One of the most frequent comments I hear everywhere, right up
there with "whats for dinner" and "I want to be somebody"
is "I dont have time to read," which is essentially telling
you, a lifelong writer, that your
I have no respect for writers. They never make money. Theyre
The beauty of the Internet was that Chip could post whole cloth fabrications without troubling to even check his spelling. Reliability on the Web was 98% a function of how slick and cool your site looked. Although Chip personally wasnt fluent in Web, he was an American under 40 and Americans under 40 were exquisite judges of what was slick and cool and what was not. - Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
The main difference between America and Lithuania, as far as Chip could see, was that in America the wealthy few subdued the unwealthy many by means of mind-numbing and soul-killing entertainments and gadgetry and pharmaceuticals, whereas in Lithuania the powerful few subdued the unpowerful many by threatening violence - Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
The best thing for being sad...is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake listening to the disorder in your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it thento learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. - T.H. White, The Once and Future King
The difference between Socrates and Jesus is that no one has ever been put to death in Socrates' name. And that is because Socrates' ideas were never made into law. - E.L. Doctorow, The Book of Daniel
The ones for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars. - Jack Kerouac, On The Road
All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own fashion. - Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Buying is much more American than thinking and I'm as American as they come. In Europe and the Orient people like to tradebuy and sell, sell and buythey're basically merchants. Americans are not so interested in sellingin fact, they'd rather throw out than sell. What they really like to do is buypeople, money, countries. - Andy Warhol, THE Philosophy of Andy Warhol
"You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch." "Yes." "It's sort of what we have instead of God." - Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves.... It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. - Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. - William Shakespeare, Hamlet
I do not like experts. They are our jailers. I despise experts more than anyone on earth...They solve nothing! They are servants of whatever system hires them. They perpetuate it. When we are tortured, we shall be tortured by experts. When we are hanged, experts will hang us...When the world is destroyed, it will be destroyed not by its madmen but by the sanity of its experts and the superior ignorance of its bureaucrats. - John Le Carre, Russia House
So let's dismiss non-fiction as something any child of eleven can do and let's dismiss most forms of fiction as writing that requires no discipline whatever. The novel, in particular, is by definition a form that defies definition. Moreover, most novelists at work today are writing as poorly as the people writing non-fiction. What it's come down to, if a person can successfully string together nine or ten plain words to fashion a simple sentence, then he or she may be dubbed 'author' and be permitted to go on author's tours and speak at Book and Author Luncheons and generally behave like a writer...
An author is anyone who's written a book. The book can be a diet book, or a cookbook, or a book about the sex life of the tsetse fly in Rwanda, or it can be a trashy woman-in-jeopardy mystery, or a high tech novel about a missing Russian diplomat, or any one of a thousand poorly written screeds or palimpsests. An author doesn't need to study literature, he doesn't need to take any courses in the craft of writing. All he needs to do is impulsively and ambitiously sit himself down in front of a computer and write as badly as he knows how to write. In this great land of the literary jackpot, if he writes badly enough, he may hit it really big, therfore qualifying AS a boba fide author entitled to go on book tours and television talk shows... - Ed McBain, Romance
President McKinley Explains That the United States Should Keep the Philippines by Direct Order of God...
I walked the floor of the White House night after night until midnight; and I am not ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. And one night late it came to me this wayI don't know how it was but it came; first, that we could not give [the Philippines] back to Spainthat would be cowardly and dishonorable; second, that we could not turn them over to France or Germanyour commercial rivals in the Orientthat would be bad business and discreditable; third, we could not leave them to themselvesthey were unfit for government, and they would soon have anarchy and misrule of there worse than Spain's was; and fourth, that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God's grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died. And then I went to bed, and went to sleep and slept soundly. - Eduardo Galeano, Memory of Fire
Life is like licking honey from a thorn. [Old Hungarian saying] - Alan Furst, Kingdom of Shadows
It's a proven fact that those who have epilepsy also have a higher incidence of depression, but I wonder if the epilepsy causes the depression, or if the depression is because of the epilepsy, which is, when all is said and done, an illness so existential, so oddly spiritual, you are stuck out in the stratosphere with Sartre and Kierkegaard, with dead dogs and owls. - Lauren Slater, Lying
You asking me, Catlett said, do I know how to write down words on a piece of paper? Thats what you do, man, you put down one word after the other as it comes in your head. It isnt like having to learn how to play the piano, like you have to learn notes. You already learned in school how to write didnt you. I hope so. You have the idea and you put down what you want to say. Then you get somebody to add commas and shit where they belong, if you arent positive yourself. Maybe fix up the spelling where you have some tricky words. There people that do that for you. Some, Ive even seen scripts where I know words werent spelled right and there were hardly any commas in it. So I dont think its too important. You come to the last page and you write in 'Fade out' and thats the end and youre done. - Elmore Leonard, Get Shorty
Furthermore, those late nights I have driven back to the pooldar apartments in Berkeley after working, I have seen in the windows the pale blue glow of at least one television in every home. And I am told that many family meals are eaten in front of this screen as well. And perhaps this explains the face of Americans, the eyes that never appear satisfied, at peace with their work, or the day God has given them; these people have the eyes of very small children who are forever looking for their next source of distraction, entertainment, or a sweet taste in the mouth. And it is no longer to me a surprise that it is the recent immigrants who excel in this land, the Orientals, the Greeks, and yes, the Persians. We know rich opportunity when we see it. - Andre Dubus III, House of Sand and Fog
Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zig-zag towards a more decent society.
We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. - Howard Zinn, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train
To contemplate truth, without sorrow, is the greatest gift. - The Kaballah
He'd once told me that the art of getting ahead in New York was based on learning how to express dissatisfaction in an interesting way. The air was full of rage and complaint. People had no tolerance for your particular hardship unless you knew how to entertain them with it. - Don DeLillo, White Noise
I see myself as half narrative...contentless form...I must compose myself. - John Barthes, Lost in the Funhouse
The only thing that is immune to change is our desire for meaning. - Douglas Coupland, Microserfs
Frankly, I have no mind for rational solutions to these immense problems. Nothing I ever hear from Washington, D.C., has any relationship with the reality I know down here. Im seeing delirium, hunger, acute suffering, which are not solved, assuaged or aired by the stentorian fart breath of the House and Senate.
Im also wondering if it behooves a writer to try to be right. Yeats warned about cutting off a horse's legs to get it into a box. Simon Ortiz, the grand Acomo Pueblo poet, said that there are no truths, only stories
A historian might very well consider the validity of the Gadsen Purchase, wherein we bought my locale for fifty-two cents an acre from a group of Mexicans that had no right to sell it. The United Nations would question our right to take all of the Colorado Rivers water, leaving the estuarine area in Mexico as dry as the bones their people leave up here in the desert. A true disciple of Jesus would say that we have to do something about these desperate people, though this is the smallest voice of all. Most politicians have the same moral imperative as a cancer cell: continue what youre up to at all costs. Meanwhile the xenophobes, better known as the xenoids, merely jump up an down on the border screeching, surely a full testament to our primate roots. Everyone not already here must be kept out, and anyone here illegally, if not immediately expunged, should be made as uncomfortable as possible.
So Ana Claudia crossed with her brother and child into Indian country, walking up a dry wash for forty miles, but when she reached the highway she simply dropped dead near the place where recently a nineteen year old girl also died from thirst with a baby at her breast. The baby was covered with sun blisters, but lived. So did Ana Claudias. The particular cruelty of a dry wash is that everywhere there is evidence of water that once passed this way, with the banks verdant with flora. We dont know how long it took Ana Claudia to walk her only forty miles in America, but we know what her last hours were like. Her body progressed from losing one quart of water to seven quarts: lethargy, increasing pulse, nausea, dizziness, blue shading of vision, delirium, swelling of the tongue, deafness, dimness of vision, shriveling of the skin, and then death, the fallen body wrenched into a question mark. How could we not wish that politicians on both sides of the border who let her die this way would die in the same manner? But then such people have never missed a single lunch. Ana Claudia Villa Herrera. What a lovely name. - Jim Harrison, "Life on the Border" (Mens Journal, July 2001)
If I could believe that going to a barricade would affect man's fate in the slightest I would go to that barricade, and quite often I wish that I could, but it would be less than honest to say that I expect to happen upon such a happy ending. - Joan Didion, "On the Morning After the Sixties" (from The White Album)
You can never change the Past, but you can see it.
A new question has arisen in man's mind, the question, namely,
whether 'life is worth living,' and correspondingly, the feeling that
one's life 'is a failure,' or is 'a success.' This idea is based on the
concept of life as an enterprise which should show a profit. The failure
is like the bankruptcy of a business in which the losses are greater than
the gains. This concept is nonsensical. We may be happy or unhappy, achieve
some aims, and not achieve others; yet there is no sensible balance which
could show whether life is worth while living. Maybe from the standpoint
of a balance life is never worth while living. It ends necessarily with
death; many of our hopes are disappointed; it involves suffering and effort;
from the standpoint of this balance, it would seem to make more sense
not to have been born at all, or to die in infancy. On the other hand,
who will tell whether on happy moment of love, or the joy of breathing
or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth
all the suffering and effort which life implies? Life is a unique gift
and challenge, not to be measured in terms of anything else, and no sensible
answer can be given to the question whether it is 'worth while' living,
because the question does not make
any sense. - Erich Fromm, The
The "working poor" as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for: they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else. - Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed
Sometime in the Eighties, Americans had a new set of "traditional values" installed. It was part of what may someday be known as the "Reagan renovation," that finely balanced mix of cosmetic refinement and moral coarseness which brought $200,000 china to the White House dinner table and mayhem to the beleaguered peasantry of Central America. All of the new traditions had venerable sources. In economics, we borrowed from the Bourbons: in foreign policy, we drew on themes fashioned by the nomad warriors of the Eurasian steppes. In spiritual matters, we emulated the braying intolerance of our archenemies and esteemed customers, the Shiite fundamentalists.
A case could be made, of course, for the genuine American provenance of all these new "traditions." Weve had our own robber barons, military adventurers, and certainly more than our share of enterprising evangelists promoting ignorance and parochialism as a state of grace. From the vantage point of the continents original inhabitants, or, for example, the captive African laborers who made America a great agricultural power, our "traditional values" have always been bigotry, greed and belligerence, buttressed by wanton appeals to a God of love. - Barbara Ehrenreich, The Worst Years of Our Lives
Nothing is more real than nothing. - Samuel Beckett
Patty Keene was stupid on purpose, which was the case with most women in Midland City. The women all had big minds because they were big animals, but they did not use them much for this reason: unusual ideas could make enemies, and the women, if they were going to achieve any sort of comfort and safety, needed all the friends they could get.
So, in the interests of survival, they trained themselves to be agreeing machines instead of thinking machines. All their minds had to do was to discover what other people were thinking, and then they thought that, too. - Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
"The sky is blue because you wanta know why the sky is blue." - Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
The shack had been built by an old man to die in, years ago. It was well built. - Jack Kerouac, The DharmasBums
His own lonely impunity is rank: it smells to heaven. If it is allowed to persist then we shall shamefully vindicate the ancient philosopher Anacharsis, who maintained that laws were like cobwebs: strong enough to detain only the weak, and too weak to hold the strong. In the name of innumerable victims, known and unknown, it is time for justice to take a hand. - Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger
Four more years of an unwinnable war and undeclared and murderous war, which was to spread before it burned out, and was to end on the same terms and conditions as had been on the table in the fall of 1968. That was what it took to promote Henry Kissinger. To promote him from being a mediocre and opportunist academic to becoming an international potentate. The signature qualities were there from the inaugural moment: the sycophancy and the duplicity: the power worship and the absence of scruple: the empty trading of old non-friends for new non-friends. And the distinctive effects also were present: the uncounted and expendable corpses: the official and unofficial lying about the cost: the heavy and pompous pseudo-indignation when unwelcome questions were asked. K's global career started as it meant to go on. It debauched the American republic and American democracy, and it levied a hideous toll of casualties on weaker and more vulnerable societies. - Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger
In a dark night of the soul, it's always 3 o'clock in the morning,
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