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Favorite Literary Quotes?

February 28, 2014

Hello dear readers (if any still exist after my prolonged absence).

I’m putting together a collage of sorts, and am looking for more excellently bookish quotes, or favorite quotes from books. I tend to forget to write down most of the quotes that I love while reading, so I don’t have all that many. I’d love to know what yours are to possibly add to my list.

Here are a number of mine:

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

People who claim that they’re evil are usually no worse than the rest of us… It’s people who claim that they’re good, or any way better than the rest of us, that you have to be wary of.

—Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

For what good is freedom of expression if you lack the means to express yourself?

—Roy Peter Clark, The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English

The relationship between book and reader is intimate, at best a kind of love affair, and first loves are famously tenacious. […] First love is a momentous step in our emotional education, and in many ways, it shapes us forever.

—Laura Miller, The Magician’s Book: A Sceptic’s Adventures in Narnia

“Choice” is sometimes not a choice at all. It is an outcome determined by the economic, physical, sociological, and political factors that surround women and move them toward the only action that allows them to survive at that point in their lives. Survival can sometimes be a woman’s act of staying alive, but it can also be her act of refusing to put what will become an impossible burden on her shoulders.

—Merle Hoffman, Intimate Wars: The Life and Times of the Woman Who Brought Abortion from the Back Alley to the Boardroom

I learned that this is what “at least” means: Move on. Get over it. Let’s not talk about it. It could be worse, so it must be better.

—Jennifer Gilbert, I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of Life Through Events – the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don’t

I wonder at how many of us, feeling unsafe and unprotected, either end up running far away from everything we know and love, or staying and simply going mad. I have decided today that neither option is more or less noble than the other. They are merely different ways of coping, and we each must cope as best we can.

— Shani Mootoo, Cereus Blooms at Night

It was in books that he first learnt of his invisibility. He searched for himself and his people in all the history books he read and discovered to his youthful astonishment that he didn’t exist.

—Ben Okri, Astonishing the Gods

There is a group of people with no positive illusions, who get closer to the truth about themselves, who have a more realistic perspective of their abilities, of how the future will pan out and of the amount of control they have over things. Philip Larkin described them as ‘the less deceived’. Psychiatrists call them clinically depressed.

—Ian Leslie, Born Liars: Why We Can’t Live Without Deceit

Stories are the wildest things of all, the monster rumbled. Stories chase and bite and hunt.

—Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls

i loved you on purpose
i was open on purpose
i still crave vulnerability & close talk
& i’m not even sorry bout you bein sorry
you can carry all the guilt & grime ya wanna
just dont give it to me
i cant use another sorry
next time
you should admit
you’re mean/ low-down/ trifflin/ & no count straight out
steada bein sorry all the time
enjoy bein yrself

— Ntozake Shange, For colored girls who have considered suicide / When the rainbow is enuf

If you want to love
Do so
To the ends of the earth
With no shortcuts
Do so
As the crow flies

— Veronique Tadjo, As the Crow Flies

Truth is relative, and there is always something missing in truth that prevents it from being perfect.

— Nawal El Saadawi, The Novel

Words could be magic, but not in the abracadabra way that Deshawn believed. The magic that came from lips could be as cruel as children and as erratic as a rubber ball ricocheting off concrete.

— Tayari Jones, Leaving Atlanta

I realized then that advice is easily given. How can one really know what another woman has to suffer, or the problems she has to deal with, if one hasn’t been through the same trauma oneself.

—Bharati Ray, Daughters: A Story of Five Generations

What about you  – do you have particular favorites of your own? What are they? Please do share in the comments!

18 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2014 7:16 pm

    Great quotes! I love quotes, but I am terrible for actually writing them down when I read books!

    • March 10, 2014 7:17 pm

      Same here unfortunately… I should change that, but haven’t started writing them down yet!

  2. trish422 permalink
    February 28, 2014 11:41 pm

    I love quotes, and many have I written down over the years – or at the least marked a page. Unfortunately, I have no clue where the notes are, and I’ve been donating hundreds of books, so no real way to look over those quotes I enjoyed so much while reading.

    • March 10, 2014 7:17 pm

      Oh no! That’s too bad Trish, I hope you come across your notes somewhere!

  3. buriedinprint permalink
    March 1, 2014 3:06 pm

    Nice to see you back! I have some short pages of bookish quotes on BIP if you want to stop by and have a peek. One of my favourites is “I trust books, and a wild trust is part of the passion.” Jeanette Winterson

    • March 10, 2014 7:18 pm

      That is a really great one BIP! I will hop over and check them out 🙂

  4. March 1, 2014 4:35 pm

    I have a few.

    “She was the third beer. Not the first one, which the throat receives with almost tearful gratitude; nor the second, that confirms and extends the pleasure of the first. But the third, the one you drink because it’s there, because it can’t hurt, and because what difference does it make?”
    — Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

    “Longed for him. Got him. Shit.”
    — Margaret Atwood

    “If women said they were sorry only when we really meant it, most of our conversations would be cut in half.”
    — from Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs by Pearl Cleage

    The men know that black women are women at the very least; magical at their zenith and biblical at the core. Being with a black woman was as sacred as dousing oneself in holy water.
    — from Camilla’s Roses by Bernice McFadden

    • March 10, 2014 7:19 pm

      That Atwood quote is hilarious!!! That is one that I must keep track of somewhere. Heh. (The others are also pretty awesome.)

  5. March 2, 2014 11:56 am

    I’ve got tons of quotes written down in my commonplace book, but of course I can’t find it now that I want it. :p I really recommend keeping one though! I love flipping back through it and looking at what I wrote down — they’re good quotations, and they’re also good little markers of how I was feeling and what I was thinking at different times in my life.

    • March 10, 2014 7:19 pm

      It really is a great idea Jenny, I should start doing that… I love the idea of being able to flip back through favourite quotes.

  6. March 7, 2014 2:28 am

    Of course you still have readers! 🙂 Missed you! (Although I’ve been absent too, hehe.)

    I never seem to manage to note down most of my favourite quotes, but if you’re looking for bookish-themed ones, there are some on my blog: http://astripedarmchair.wordpress.com/category/bookish-quotes/

    I’d like to start keeping a commonplace book, but I haven’t quite figured out the logistics yet. I think a regular journal would work best. Hmm.

    • March 10, 2014 7:20 pm

      Thanks Eva – I’ve missed you too!

      I tend to drag my books all over so that part of the quote journal seems the most difficult for me to figure out…

      Off to check out your quote page now!

  7. March 7, 2014 5:53 am

    Great quotes. What I do is I write the page and paragraph numbers of all interesting lines and later post it as my Quotes from that book before the review follows.

  8. shewhowaits permalink
    March 7, 2014 5:09 pm

    Some of mine: “Suppose we were planning to impose a dictatorial regime upon the American people — the following preparations would be essential:

    1. Concentrate the populace in megalopolitan masses so that they can be kept under close surveillance and where, in case of trouble, they can be bombed, burned, gassed or machine-gunned with a minimum of trouble.

    2. Mechanize agriculture to the highest degree of refinement, thus forcing most of the scattered farm and ranching population into the cities. Such a policy is desirable because farmers, woodsmen, cowboys, Indians, fishermen and other relatively self-sufficient types are difficult to manage unless displaced from their natural environment.

    3. Restrict the possession of firearms to the police and the regular military organizations.

    4. Encourage or at least fail to discourage population growth. Large masses of people are more easy manipulated and dominated that scattered individuals.

    5. Continue military conscription. Nothing excels military training for creating in young men an attitude of prompt, cheerful obedience to officially constituted authority.

    6. Divert attention from deep conflicts within society by engaging in foreign wars; make support of these wars a test for loyalty, thereby exposing and isolating potential opposition to the new order.

    7. Overlay the nation with a finely reticulated network of communications, airlines and interstate autobahns.

    8. Raze the wilderness. Dam the rivers, flood the canyons, drain the swamps, log the forests, strip-mine the hills, bulldoze the mountains, irrigate the deserts and improve the national parks into national parking lots.”

    –Edward Abbey Desert Solitaire (from the chapter entitled In the Heat of Noon: Rock and Tree and Cloud)

    “The consequences of our actions take hold of us, quite indifferent to our claim that meanwhile we have improved.” ~Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil

    “Most morality…[is] about doing the right thing because it [has] been identified as such by a long process of acceptance and observance. You simply [cannot] create your own morality because your experience would never be enough to do so” Alexander McCall Smith Morality for Beautiful Girls Brackets indicate changed tenses.

    When, like the river, we women keep to our banks, we give nourishment with all that we have: when we overflow them, we destroy with all that we are. — Rabindranath Tagore The Home and the World

    “…to set one’s heart on another means only pain and fear when they are taken away of prove cruel.” J.M. Windle Freedom’s Stand

    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 A Tale of Two Cities

    • March 10, 2014 7:28 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing some of your favourites – they’re great. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how our favourite quotes can show some of what matters most to us? I love it.

  9. Dario Zamorano permalink
    April 18, 2014 8:51 pm

    Can I recommend a book for all to read? It’s called “The Goldfinch.” It’s by Donna Tartt!

  10. May 5, 2014 10:54 am

    My two favorite quotations from my two favorite authors:
    Othello: “Virtue? A fig! ‘Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus.”
    Dirk Gently: “Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”

Please share your thoughts, discussion always welcome!

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