Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker
There come out of him a sylents with a roaring in it like when you put your ear to a sea shel

Aravind Adiga

white tiger

The story of a poor man's life is written on his body, in a sharp pen. (22)

If I were making a country, I'd get the sewage pipes first, then the democracy, then I'd go about giving pamphlets and statues of Gandhi to other people, but what do I know? I'm just a murderer. (80)

Paul Harding


Your cold mornings are filled with the heartache about the fact that although we are not at ease in this world, it is all we have, that it is ours but that it is full of strive, so all we can call our own is strife; but even that is better than nothing at all, isn't it? (72)

Thomas Hardy

Jude the obscure

Love has its own dark morality when rivalry enters in—at least mine has, if other people's hasn't... (280)

The beggarly question of parentage—what is it, after all? What does it matter, when you come to think of it, whether a child is yours by blood or not? All the little ones of our time are collectively the children of us adults of the time and are entitled to our general care. That excessive regard of parents for their own children, and their dislike of other people's, is, like class feeling, patriotism, save-your-own-soul-ism, and other virtues, a mean exclusiveness at bottom. (288)

Do not do an immoral thing for moral reasons! (372)

EL Doctorow

Sweet Land Stories, "Child, dead in the rose garden"

He remembers how, when he first came to Washington as a young trainee, he'd been moved almost to tears by the majesty of the nation's capital. Quickly enough it became mere background to his life, accepted, hardly noticed. But in his eyes now it was the strangest urban landscape he had ever seen. Classical, white, and monumentalized, it was like no other American city. It was somebody's fantasy of august government. (133)

How would he feel when it was over? Had he wasted his life attaching himself to an institution? Was he one of those men who could not function unattached? He had suspected some of his colleague that they had taken on the federal agent's life as much for their own protection as anyone else's. Whatever his motives, it was a fact that he'd spent his life contending with deviant behavior and only occasionally wondering if some of it was not justifiable. (135)

Sylvia Plath

Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.

Michael Warner

Marriage sanctifies some couples at the expense of others. It is selective legitimacy.

Cornel West

The blues is simply an idiom for the mature.


They are wrong who think that politics is like an ocean voyage or a military campaign, something to be done with some particular end in view, something which leaves off as soon as that end is reached. It is not a public chore, to be got over with. It is a way of life.


Rien n'est simple de ce qui s'offre à l'âme, et l'âme ne s'offre jamais simple à aucun sujet.

Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.

somerset maugham

of human bondange

Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distresses of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment. 37

Philip got up and knelt down to say his prayer. It was a cold morning, and he shivered a little; but he had been taught by his uncle that his prayers were more acceptable to God if he said them in his nightshirt than if he waited till he was dressed. This did not surprise him, for he was beginning to realize that he was the creature of a God who appreciated the discomfort of his worshippers. 42

Louis Menand

American Studies

For culture is not something that just comes with one's race or gender. Culture comes only through experience; there isn't any other way to acquire it. And in the end everyone's culture is different because everyone's experience is different.

William James Remembered by John Jay Chapman

There was, in spite of his playfulness, a deep sadness about James. You felt that he had just stepped out of this sadness in order to meet you, and was to go back in the moment you left him. [quoted in American Studies by Louis Menand]

Richard Flanagan

Gould's Book of Fish

...For every tyrant born, so too are a thousand men willing to be enslaved... 67

But art is a punitive sentence, not a birthright... 91

Men's lives are not progressions, as conventionally rendered in history paintings, nor are they a series of facts that may be enumerated and in their proper order understood. Rather they are a series of transformations, some immediate and shocking, some so slow as to be imperceptible, yet so complete and horrifying that at the end of his life a man may search his memory in vain for a moment of correspondence between his self in his dotage and him in his youth. 305


One must not always think that feeling is everything. Art is nothing without form.

Madame Bovary

...he thought that exaggerated speeches hiding mediocre affections must be discounted;--as if the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow into the emptiest metaphors, since no one can ever give the exact measure of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sorrows, for human speech is like a cracked kettle, on which we hammer out tunes to make the bears dance when we long to touch the stars to tears.

JD Salinger

Catcher in the Rye

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 if they're really stupid or not.

To Esme, With Love and Squalor

"Goodbye," Esme said. "I hope you return from the war with all your faculties intact." 103

Jean-Paul Sartre

no exit

We are our choices.

Hell is other people.

dirty hands

To know what life is worth you have to risk it once in a while. Louise Erdrich: The round house
I've read that certain memories put down in agitation at a vulnerable age do not extinguish with time, but engrave ever deeper as they return and return. 143

Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled
In any case, it's nonsense to believe people go on loving each other, regardless of what happens. 189

Stanislaw Lem: The Cyberiad
As everyone knows, History is irreversible, and there is no way back to the halcyon past other than through dreams and reveries. --Tale of the Three Storytelling Machines of King Genius

Anthony Burgess
I believe the wrong God is temporarily ruling the world and that the true God has gone under. Thus I am a pessimist but believe the world has much solace to offer: love, food, music, the immense variety of race, language, literature and the pleasure of artistic creation.

I don't think there's a heaven, but there's certainly a hell. Everything we've experienced on Earth seems to point towards the permanence of pain.

Henry Adams: The Education of Henry Adams
If I could live to the end of my century--1938--I am sure I should see the silly bubble explode. A world so different from that of my childhood or middle-life can't belong to the same scheme. It shifts from one motive to another, without sequence...Out of a medieval, primitive, crawling infant of 1838, to find oneself a howling, steaming, marconing, raduminating, automobiling maniac of 1904 exceeds belief.

No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean for words are slippery and thought is viscous.

Tom Stoppard: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
GUIL: No, no, no ... you've got it all wrong ... you can't act death. The fact of it is nothing to do with seeing it happen --it's not gasps and blood and falling about--that isn't what makes it death. It's just a man failing to reappear, that's all --now you see him, now you don't, that the only thing that's real: here one minute and gone the next and never coming back--an exit, unobtrusive and unannounced, a disappearance gathering weight as it goes on, until, finally, it is heavy with death.

Thornton Wilder: The bridge of san luis rey

"Even now," she thought, "almost no one remembers Esteban and Pepita, but myself. Camila alone remembers her Uncle Pio and her son; this woman, her mother. But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning." 123

Theodore Dreiser
How true it is that words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great audible feelings and purposes. Here were these two, bandying little phrases, drawing purses, looking at cards, and both unconscious of how inarticulate their real feelings were.

Aphra Behn: Oronooko
No, I would not kill myself, even after a whipping, but will be content to live with that infamy, and be pointed at by every grinning slave, till I have completed my revenge, and then you shall see that Oroonoko scorns to live with the indignity that was put on Caesar.


Frederick Douglass
I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the South is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes--a justifier of the most appalling barbarity, a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds, and a dark shelter under which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strongest protection. Were I to be again reduced to the chains of slavery, next to that enslavement, I should regard being the slave of a religious master the greatest calamity that could befall me ... I ... hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle- plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. (qtd in Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World)

Che Guevera
If you tremble indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.

I know you've come to kill me. Shoot, coward. You're only going to kill a man.

Sasha Kamini Parmasad: To keep my body clean, to breathe, to give my mind rest, in why we write: the politics and practice of writing for social change, ed. Jim Downs
Then why do I write? In truth, the process eludes my understanding. I cannot pin it down; my lens feels too narrow. After I have said all this I think it would be most truthful to say that I write to keep my body clean; to be able to breathe, because the air gets fresher when strained of words; to give my mind rest, because having strings of words transpiring about the inside of my head keeps me up at night. 137

Boethius: Consolation of Philosophy
For these are the women who choke out the rich fields of reason's fruits; theirs are the barren brambles of the passions; they acclimatize the mortal mind to disease, and do not liberate it. [Philosophy speaking of the muses of Poetry] 3

Sigmund Freud: Civilization and its Discontents
A love that does not discriminate seems to me to forfeit a part of its own value, by doing an injustice to its object; and secondly, not all men are worthy of love. 57