Monday, July 26, 2010

The New Dork's List of Quotations

Sometimes, losing the forest for the trees is just fine. Sometimes, the trees, individually, can be beautiful, inspiring, thought-provoking or downright hilarious. When I'm reading and I find a "tree" I want to remember — a quote, a few sentences, a thought or idea — amidst the forest of a story, I'll stop and add it to what has now become a long document containing all my favorite book quotes.

Looking over my list just now, I figured it might be fun to toss a few of my favorites out your way in the hope that you'll toss a few more back my way. So, what are your favorite quotes from novels you've read?  Here is a smattering of mine:

It’s weird to feel like you miss someone you’re not even sure you know.
— David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

We come unbidden into this life, and if we are lucky we find a purpose beyond starvation, misery and early death, lest we forget, is the common lot.
— Abraham Verghese, Cutting For Stone

A writer’s job is to imagine everything so personally that the fiction is as vivid as our personal memories.
— John Irving, The World According To Garp

In a head-on collision with Fanatics, the real problem is always the same: how can we possibly behave decently toward people so arrogantly ignorant that they believe, first, that they possess Christ’s power to bestow salvation, second, that forcing us to memorize and regurgitate a few of their favorite Bible phrases and attend their church is that salvation, and third, that any discomfort, frustration, anger or disagreement we express in the face of their moronic barrages is due not to their astounding effrontery but to our sinfulness.
— David James Duncan, The Brothers K

Anyone who goes into writing has to find out somewhere along the line, he’s either na├»ve or insane.
— Leon Uris,  Mitla Pass

There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state to another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.
— Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

I suppose that a country that teaches creationism in its schools may be forgiven for believing that baseball does not derive from cricket.
— Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
The world belongs to those who can describe it.
— Serge Bramly, Leonardo: The Artist and the Man

Nothing exists that so fills and binds the heart as love does.
— Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

In our hearts there is a ruthless dictator, ready to contemplate the misery of a thousand strangers if it will ensure the happiness of the few we love.
—Graham Green, The Heart of the Matter

Until you become yourself, what benefit can you be to others?
— Harold Bloom, How To Read and Why

Knowledge of the past gives men courage to face the future.
 — James A. Michener, Caribbean

We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love.
— Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker

Her kiss was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.
— Nicole Krauss, The History of Love


  1. i need to start noting down trees that stick out to me. i often read things that i think are great little things on their own, but i never remember them.

    i LOVE that Tom Robbins one at the end. never read the book (or heard of him) but will look it up now.

  2. "...sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all of the lives I’m not living."
    Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

    "He knew that I love you also means I love you more than anyone loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that no one loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that I love no one else, and never have loved anyone else, and never will love anyone else. He knew that it is, by love's definition, impossible to love two people."
    Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated

    "Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing pieces of themselves. So anyone who’s in love gets sad when they think of their lover. It’s like stepping back inside a room you have fond memories of, one you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s just a natural feeling."
    Huraki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

  3. Great collection of quotes, Greg. I like to collect quotes from the books I am reading, but I never write them down in one place--they are just scattered in notebooks & legal pads!

    Here's a question for the biggest David Foster Wallace fan I know--which book would you recommend for someone who has never read him?

  4. @Ben - Oh man, Tom Robbins is so effing awesome. Definitely check him out!

    @Katie - Thanks for adding to my list - those are fantastic! JS Foer is practically a quote machine, and I so need to get some Murakami into my brain....Soon.

    @Bibliophiliac - That's a hard question to answer, frankly, because his writing is so diverse. I really like his essays (which is originally how I developed my "man crush" on him), and they're a little bit more digestible than his novels or short fiction. Maybe Consider The Lobster, or A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again would be good starts...But, of course, if you're feeling limber, Infinite Jest is amazing!

  5. "..enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life." -Fitzgerald, the Great Gatsby

    "Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin by which we see the blot? I know no speck so troublesome as self." -George Eliot

  6. Terrific post. Great selections!

  7. Just adding on the pile here:

    "Words... They're innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they're no good any more... I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you're dead."
    — Tom Stoppard from "The Real Thing"

  8. "Men are like slippers, after awhile they wear out. This is why I go barefoot now". Shalimar the clown by Salman Rushdie.

    I am not sure why this has stuck in my head, perhaps because when I read it, it was fitting for me. Like many other blogger here, I like quotes and write them down sometimes only to lose them.
    Great idea for a blog BTW. You always have something fresh to add to the world of blogging.

  9. That David Foster Wallace quote is especially haunting isn't it? I miss him a lot; didn't meet him; didn't know him, and yet I knew him in his books.


  10. Great idea! And it gives me an excuse to buy a new journal. I love your imagery about the forest and the trees BTW. You're quite the writer yourself.

  11. Some words of wit and wisdom from Jane Austen:

    "An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do." -Mr. Bennet,Pride & Prejudice

    "There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do, if he chooses, and that is, his duty; not by maneuvering and finessing, but by vigor and resolution. " -Mr. Knightley,Emma

    "Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”- Mary Crawford, Mansfield Park

    " He was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold hearted, and rather selfish, is to be ill-disposed: but he was, in general, well respected; for he conducted himself with propriety in the discharge of his ordinary duties. Had he married a more amiable woman, he might have been made still more respectable than he was; he might even have been made amiable himself; for he was very young when he married, and very fond of his wife. But Mrs. John Dashwood was a strong caricature of himself; more narrow-minded and selfish.":-Narrator,Sense & Sensibility

    "I hope I do justice to all that is felt by you, and by those who resemble you. God forbid that I should undervalue the warm and faithful feelings of any of my fellow-creatures! I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by woman. No, I believe you capable of everything great and good in your married lives. I believe you equal to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance, so long as -- if I may be allowed the expression, so long as you have an object. I mean while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one: you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone!" -Anne Eliot,Persuasion

    “I am no novel–reader — I seldom look into novels — Do not imagine that I often read novels — It is really very well for a novel.” Such is the common cant. “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."-Narrator,Northanger Abbey

  12. “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S. Lewis

    "Have you ever given someone a book you enjoyed enormously, with a feeling of envy because they were about to read it for the first time, an experience you could never have again?" --Jack Finney, Time and Again

    "Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?"--Henry Ward Beecher

    "Beware the man of one book."--anonymous

    "I am a part of everything that I have read."--John Kieran

  13. I love that you included the Nicole Krauss quote. It was a passage that stood out in the book (which I loved). Also, your quote from Infinite Jest makes me want to read the book even more than I did 2 minutes ago. Thanks for sharing!

  14. What a fantastic post! I love collecting and sharing book quotes :)

    "We . . . we could be friends, you know," said Coraline.

    "We COULD be a rare specimens of an exotic breed of African dancing elephants," said the cat. "But we're not. At least," it added cattily, after darting a brief look at Coraline, "I'M not." (Neil Gaiman, Coraline)

  15. It’s weird to feel like you miss someone you’re not even sure you know.
    — David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

    My guess is that there a lot of folks saying that about him these days.