Sunday, February 09, 2003

"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"
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)
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
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"
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
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"
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
"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
Ask me no questions and Ill tell you no fibs.
- Oliver Goldsmith, "She Stoops to Conquer"
"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.'"
- Lewis Carrol, "Alice in Wonderland"
"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
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
- C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia
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"
"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"
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
- George Orwell, "Animal Farm"
Some people are born mediocre, some people achieve mediocrity, and some people have mediocrity thrust upon them.
- Joseph Heller, "Catch 22"
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
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."
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"
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"
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"
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
~Emily Dickinson