quite convinced that the letter from Meiringen was a hoax, and I allowed you to depart on that errand under the persuasion that some development of this sort would follow.
Tell Inspector Patterson that the papers which he needs to convict the gang are in pigeonhole M., done up in a blue envelope and inscribed "Moriarty." I made every disposition of my property before leaving England and handed it to my brother Mycroft. Pray give my greetings to Mrs. Watson, and believe me to be, my dear fellow, Very sincerely yours, Sherlock Holmes.

- The Final Problem, "The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes" We see him as the fine expression of our urge to trample evil and to set aright the wrongs with which the world is plagued. He is Galahad and Socrates, bringing high adventure to our dull existences and calm, judicial logic to our biased minds. He is the success of all our failures; the bold escape from our imprisonment.
        - Edgar W. Smith, on the appeal of Sherlock Holmes

"The main reason Sherlock Holmes has survived as a character is that we see him through the eyes of Dr Watson. If Sherlock Holmes were the viewpoint character; if he were the narrator or it was a third person story in which you were always privy to the workings of his mind, we would probably have forgotten him. He would just seem like a contrived freak. The reason that the character still works is that Watson, who I think is a much better rounded character, is somebody we actually believe in as a human being. Because we see Holmes through Watson there is a sense that Holmes takes on a depth and a reality."
        - Kim Newman, "A Study in Sherlock"

"There's a sort of comfort in going back to the time when it's always 1895. It's a more ordered world perhaps, it's a world which is a little easier to understand than our post-nuclear world. It's a form of escapism and I was quite glad to escape into it.
        - Michael Cox, producer of ITV's "Sherlock Holmes", "A Study in Sherlock"

"A Sherlock Holmes with the fire and ice of the original."
        - On Jeremy Brett's performance as Holmes, "A Study in Sherlock"

"There's something to be said for Mr Holmes's methods. The man who lived in this room for example. A man who perhaps demanded too much from people and had to live in books to get it; who spent most of his time alone. A shy man, who didn't try to assert himself; never thought of impressing people. Instead he took refuge in a world of his own imagination."
        - Tom Lawrence, investigating the death of a Prof Jameson, "The Falcon & The Co-Eds"

For me, the fifty-six short stories and four novellas that make up the Holmes opus is a sort of a secular bible. I find that, you know, the stories, they encompass all aspects of human dealings. Everything, you know, from jealousy, greed, drug addiction, interracial marriage—the whole gamut of human experience. And wading through this is this sort of knight errant who lives long enough ago to sort of be in a galaxy far away, on the one hand. But on the other hand he inhabits a world that is still recognizable to us, as this, you know, a world with streets and traffic and trains and things like that. So he sort of bridges an interesting gap. And also as the first, he's not really the first, but as for all practical purposes, the first detective. You know Edgar Allen Poe might lay claim, and there's a Chinese 7th century circuit court judge who might lay claim, but for all practical purposes, in the popular imagination as the first detective. He does something that we find very reassuring. Now, I think detective stories deliver exactly the opposite of what they promise. Which is to say, they promise thrills and chills and horrible deeds and the body splayed at an unnatural angle with the head bashed in from a blunt instru—blah blah—terrible, terrible stuff, but people like to curl up with a good mystery. They like to go to bed with a good—a more intimate conjunction could hardly be imagined than to take this book to bed that's promising all these things. So perhaps it's not delivering those things, but delivering something else. In fact, I think what detective literature delivers is a very reassuring view of an otherwise meaningless world. What's real life? Real life is you slip on a banana peel and fall into a manhole, you know open, and cover, and you die. And things happen for no rhyme or reason. You are minding your own business in the World Trade Towers, and somebody crashes a plane into it. But in detective stories, as people always say, sooner or later, it all adds up. Nothing happens without a reason. And Holmes makes everything reasonable. He, he parses it for you. He, he takes it apart and says this is what is going on, this is what things really mean. And I think we yearn for a world in which that happens or, failing that, a world in which somebody like Holmes can explain it to us.
        - Nicholas Meyers, Sherlock Holmes scriptwriter


The English Bible: a book which if everything else in our language should perish, would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power.
       - Thomas Babington Macauley

He that studies books alone will know how things ought to be; and he who studies men will know how they are.
        - Charles Caleb Colton, 1829

Today a reader — tomorrow a leader.
       - W Fusselman

With books we stand on the shoulders of giants.
        - John Locke

Reading furnishes the mind only with materials for knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.
        - John Locke

Good writers define reality; bad ones merely restate it.
        - Edward Albee

Most of us cherish, instinctively, the idea that reading books (rather than, say, watching television, listening to the radio or surfing the internet) is in some complicated way a civilising influence. But books are no more than a way of transmitting language through time and space. They transmit all sorts of language, and are subject to all sorts of readings and misreadings. Not all those who read a book come away more civilised for it. Think of all those teenagers whose reading of Ayn Rand or Albert Camus made them so insufferably irritating to their parents and their teachers. Think of the Nazis who read Nietzsche. Think of those who — immersed in conspiracy-theory books like The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail — come away with an ever less rational view of the world. Think of Mark Chapman's threadbare copy of The Catcher in the Rye. Don't get me started on the Bible or the Koran.
        - Sam Leith, "The Spectator"

Today the crime novelist has one advantage denied to writers of ‘straight’ or ‘literary’ novels. Unlike them he can range over all levels of society, for crime can easily breach the barriers that exist in our stratified society. Because of these barriers the modern literary novel, unlike its 19th-century predecessors, is often confined to the horizontal, dealing only with one class. But crime runs through society from top to bottom, and so the crime novelist can present a fuller picture of the way we live now.
        - Allan Massie, "The Spectator"

I'm afraid of coaching, of writer's classes, of writer's magazines, of books on how to write. They give me "centipede trouble" — you know the yarn about the centipede who was asked how he managed all his feet? He tried to answer, stopped to think about it, and was never able to walk another step.
        - Robert A. Heinlein

"I don't talk very well. With writing, you've time to get it right. Also I've found the more I talk the less I write, and if I didn't write no one would want me to talk anyway."
        - Alan Bennett, interviewed on "The South Bank Show"

Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.
        - Winston Churchill

Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you — as if you haven't been told a million times already — that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching.
        - Harlan Ellison

Half of what I say is meaningless; but I say it so that the other half may reach you.
        ~ Kahil Gibran

You don't write because you want to say something; you write because you've got something to say.
        - F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack-Up"

A man is known by the books he reads.
        - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Only presidents, editors and people with tapeworm have the right to use the editorial 'we.'
        - Mark Twain

I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them.
        - Jane Austen

"When *I* use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."
        - Lewis Carroll, "Alice In Wonderland"

"Language is my whore, my mistress, my wife, my pen-friend, my check-out girl."
        - Stephen Fry, "A Little Bit of Fry and Laurie"

Asterisks are the elite troops of language, always ready to parachute in and throw themselves on the live grenade that is an inappropriate series of letters. Never a thought for themselves. All they care about is making sure that you, gentle reader, are safe at all times.
        - Damien Owens, "The Irish Independent"

 I (Matt Baker) love parentheses. They’re like little hugs.
        - Matt Baker, at

In the battle for pre-eminence among verbs of compulsion or requirement, need to has won a bloodless and overwhelming victory over must, ought to, should, and the former and longtime champion, have to, which yields only about a billion Google hits compared to two billion for need to. Its popularity is partly explained by its versatility. Passive constructions in the form of "the floor needs to be washed" or "the video needs to be returned" deftly finesse the question of just who will be doing the washing or returning. And need to is just the thing for the currently very popular tense I call the kindergarten imperative, as in, "I need you to put away your crayons now."
        - Ben Yagoda, "Slate Magazine"

"Anyone who can only think of one way to spell a word obviously lacks imagination."
        - Mark Twain

"He has only half learned the art of reading who has not added to it the even more refined accomplishments of skipping and skimming."
        - Arthur Balfour

"The righteous man sits upon the throne and looks about him and if he sees any person standing who needs the throne more than he does, immediately he gives it up and there is much rejoicing."
"This the area of the vigilant neighbour and the burglar shall not prosper."
        - Oliver Pritchett, rewriting some modern signposts in "The Telegraph"

Twenty-three blank pages, which literary experts presume is a two-act play composed some time between 1973 and 1975, are already being heralded as one of the most ambitious works by the Nobel Prize-winning author of Waiting For Godot... In what was surely a conscious decision by Mr Beckett, the white, uniform, non-ruled pages, which symbolise the starkness and emptiness of life, were left unbound, unmarked, and untouched," said Trinity College professor of Irish literature Fintan O'Donoghue.
        - The Onion

My colleague Christopher Howse has pointed out that you can tell that "The Da Vinci Code" is rubbish just by its name. Students of art refer to the man in question as 'Leonardo', 'Da Vinci' being simply the identifier of his town of origin. So Dan Brown's title is the equivalent of a book about Jesus being called 'Of Nazareth'.
        - Charles Moore, in his "Spectator" diary

Our whole American way of life is a great war of ideas, and librarians are the arms dealers selling weapons to both sides.
        - James Quinn

People can lose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned.
        - Saul Bellow

If written directions alone would suffice, libraries wouldn't need to have the rest of the universities attached.
        - Judith Martin

The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.
        - Oscar Wilde

A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.
A classic is a book that everybody praises and that nobody reads.
        - Mark Twain (attributed)

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.
        - P.J. O'Rourke

Life, as the signs in the liquor stores say, is too short to drink bad wine. And summer is too short to read bad books.
        - David Frum

I try to leave out the parts that people skip.
        - Elmore Leonard Jr.

The last time somebody said, "I find I can write much better with a word processor.", I replied, "They used to say the same thing about drugs."
        - Roy Blount, Jr.

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
         - Dorothy Parker

The covers of this book are too far apart.
        - Ambrose Bierce

In the faculty of writing nonsense, stupidity is no match for genius.
        - Walter Bagehot

Truth is easier to invent than fiction.
        - Alexander Linklater, on James Frey's invented memoir, "The Guardian"

To see Stephen Spender fumbling with our rich and delicate language is to experience all the horror of seeing a Sevres vase in the hands of a chimpanzee.
        - Evelyn Waugh

This is the best book ever written by any man on the wrong side of a question of which he is profoundly ignorant.
        - Thomas B. Macaulay

This book fills a much-needed gap.
        - Moses Hadas

Books are like a mirror. If an ass looks in, you can't expect an angel to look out.
        - Arthur Schopenhauer

Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
        - Samuel Johnson

While an author is yet living, we estimate his powers by his worst performance; and when he is dead we rate them by his best.
        - Samuel Johnson

Criticism is a study by which men grow important and formidable at very small expense.
        - Samuel Johnson

Never having been able to succeed in the world, he took his revenge by speaking ill of it.
        - Voltaire

"I don't read my reviews, I measure them."
        - Arnold Bennett, British novelist

"They write them long because they can't write them short."
        - Raymond Chandler, on verbose writers

"No one likes my books except the public."
        - Mickey Spillane, unconcerned by bad reviews, "Life Magazine"

If we want a book to do more than what it does, that's a condemnation. If we want it to do more of what it does, that's an endorsement.
        - Clive James

I’m not sure which I dislike more: 'Ulysses' or the James Joyce estate. Admittedly, a few people have got some pleasure from 'Ulysses', but against that, you have to weigh the millions of lives that have been ruined by the futile attempts to read it.
       - Kevin Myers, in "The Irish Times"

I confess that I have not cleared a path through all seven hundred pages, I confess to having examined only bits and pieces, and yet I know what it is, with that bold and legitimate certainty with which we assert our knowledge of a city, without ever having been rewarded with the intimacy of all the many streets it includes.
        - Jorge Luis Borges, from his review of Ulysses

"What Jane Austen novels have you read?"
"None. I don't read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists' ideas as well as the critics' thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened, that it's all just made up by the author."
        - Audrey and Tom, in Whit Stillman's "Metropolitan"

Kitty Kelley's method, already perfected in her unauthorised and unflattering biographies of Frank Sinatra and Nancy Reagan, is to write bestsellers that take what she describes as an 'unblinking look' at their subjects — which might, of course, mean that her eyes are permanently open or permanently closed... the result is a work so bad that Britons cannot realise how fortunate they are in being unable to buy it. The great mistake with this book is not that it has been published in Britain, but that it has actually been published anywhere else.
        - David Cannadine, reviewing "The Royals" in "The London Review of Books"

On several occasions, we are informed that the professional ideal 'took steps', 'organised assaults', and 'selected social problems'. But this is anthropomorphic metaphor implausibly masquerading as historical explanation.
        - David Cannadine, reviewing "The Rise of Respectable Society", "New York Review of Books"

When I heard the book (Thomas Friedman's latest) was actually coming out, I started to worry. Among other things, I knew I would be asked to write the review. The usual ratio of Friedman criticism is 2:1, i.e., two human words to make sense of each single word of Friedmanese. Friedman is such a genius of literary incompetence that even his most innocent passages invite feature-length essays.
        - Matt Taibbi, reviewing "The World is Flat", "New York Press"

The Da Vinci Code may well be the only novel ever written that begins with the word 'renowned'... I think what enabled the first word to tip me off that I was about to spend a number of hours in the company of one of the worst prose stylists in the history of literature was this. Putting curriculum vitae details into complex modifiers on proper names or definite descriptions is what you do in journalistic stories about deaths; you just don't do it in describing an event in a narrative... Why did I keep reading? Because London Heathrow is a long way from San Francisco International.
        -  Geoffrey K. Pullum, on his "Language Log" blog

Ethan Frome: a novella inflicted upon unsuspecting high school students all across the U.S. by people who apparently don't feel that being a teenager is quite depressing enough.
        - Abigail Nussbaum


"I have lived my life in the slipstream of experience"
        - Elizabeth Jane Howard, "Slipstream: A Memoir"

"Amis is acutely, vibrantly sensitive to the different registers of laughter. He knows that it can be the most affirming and uniquely human sound, and also the most sinister and animalistic one. He understands every note of every octave that separates the liberating shout of mirth from the cackle of a bully or the snigger of a sadist.
        - Chistopher Hitchens, reviews "Koba The Dread" by Martin Amis

"Some people have a knack, for example, of being able to tell when someone's lying to them. They may not know what the truth is, but they can tell when someone is trying to lead them astray or sell them something shady. I think he had that ability to an amazing degree.
I also think he thought, without saying it explicitly, that you can convince a crowd of something that's not true more easily than you can one person at a time."
        - Chistopher Hitchens describes George Orwell

"Perhaps we should keep our monsters about us, lest we become them ourselves."
        - Adam Dunn, reviewing Steven Sherrill's "The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break"

"Ah, but you see, I didn’t want to be fair."
        - EM Forster, responding to accusations that "A Passage to India" was unfair to the British Raj

I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our\particular path than we have yet gone ourselves.
        - EM Forster

Don't ask me who's influenced me. A lion is made up of the lambs he's digested, and I've been reading all my life.
        - Giorgos Seferis

Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.
        - Jessamyn West

Art is a lie that helps us to realize the truth.
        - Picasso

A lot of first novels are written long before they're actually put down on paper.
        - Roger Ebert, film critic, in a review of "Wonder Boys"

Steve Coogan picks up enough to lecture an interviewer: "This is a postmodern novel before there was any modernism to be post about." Later it's claimed that Tristram Shandy was "No. 8 on the Observer's list of the greatest novels," which cheers everyone until they discover the list was chronological.
        - Roger Ebert, from his review of "Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story"

If there's a gun on the wall in act one, scene one, you must fire the gun by act three, scene two. If you fire a gun in act three, scene two, you must see the gun on the wall in act one, scene one.
        - Anton Chekov's First Rule of Playwriting

A writer of books has to admit that film is the enemy, and that in my case I have been sleeping with the enemy.
        - E. L. Doctorow, on helping to adapt his books to film

I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter.
        - Blaise Pascal

Nature and Books belong to the eyes that see them.
        - Emerson

The truth is that even big collections of ordinary books distort space, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned secondhand bookshop, one of those that look as though they were designed by M. Escher on a bad day and has more staircases than storeys and those rows of shelves which end in little doors that are surely too small for a full-sized human to enter. The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.
        - Terry Pratchett, "Guards! Guards!"

Words are our servants, not our masters. For different purposes, we find it convenient to use words in different senses.
        - Richard Dawkins, 'The Blind Watchmaker'

"Unpleasant truths wearing cologne."
        - Quentin Crisp, describing euphemisms

A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted. You should live several lives while reading it.

- William Styron Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. - Joseph Addison Never lend books, for no one ever returns them. The only books I have in my library are books that other folk have lent me. - Anatole France Society has come a long way, before they would have burned me, now they are content with just burning my books. Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings. - Almansor Heinrich Heine : A Tragedy You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.

        - Ray Bradbury

"Candide" is the work of an angry men who knows that mere rage will not influence a readership, but satire, wit and savage irony will. It carried to new heights Voltaire's typical method of ridicule by teasing out the logical absurdities in any given tenet (what is often termed the method of 'reductio ad absurdum'). Partly Voltaire is mocking devout allegories like Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" and partly he is developing the genre of the philosophical fable so popular in the 18th century; such tales were widely read into the 19th century but in our own era have been subsumed in the genre of science fiction.
        - Frank McLynn, discussing the work of Voltaire, "1759"

The arts do not necessarily make us better people, as George Steiner argued so cogently in his book Language and Silence when he spoke of concentration camp guards who could listen to Beethoven, then head back to the gas chambers. I don't believe in high art and low art - I believe in good and bad art, but am open-minded enough to know that art I think one, others may think the other. My favourite work of art? Impossible to say: depending on my mood, I might posit Mozart's Requiem, Francis Bacon's Figures at the Foot of a Crucifixion, Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream, Gordon Banks's save from Pele, a Ronnie O'Sullivan break, Hawkwind's 'Silver Machine' or Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. Or a thousand others.
        - Ian Rankin, Novelist, interviewed in "The Observer"

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