What They Said

With each review, I add on the right side of the page in a text box, a quote from the author or someone who has said something  relating to the content.

To preserve that long history of quotes, as each is deleted when I post a new review, I collect them all here, where they take on a new meaning, no longer tied to a text, but free to be interpreted by you and I as we like.


“I truly believe that attention is the most sacred resource that we have to spend on this planet, and books are perhaps the last places where we spend this resource freely, and where it means the most.”

Tess GuntyThe Rabbit Hutch

“In life, time runs together in its sameness, but in fiction time is condensed—one action springboards into another, greater action. Cause and effect are so much clearer in novels than they are in life. You might not see how everything threads together as you read along, but when you look back from the end of the story, the map becomes clear.”

Ann PatchettThese Precious Days

“There is something at the bottom of every new human thought, every thought of genius, or even every earnest thought that springs up in any brain, which can never be communicated to others, even if one were to write volumes about it and were explaining one’s idea for thirty-five years; there’s something left which cannot be induced to emerge from your brain, and remains with you forever; and with it you will die, without communicating to anyone perhaps the most important of your ideas.” ― Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

In life, time runs together in its sameness, but in fiction time is condensed—one action springboards into another, greater action. Cause and effect are so much clearer in novels than they are in life. You might not see how everything threads together as you read along, but when you look back from the end of the story, the map becomes clear. Ann Patchett, These Precious Days

“Perhaps the compulsion to lay a woman’s life before me and slowly explore each layer started in the dissection room; so many of our most steadfast patterns are begun in those years between childhood and adulthood.”

Doireann Ní Ghríofa, A Ghost in the Throat

“To commemorate Veda’s life, Elizabeth planted thousands of daffodil bulbs in the grounds of Chapel school for the pupils to pick on Mother’s Day each year, so that no future mother would ever be forgotten.” Laura Cumming, On Chapel Sands

The boat story haunts us wherever we go.
I struggle with that story. I struggle with why we survived the sea when so many didn’t. I struggle to remember what made us take that terrible risk, what made us think our lives were that cheap. It was somehow worth that gamble. But from here, it’s hard to imagine how. Yusra Mardini, Butterfly, From Refugee to Olympian, My Story of Rescue, Hope and Triumph

There have always been all kinds of men and women, weak and strong, craven and gullible, intelligent and limited, good and bad, powerful and impotent. But you all can be certain of one thing: the women who lived in the vast, unforgiving, magnificent backlands in the early centuries of this country’s history could be many things—but silly and fragile they were not. Maria José Silveira, Her Mother’s Mother’s Mother and Her Daughters

“At the very center of all human life is energy, psychic energy. It is the force of that energy that drives us, that surges continually up in us, that must repeatedly spend and renew itself in us, that must perpetually be reaching for something beyond itself in order to satisfy its own insatiable appetite.”

Vivian GornickThe Next Great Moment in History is Theirs

“There are a lot of good things about dying. You are suddenly light and free and no longer afraid of death, sickness, judgement or religion; you don’t have to grow up fated to replicate the lives of others.

But the most important advantage of death is knowing something when I want to know it. Kon fayakon. Piece of cake. If I want to be somewhere, I am, just like that.” Shokoofeh Azar, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree

It has just been discovered that women carry fetal cells from all the babies they have carried. Crossing the defensive boundaries of our immune system and mixing with our own cells, the fetal cells circulate in the mother’s bloodstream for decades after each birth. The body does not tolerate foreign cells, which trigger illness and rejection. But a mother’s body incorporates into her own the cells of her children as if they recognize each other, belong to each other. This fantastic melding of two selves, mother and child, is called human microchimerism. My three children are carried in my bloodstream still….How did we not know this? How can this be a surprise?”

Meredith Hall, Without a Map, a Memoir

Stories themselves have spirit and being, and they have a way of communicating on different levels. The story itself communicates with us regardless of what language it is told in. Of course stories are always funnier and more vivid when they are told in their original language by a good storyteller. But what I love about stories is they can survive and continue in some form or other resembling themselves regardless of how good or how bad the storyteller is, no matter what language they are told or written in. This is because the human brain favours stories or the narrative form as a primary means of organising and relating human experience. Stories contain large amounts of valuable information even when they storyteller forgets or invents details. Leslie Marmon Silko

“Hell is a spark from our fruitless pain, Heaven a breath from our time of joy.Omar Khayyam

Sometimes there are things we do not understand, and we know their meaning, not through words but rather, the meaning is already inside us before others talk to us about it. Some meanings exist inside us but are sleeping. Then words that we understand come and wake us up. Shahad Al Rawi, The Baghdad Clock

“I am slowly, painfully discovering that my refuge is not found in my mother, my grandmother, or even the birds of Bear River. My refuge exists in my capacity to love. If I can learn to love death then I can begin to find refuge in change.” Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge

“I was well on the way to tacking together a sort of nature religion to make up fro Grandpa’s defection, an apotheosis of the back of beyond, in which I was just another thinking thing, neuter, drab, camouflaged. There’d be sermons in stones, and books to read in the haybarn, for ever and ever. Amen.” Lorna SageBad Blood

“While one lives in a foreign country, language’s main function is as a means of self-protection and a weapon in one’s fight with the world. You can’t fight without a weapon. But perhaps its human instinct that makes it even more imperative to somehow express oneself, convey meaning, connect with others.” Iwaki Kei, Farewell, My Orange

I’m so haunted by my father and my father’s silence around his war experiences. He was a navigator bombardier in WWII, came home and had a nervous breakdown.I wasn’t born yet so I never knew him, at that time in his life. But heard the stories from my siblings, of the screaming nightmares, and how thin he was; And my mother saying: “The fella that went to war never came home”.

My brothers were young men at the time of the Vietnam war, and I saw the changes that that wrought.

My father’s silence created a curiosity in me, to understand, What happens to the soul in war, that we cannot speak of, And what happens to the soul in war, That so changes a beautiful man, or our beautiful young men, in ways that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

And that probably has been one of the primary drivers , I now understand looking back, of a lot of my work, Trying to understand that, Trying to get to that broken soulful place, to understand it, And give it voice. Laura Harrington, author, A Catalog of Birds speaking to In the Balance on the impact of war.

Ásta turned the words over on her own tongue and heard the syllables answer and speak to one another. She felt the flowing tide of the lines and fancied she could discern a dim shadow of the gnarled  workmanship that had so moved her at home when her father recited the poetry of the mighty saga skald Egill Skallagrimsson. And she wondered then what it would feel like to make a poem from words, as you might make a stitching needle from a sheep’s bone, or a vest from woven wool, or a rope bound so strong from slender horse hair that it could swing a man through the air across a cliff face. To tie one word to another and one line to the next and with it let one person enter the mind and heart of another – would that not be a fine thing to do?’  Sally Magnusson, The Sealwoman’s Gift

“There are times now, and my life has changed so completely, that I think back on the early years and I find myself thinking: It was not that bad. Perhaps it was not. But there are times, too—unexpected—when walking down a sunny sidewalk, or watching the top of a tree bend in the wind, or seeing a November sky close down over the East River, I am suddenly filled with the knowledge of darkness so deep that a sound might escape from my mouth, and I will step into the nearest clothing store and talk with a stranger about the shape of sweaters newly arrived. This must be the way most of us maneuver through the world, half knowing, half not, visited by memories that can’t possibly be true. But when I see others walking with confidence down the sidewalk, as though they are free completely from terror, I realize I don’t know how others are. So much of life seems speculation.” Elizabeth Strout, My Name is Lucy Barton

‘This paying attention is the foundational act of empathy, of listening, of seeing, of imagining experiences other than one’s own, of getting out of the boundaries of one’s own experience. There’s a currently popular argument that books help us feel empathy, but if they do so they do it by helping us imagine that we are people we are not. Or to go deeper within ourselves, to be more aware of what it means to be heartbroken, or ill, or ninety-six, or completely lost. Not just versions of our self rendered awesome and eternally justified and always right, living in a world in which other people only exist to help reinforce our magnificence, though those kinds of books and comic books and movies exist in abundance to cater to the male imagination. Which is a reminder that literature and art can also help us fail at empathy if it sequesters in the Boring Old Fortress of Magnificent Me.’ Rebecca Solnit, The Mother of All Questions

‘Well then,’ he said. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘I am not sure. Liberty I suppose. I lived so long under constraints. You wonder why I grub about in the mud – it’s what I remember from childhood. Barely ever wearing shoes – picking gorse for cordial, watching the ponds boiling with frogs. And then there was Michael, and he was – civilised. He would pave over every bit of woodland, have every sparrow mounted on a plinth. And he had me mounted on a plinth. My waist pinched, my hair burned into curls, the colour on my face painted out, then painted in again. And now I’m free to sink back into the earth if I like – to let myself grow over with moss and lichen. Perhaps you’re appalled to think we are no higher than the animals, or at least, if we are, only one rung further up the ladder. But no, no – it has given me liberty. No other animal abides by rules – why then must we?’ Sarah Perry, The Essex Serpent

Vibe #34 Welcome to the Cave of your Heart

“The heart chakra is known as Anahata in Sanskrit, which means ‘unstuck’ and reminds us of an extremely important lesson: the heart can never be broken.

This lesson may  challenge you slightly, because we’ve all experienced being broken-hearted for a number of different reasons, but mainly losing someone who’s important to us or having a relationship end.

The universe wants you to know that your heart can never be broken, but your ego can convince you otherwise. The feeling of heartbreak is created when we feel separated from someone we love. Although this will feel very real, it is an illusion, because it contradicts everything we know to be true on a soul level.

On a soul level we know that we are love and that love moves through the entire universe,  uniting us as one. We are one. We are connected to everyone and everything that is, was and ever will be through the cave of our heart, but for some reason, the world convinces us that we can be separate.”

Kyle Gray, Raise Your Vibration

“When we were young, we were told that poetry is about voice, about finding a voice and speaking with this voice, but the older I get I think it’s not about voice, it’s about listening and the art of listening, listening with attention. I don’t just mean with the ear; bringing the quality of attention to the world. The writers I like best are those who attend.”  Kathleen Jamie

“The only way to take flight is to take a step out. To walk on a carpet of air, the consoling wind in my ears and the sun wending across the deep blue of the sky. The shriek weaving through my lips isn’t a shriek of fear but of life. A step out, a definitive decision. Space tamed.  Just enough time to comprehend the briefness of eternity. A step away from everything, from everybody, even myself.” Ananda DeviEve out of her Ruins

“But sometimes the night reveals the only truth that time passes and things will never be seen the same again.”  Delphine de ViganNo and Me

“It is not a bad thing that children should occasionally, and politely, put parents in their place.” Colette

“Marion’s architecture is in fact a machine she employs to survive Apartheid. As I started enquiring into her character this became important, that she was someone who was racist and had needed a certain kind of mindset and vocation to steady herself and justify her choices. Architecture is a profession that exercises an immense amount of power and control over space. It’s telling, for instance, that we speak of “the Architects of Apartheid”.” Yewande Omotoso, interviewed by  BBB (Bearded Book Boys)

“There was a kind of carelessness among the mothers we knew, or it looked like carelessness to outsiders but we knew it by another name. To the teachers at the school it probably looked as if they didn’t care enough to turn up for Parents’ Evening, where, at desk after desk, the teachers sat, staring into space, waiting patiently for these mothers who never came. And I can see that our mothers must have seemed a little careless when, informed by a teacher of some misbehaviour in the playground, they would – instead of reprimanding the child – begin shouting at the teacher. But we understood our mothers a little better. We knew that they, in their own time, had feared school, just as we did now, feared the arbitrary rules and felt shamed by them, by the new uniforms they couldn’t afford, the baffling obsession with quiet, the incessant correcting of their original patois or cockney, the sense that they could never do anything right anyway. A deep anxiety about “being told off” – for who they were, for what they had or hadn’t done done, and now for the deeds of their children – this fear never really left our mothers, many of whom had become our mothers when they were not much more than children themselves. And so “Parents Evening” was, in their minds, not so distant from “detention.” It remained a place where they might be shamed. The difference was now they were grown and could not be forced to attend.” Zadie Smith, Swing Time

“You have been taught that you are unclean, that you are not holy, that your body is impure and could never harbour the divine. You have been taught to despise everything you are and to long only to be a man. But you have been taught lies. God lies within you, God has returned to earth to teach you, in the form of this new power. Do not come to me looking for answers, for you must find the answers within yourself.” Naomi Alderman, The Power

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anaïs Nin

Two Kinds of Intelligence

There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,
as a child in school memorises facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the centre of the chest.

This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,
and it doesn’t move from outside to inside
through conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.
Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

“Novels can reflect our lives, yes, but also help us to stand in another person’s shoes. Show us another way to see the world. They are about empathy, about imagining, about the courage to speak out. Novels slip between the gaps in understanding and help us to listen to voices other than our own.” Kate Mosse

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilisation surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronise them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken a form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of earth.” Henry Beston, The Outermost House

There is silence and then the familiar smack of Beatrice Muriel’s palm against her forehead. “A love marriage,” she says. In her opinion, love marriages border on the indecent. They signify a breakdown of propriety, a giving in to the base instincts exhibited by the lower castes and foreigners. She believes marriages are too important to be relegated to the randomness of chance meetings and hormonal longings. They must be conducted with precision, calculated by experts, negotiated by a vast network of relations who will verify the usual things: no insanity in the family, evidence of wealth and fertility, the presence of benevolent stars. Nayomi Munaweera, Island of a Thousand Mirrors

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love, Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

“Adoption is outside. You act out what it feels like to be the one who doesn’t belong. And you act it out by trying to do to others what has been done to you. It is impossible to believe anyone loves you for yourself.

I never believed that my parents loved me. I tried to love them but it didn’t work. It has taken me a long time to learn how to love – both the giving and the receiving. I have written about love obsessively, forensically, and I know/knew it as the highest value.

I loved God of course, in the early days, and God loved me.That was something. And I loved animals and nature. And poetry. People were the problem. How do you love another person? How do you trust another person to love you?

I had no idea.
I thought that love was loss.
Why is the measure of love loss?.” Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

“I wonder now how we survived so long and the other men did not. Over and over I think of it. Ken and I were not any bigger or stronger or better or fitter than the other men. We did not pray any harder or believe any more than they did or do any more. We were not more worthy. It does not seem fair. But I realised out on the ocean that fair doesn’t come into it. There is nothing fair about any of it. Fair is something we men have invented to try and make sense of it all. But there is no sense. There is only what you do.” Louise Beech, How To Be Brave

“She had found a jewel down inside herself and she had wanted to walk where people could see her and gleam it around. But she had been set in the market place to sell.  Been set for still-bait. When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff that sang all the time and glittered all over. Then after that some angels got jealous and chopped him into millions of pieces, but still he glittered and hummed.  So they beat him down to nothing but sparks, but each little spark had a shine and a song. So they covered each one over with mud. And the lonesomeness in the sparks made them hunt for one another, but the mud is deaf and dumb. Like all the other tumbling mud-balls, Janie had tried to show her shine.” Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

“Later, Ella looked for the two swallows in the eaves outside the window, watching them even more closely now. The thought of them flying all that way, across mountains and seas and returning here, because this was their home – of them knowing how to find it – changed things. It was a new way of seeing; this was no longer just the place where women and men were kept, but the home of other creatures too, ones that had travelled far and still chosen it because this, above all other places, was the place to bring their families into the world.” Anna Hope, The Ballroom

“That is the excitement. We catch only glimpses, a burst of movement, a flap of wings, yet it is life itself beating at shadow’s edge. It is the unfolding of potential; all of what we might experience and see and learn awaits us.” Eowyn IveyTo the Bright Edge of the World

“I would never be part of anything. I would never really belong anywhere, and I knew it, and all my life would be the same, trying to belong, and failing. Always something would go wrong. I am a stranger and I always will be, and after all I didn’t really care.” Jean Rhys, Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography

“It’s not true that memory is a safe place. In there too, things get distorted and lost. In there, too, we end up turning away from the people we love the most.” Rodrigo HasbúnAffections

“It was too quiet for hope, and then too loud for safety.

She thought of the people she had lost, of the affection, the smiles, the belonging she could never again take for granted. It was the end of a life, and as she stood there, shivering in the brief night-time chill, it dawned on her that it was the end of her childhood.” Radhika SwarupWhere the River Parts

“My little ember”, she’d whisper, “if you ever get on a horse, keep good hold of the reins so that its not the horse that rides you.” And as I clung to her, breathing in her nutmeg smell, Queen Without a Name would sigh, caress me, and go on, distinctly, as if to engrave the words on my mind: “Behind one pain, there is another. Sorrow is a wave without end. But the horse mustn’t ride you, you must ride it.” Simone Schwarz-BartThe Bridge of Beyond

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your  one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver, Poet

“Violence is part of being human, and how can I accept that I am one of those human beings? That kind of suffering always haunts me.” Han Kang, Interview with Krys Lee, World Literature Today

“We do not forget the forests when we have removed the trees. We make gardens to give us the pleasurable illusions of wilderness.”

“I myself,” said Duquet, “despise the gloomy and unruly forest, even while recognising that it is a source of wealth and comforts. Yet I would never make a garden alluding to it.”

“Of course you would not. You do not understand the saying ‘tian ren he yi’. It refers to a state of harmony between people and nature. You do not feel this. No European does. I cannot explain it to you. It is a kind of personal philosophy for each person, yet it is everything.” Annie ProulxBarkskins

He had already been so long in the world: he had seen it change and seem to spin faster with every passing year, and he felt like a remnant from some long-buried time, a thorny weed still stretching up, for as long as it possibly could, towards the sun. Robert Seethaler, A Whole Life

Torture, like love, destroys, distorts, and transforms. Indubitably. Love, like torture, alters bodies. From the precipices of torment. Both love and torture mortify the soul deep in one’s inner chaos. Where the self disintegrates. Fariba Hachtroudi, The Man Who Snapped His Fingers

“Some memories never heal. Rather than fading with the passage of time, those memories become the only things that are left behind when all else is abraded.

The world darkens, like electric bulbs going out one by one. I am aware that I am not a safe person.

Is it true that human beings are fundamentally cruel? Is the experience of cruelty the only thing we share as a species?

Is the dignity that we cling to nothing but self-delusion, masking from ourselves this single truth: that each one of us is capable of being reduced to an insect, a ravening beast, a lump of meat?

To be degraded, damaged, slaughtered – is this the essential fate of humankind, one which history has confirmed as inevitable?” Han KangHuman Acts

“Ruth taught me how to control my mind, and in doing so she helped me stop reliving the shame and the anxiety and fear of imagining possible future events playing on the radio station of my mind.

Or perhaps more important, she taught me not to respond emotionally to these thoughts the same way I had previously.

She taught me the pointlessness of wishing for a different past and the futility of worrying about all of the frightening futures over which I had no control.” James R.Doty, MDInto The Magic Shop

“In Sri Lanka, when two strangers meet, they ask a series of questions that reveal family, ancestral village, and blood ties until they arrive at a common friend or relative. Then they say, “Those are our people, so you are our people.” It’s a small place. Everyone knows everyone.”

“But in America, there are no such namings; it is possible to slip and slide here. It is possible to get lost in the nameless multitudes. There are no ropes binding one, holding one to the earth. Unbound by place or name, one is aware that it is possible to drift out into the atmosphere and beyond that, into the solitary darkness where there is no oxygen.” Nayomi MunaweeraWhat Lies Between Us

“My practise is remembering that although whatever is happening, including my emotional response to it, is the lawful consequence of myriad causes that are beyond my control, the relationship I hold toward it all is within my control. I can choose on behalf of happiness.” Sylvia Boorstein, Happiness is an Inside Job

“I know I am as guilty as I can be, but I have my happiness which I guard like a wolf, and I have authority now and a certain amount of daring, which I never had before.” Jane BowlesTwo Serious Ladies

‘In the arc of an unremarkable life, a life whose triumphs are small and personal, whose trials are ordinary enough, as tempered in their pain as in their resolution of pain, the claim of exclusivity in love requires both a certain kind of courage and a good dose of delusion.’ Alice McDermott, Charming Billy

‘The paradox is this – we do love lies. The truth is dull and half-asleep. But lies are nimble, spirited, alive. And lying is a craft.’ Jim Crace, The Gift of Stones

“Harriet had asked her new husband to take her with him. she clung to him and pleaded – she who never whined or complained, who carried herself so well. But she was a woman who longed for the unfamiliar and strange. As a child she’d seen it waiting for her, in dreams or in the colossal darkness of the sky: some wild world which lay outside the realm of everything she knew.” Rose Tremain, The Colour

“There’s a big moon shining on the yard, chalking our way onto the lane and along the road. Kinsella takes my hand in his. As soon as he takes it, I realise my father has never once held my hand, and some part of me wants Kinsella to let me go so I won’t have to feel this. It’s a hard feeling but as we walk along I begin to settle and let the difference between my life at home and the one I have here be. He takes small steps so we can walk in time. I think about the woman in the cottage, of how she walked and spoke, and conclude that there are huge differences between people.” Claire Keegan, Foster

“Writing for me is thinking, and it’s also a way to position myself in the world, particularly when I don’t like what’s going on.” Toni Morrison

“When I was born, I had thirteen names. Each name was from a different generation, beginning with my father and going back from him. I was the first one in our village to have thirteen names. Our family was considered blessed to have such a history. Everyone in our family had been born and died on that land. We fed it with our bodies longer than any other, and it was assumed I would do the same, and so would my children. I knew from a very young age, though, that I would never want that .” Dinaw Mengestu, All Our Names

“I don’t ask people about socialism, I ask about love, jealousy, childhood, old age, music, dances, hairstyles. The myriad sundry details of a vanished way of life. This is the only way to chase the catastrophe into the framework of the mundane and attempt to tell a story.” Svetlana Alexievich, Winner of Nobel Prize for Literature, 2015

He asked the receptionist to translate the name of the place. The clerk laughed and said it was called Fire, Walk With Me.”It sounds like the title of a David Lynch film,” said Fate.
The clerk shrugged and said that all of Mexico was a collage of diverse and wide-ranging homages.
“Every single thing in this country is an homage to to everything in the world, even the things that haven’t happened yet,” he said.  Roberto Bolaño3. The Part About Fate, 2666

“…people will tell you that in places like the Caribbean, West Africa and so on, we have two distinct elements. We have history which is written in books about the white people — how they came to Guadeloupe, how they colonized Guadeloupe, how they became the masters of Guadeloupe — and you have memory, which is the actual facts of the people of Guadeloupe and Martinique — the way they lived, the way they suffered, the way they enjoyed life. We are trained to rely more on our memories and the memories of people around us than on books.” Maryse CondéInterview with Megan Doll, Bookslut

“Is Siobhan here?” I asked, for in truth I only wished I could endure the innocence of more canine chitchat.

In truth, I was guilty and the guilty want to be unburdened; talk of innocence only weighs us down. Jennifer TsengMayumi and the Sea of Happiness

“Guests can be, and often are, delightful, but they should never be allowed to get the upper hand.” Elizabeth von ArnimAll the Dogs in My Life, A Memoir

‘He raised her and smiled with such kindness and affection that I felt sensations of a peculiar and overpowering nature; they were a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as I have never before experienced, either from hunger or cold, warmth or food; and I withdrew from the window, unable to bear these emotions.’ Mary ShelleyFrankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus

‘Earlier, when the Excalibur had docked, North had spied on the landlockers from under the canvas top of her coracle. They all seemed haggard and hunched in their hard-won refinery, as if even the crust of soil they’d allowed the circus was too much. It didn’t matter that damplings outnumbered landlockers ten to one; they had land, and land meant food, and food meant power, and no one was allowed to forget that.’  Kirsty Logan,  The Gracekeepers

‘My father’s skin was the colour of corruption: copper, gold, ore; his eyes were grey, his hair was red, his nose was long and narrow; his father was a Scots-man, his mother of the African people, and this distinction between “man and “people” was an important distinction, for one of them came off the boat as part of a horde, already demonized, mind blank to everything but human suffering, each face the same as the one next to it; the other came off the boat of his own volition, seeking to fulfil a destiny, a vision of himself he carried in his mind’s eye.’

<b>Jamaica Kincaid</b>
<i>the autobiography of my mother</i>

“What people see as fearlessness is really persistence. Because I am focused on the solution, I don’t see danger. Because I don’t see danger, I don’t allow my mind to imagine what might happen to me, which is my definition of fear. If you don’t foresee the danger and see only the solution, then you can defy anyone and appear strong and fearless.” Wangari Maathai, Unbowed, One Woman’s Story

And if this is the same, dark, endless night that has been going on ever since that afternoon, why bother recalling a time that does not exist, a time that lies like sand on my heart?

Like sand, the silence will bury the houses. Like sand, the houses will crumble. I can hear them moaning. Solitary. Somber. Smothered by the wind and the vegetation.

They will all fall little by little, in no particular order, without hope, dragging the others with them as they fall. Some will collapse only very slowly beneath the weight of moss and solitude. Others will collapse suddenly, violently, clumsily, , like animals brought down by the bullets of a patient, inexorable hunter. But all of them, sooner or later, some resisting longer than others, will, in the end, , restore to the earth what has always belonged to the earth, what the earth has been waiting for since the first inhabitant of Ainielle first stole it.

Julio LlamazaresThe Yellow Rain


I feel like a homing pigeon
longing for my dovecote
Havana is in my heart
city of poets
city of freedom
streets of words
alleys of wonder
busy marketplace
of ideas
written and spoken
shared and daydreamed
embraced and rejected
replaced or loaded
onto the wings
carried home

Margarita EngleThe Poet Slave of Cuba – A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano

I sank into a big armchair, intent on capturing this moment: my grandparents, the smell of the Romeo y Julieta, the perfect idleness of a Saturday afternoon that seemed eternal. It didn’t last long. In that moment the glass seemed half-full, yet a nagging doubt prevented me from draining it.

Maybe that’s the way I’ve always been, from the moment I emerged from my mother’s belly and was launched into the world; I know what I want and how to get it, but once I have it in my grasp there is always some part of me that refuses to relax, to enjoy the moment; a part of me that is already worrying about what will come next, about a future that has not yet taken shape.

That afternoon remains in my memory as the first time I became aware of my limitations. I can never live entirely in the moment. There is always a part of me that is absent, not where I am seen to be, where I seem to be,a part that is somewhere in the future, waiting for the call “action stations”. Marcelo FiguerasKamchatka

‘When we understand them, things are good to us, they’re on our side, as soon as there’s any confusion, I’ve noticed, as soon as we don’t understand them, things hurt us. I kept looking out for Stan, trying to spot him way out to sea, wanting him so badly but unable to speak, and sleep was no longer a refuge, just a place. A place where anything can happen, anything can pounce on you, and you go down, you go down somewhere deep, no one to catch you, you just keep falling. I went there. Crushed. Punished. Worn down.’  Véronique OlmiBeside The Sea

‘Don’t drink the water and do not touch it,’ he told them. It was a beautiful lake that had formed after the explosion on an atomic bomb. A fairy-tale lake, right there in the middle of the flat, level steppe, a stretch of emerald-green water, reflecting the rare stray cloud. No movement, no waves, no ripples, no trembling – a bottle-green, glassy surface with only cautious reflections of the boys’ and girls’ faces as they peeped at its bottom by the shore. Could there possibly be some fairy-tale fish or monster of the deep to be found in this static, dense water? Hamid IsmailovThe Dead Lake

“I want to catch words one day. I want to hold them

Then blow gently,

Watch them float

Right out of my hands” Jacqueline WoodsonBrown Girl Dreaming

“Her mind grew sharp with excitement as her feet picked up the choreography – and suddenly she understood the language of the dance.

Go South! sang the bee’s steps. For this long!

There were fields – she described the pattern of the crops –
the heavy waving heads of grain, the great west current of air that always blew through them – more fields, the stream, count two fences

Then East! And the forager ran again, swirling, and buzzing her abdomen to urge more sisters to follow. Many bees shouted in excitement and ran to leap into the air themselves, but Flora followed close behind this wonderful bee, copying her steps.” Laline PaullThe Bees

“Don’t be timid. You’re a writer, use your role, test it, make something of it. These are decisive times, everything is turning upside down. Participate, be present. And begin with the scum in your area, put their backs to the wall.”


“By writing. Frighten Soccavo to death, and others like him. Promise you’ll do it?”

“I’ll try.”

She gave me the name of an editor at l’Unita. Elena Ferrante,Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

“I don’t think you can really understand, not being a writer yourself, how much an erroneous outlook can inhibit the free development of your creative faculties.

That’s why nothing could be further from my earlier work than the novel I’m planning today.

All the logic and consistency that I demanded from my characters, I also used to insist on for myself, in order to make them genuine. It wasn’t natural.

We so often prefer to lead lives that aren’t authentic rather than fail to live up to the portrait we drew of ourselves right at the beginning.

It’s absurd – and by doing it we run the risk of distorting what’s best in us.”

André Gide
The Vatican Cellars

“Slowly, however, as the film went on, she saw that no matter what they watched, it would remind them of their circumstances more than anything that had been said all day in the house. She did not know whether it was right or wrong for her to sit like this with them in a silence broken only by the dramatic music and the soft voices coming from the television…

The message in this was so obvious that Nora did not have to wonder what the boys were thinking about, they were thinking that this was what their father had done. She was thinking it too, and it registered the same for all of them, she thought, so that when it was over there was no need to mention it.”  Colm Tóibín, Nora Webster

“There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. and then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes.

Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer.

And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are . Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk

“In her way, her strangeness, her naivete, her craving for the other half of her equation was the consequence of an idle imagination.

Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings; had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with with all she yearned for.

And like any artist with no art form, she became dangerous.” Toni Morrison, Sula

“People will feel I see too much good in people. So it’s a criticism I have to put up with and I’ve tried to adjust to, because whether it is so or not, it is something which I think is profitable.

It’s a good thing to assume, to act on the basis that…others are men of integrity and honour…because you tend to attract integrity and honour if that is how you regard those with whom you work.” Nelson Mandela, Good Morning, Mr Mandela, by Zelda la Grange

“You know, this Nissen hut, this was the Italians’ escape. They didn’t build a tunnel…they built a chapel. It’s a symbol.”

“Of what?”

“Hope. Tell the men, Jack, to leave the chapel and the statue. Make sure nobody misunderstands what I am saying.”

“You’re the boss.” Philip Paris, The Italian Chapel

“Dear God,” Elena said. “These older daughters and their mothers! I can’t get free of them. You’re all so tough and petrified and hopeless.”

And Rosa wept and was comforted. Tove Jansson, The Great Journey, Art in Nature

“I looked at the colours I had mixed. I always tried to choose many shades of a single colour, then slice into it, break the colour up with something unexpected. Now they were both in my doorway. Mum and Svenn, smiling at me. They’ve succeeded I thought, in finding someone they resemble to the point of disappearing.” Hanne ØrstavikThe Blue Room

“A missing woman is just another leaf that goes down the gutter in a rainstorm, she said. No one cares about Ruth, my mother added. She was stolen like a car.” Jennifer ClementPrayers or the Stolen

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Mark Twain

“There is no better way to know us
Than as two wolves, come separately to a wood.”  Ted Hughes

“The stranger was the first to come upon a cave on the east side, but I was the first to notice the curious drawings on the rock walls….

The little figures so free of all connection, exiled here in the heart of wilderness. There were too many questions here, and the dreariness of no answers. Here people had come and gone, again come and gone, dreary, to all eternity.” Wilma StockenströmThe Expedition to the Baobab Tree

“It was simply that she was only fully alive when she devoted herself to her singular ability to draw, and when she drew she was naturally always alone.”  Tove Jansson, The True Deceiver

“I thought that it’s useless to race if we always have to travel the same incomprehensible road of our personality. Some creatures are born to live, others to work, others to watch life. I had a small, miserable role as a spectator. Impossible to get out of it. Impossible to free myself. A dreadful grief was the only reality for me then.” Carmen Laforet, Nada

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.

To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again.

To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” Henry David Thoreau, Walking

“The length of his walk uniformly made the length of his writing. If shut up in the house, he did not write at all.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“And yet by early autumn, once or twice a week, at certain moments of the day, sitting out in the Jardin des Plantes beneath massive hedges or reading beside her father’s workbench, Marie-Laure looks up from her book and believes she can smell gasoline under the the wind. As if a great river of machinery is steaming slowly, irrevocably, toward her.” Anthony Doerr, All The Light We Cannot See

“History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another’s pain in the heart our own.” Professor Julius Lester

“The spirit of an artist’s gifts can wake our own.” Lewis HydeThe Gift

“Eddie had come to understand that what a man saw and what actually existed in the natural world often were contradictory. The human eye was not capable of true sight, for it was constrained by its own humanness, clouded by regret, and opinion, and faith.

It was the eye of the camera that captured the world as it truly was. For this reason photography was not only Eddie’s profession, it was his calling. ” Alice HoffmanThe Museum of Extraordinary Things

“It is not wise to mix ones friends…

Put each of them in a drawer,
and don’t open one drawer
without being certain that
the others are tightly shut.” Michel DéonThe Foundling Boy  (Le jeune homme vert)

“And all the stars were crashing round
As I laid eyes on what I’d found.”  The DecemberistsThe Crane Wife 1

“I asked myself what it is that forms the truth of a person, what happens when you grow up without memories, who were those people who had known me and of whom I knew nothing, whether some part of them – a word, an image, a smell – had stayed with me.” Hélène GesternThe People in the Photo

“We all resemble more or less
our Mother Eve: we’re never falling
for what’s been given us to take;
to his mysterious tree the snake
is calling us, for ever calling –
and once forbidden fruit is seen,
no paradise can stay serene.”   Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin

“And even if something had once been committed to paper, did it mean that it was still true? Always true?

Unlike the relative permanence of paint, words were temporal. You uttered them and they evanesced, but if you wrote them, they remained, though whether the written word was any more truthful than the spoken was a mystery to her.

Only paint was honest.” Robin OliveiraI Always Loved You: A Novel

“The stories had renewed in me a sense of the purpose of my life. This feeling, an inexplicable renewal of enthusiasm after storytelling, is familiar to many people. It does not seem to matter greatly what the subject is, as long as the context is intimate and the story is told for its own sake.” Barry LopezLandscape and Narrative

Seeing Vladimir had defected,
Eugene, at Olga’s side. was racked
by fresh ennui as he reflected
with pleasure on his vengeful act. Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin

Now, she devours, with what attention,
delicious novels, laps them up;
and all their ravishing invention
with sheer enchantment fills her cup!

Theses figures from the world of seeming
embodied by the power of dreaming,

are coloured in a single tone,
all blend into Eugene alone.  Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin

“If you truly love a book, you should sleep with it, write in it, read aloud from it, and fill its pages with muffin crumbs.” – Anne Fadiman

“How could we possibly stay there in front of a book nursing our disappointment when everything was drawing us out of doors; the birds chasing one another in the branches by the window; the thought of our classmates escaping into the open country; but most of all a feverish desire to explore the part of the route verified by our vagabond guide – the last resource in our nearly empty sack, the one key yet to be tried…” Alain-FournierLe Grand Meaulnes, The Lost Domain

“Idle again by dedication,
oppressed by emptiness of soul,
he strove to achieve the appropriation
of other’s thought – a splendid goal;
with shelves of books deployed for action,
he read, and read – no satisfaction:
here’s boredom, madness or pretence,
here there’s no conscience, here no sense;…” Alexander Pushkin,Eugene Onegin

“It’s always been difficult for me to speak and express my innermost thoughts. I prefer to write. When I sit down and write, words grow very docile, they come and feed out of my hand like little birds, and I can do almost what I want with them; whereas when I try to marshal them in open air, they fly away from me.” – Philippe Claudel, Brodeck’s Report

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Jorge Luis Borges

“Life always gives us
exactly the teacher we need
at every moment.
This includes every mosquito,
every misfortune,
every red light,
every traffic jam,
every obnoxious supervisor (or employee),
every illness, every loss,
every moment of joy or depression,
every addiction,
every piece of garbage,
every breath.

Every moment is the guru.”   Charlotte Joko Beck

“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”  J.M. Barrie,Peter Pan

“He knew the secret police had infiltrated Croatian communities abroad, and he did not attend a single Mass in his own language until the end of communism.” Courtney Angela BrkicThe First Rule of Swimming

“There are people like me all over, the ones who want to remember, like I told Grace, different from the ones who want to forget.” Aminatta FornaThe Hired Man

I want to carry you
and for you to carry me
the way voices are said to carry
over water.    – Billy Collins, Aimless Love

“How I wished during those sleepless hours that I belonged to a different nation, or, better still, to none at all.” – W.G.Sebald, Vertigo

“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t.
I never painted dreams.
I painted my own reality.” – Frida Kahlo

“The silence of plants calms the mind. I am glad that plants do not run off like animals or fly away like birds. They stay put for hundreds of years, like oaks, or they vanish for winter and rise from the ground like the blue lily of the east, and they spread joyously like the balsam that flings its seeds far.” – Kristina CarlsonMr Darwin’s Gardener

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.” – Fyodor DostoevskyThe Idiot

“Books seem to me to be magic, and I wanted to be part of the magic.  And after a while it wasn’t enough, and I started making up a very imitative type of story, set in Canada – which was kind of odd, but it didn’t bother me.  It was a kind of recompense for not being able to get right into the world of the book. Books were so important to me. They were far more important than life.” – Alice MunroGuardian interview

“I am not sure I trust you.”
“You can trust me with your life, My King.”
“But not with my wine, obviously. Give it back.” – Megan Whalen Turner, The King of Attolia

“You do not write your life with words…
You write it with actions.
What you think is not important.
It is only important what you do.” – Patrick NessA Monster Calls

“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.” – Alice Walker

“All things are so very uncertain, and that’s exactly what makes me feel reassured.”  Tove Jansson


Every year, the bright Scandinavian summer nights fade away without anyone’s noticing. One evening in August you have an errand outdoors, and all of a sudden it’s pitch-black.  A great warm, dark, silence surrounds the house. It is still summer, but the summer is no longer alive. It has come to a standstill; nothing withers, and autumn is not ready to begin.  There are no stars yet, just darkness. The can of kerosene is brought up from the cellar and left in the hall, and the lamp is hung up on its peg beside the door. Tove JanssonA Summer Book

“So now I sing, I sing when the water orders me to sing. She is my mistress, she fuels me, she protects me from my own pain, from my own grief. I feel nothing, I am calm, I am one with her.” – Caroline SmailesThe Drowning of Arthur Braxton

“There are empty spaces that must be respected — those often long periods when a person can’t see the pictures or find the words and needs to be left alone.”  Tove Jansson Fair Play

“When we speak positively and refrain from evil speech, we surround ourselves with more and more positive energy, therefore sustaining our spiritual growth.

Conversely, when we speak negatively about others, our words stay with us wherever we go, blocking our happiness.

For instance, when we wake up in a bad mood for no apparent reason, Kabbalists explain there is a reason. The energy we created by maligning someone’s character yesterday adversely affects us today.

And if we don’t go through a process of cleansing that energy by apologizing or committing to never do it again, it continues to stay with and influence us in negative ways.

As a great Kabbalist once said, “Pay more attention to what goes out of your mouth than to what goes in.”.”

Michael Bergco-director of the Kabbalah Centre

“If we were in Tibet, I could walk out and stay with my parents until Evan was ready to come get me and work out our issues. When he came to get me, it wouldn’t be only our problem. We would both have to explain what we were arguing about to my parents and any older siblings present, describing exactly what happened , how we were feeling, and what we were thinking. Older people would tell us what we were doing wrong and what we needed to do to improve the situation.” Kunsang DolmaA Hundred Thousand White Stones

“We’ve long left the houses and stores behind, now we’re just driving between stretches and stretches of maize fields, which make me keep expecting to see hoers bent double, tilling; boys walking in front of ox-drawn plows, leading the oxen, the sounds of their whistles and cracking whips in the air, hoes hitting the earth, voices of women urging one another with song.

There are always moments like this, where it almost looks like the familiar things from back home will just come out of nowhere, like ghosts.” – NoViolet BulawayoWe Need New Names

“Obinze had imagined, foolishly, that Emenike would take him in, show him the way. He knew of the many stories of friends and relatives, who, in the harsh glare of life abroad, became unreliable, even hostile, versions of their former selves.” Chimamnda Ngozi Adichie Americanah

“There’s a red metal heart in the centre of the low front gate, skewered on a rotating hinge. It’s flaking now; the red is nearly gone. It needs to be scraped and sanded and painted and oiled. It still spins in the wind though. I can hear it creak, creak, creak as I walk away. A flaking, creaking, spinning heart.” – Donal RyanThe Spinning Heart

“It was neither a sign nor a coincidence that we were going to have mussels that evening. Yes, it was slightly unusual, and afterwards we sometimes spoke of the mussels as a sign, but they definitely weren’t; we also said they were a bad omen – that’s nonsense too. Nor were the mussels a coincidence. This evening of all evenings, we’d say, we decided to eat mussels. But it really wasn’t like that; you couldn’t call it a coincidence. after the event, of course, we tried to interpret our decision as a sign or coincidence, because what came in the wake of our abortive feast was so monumental that none of us have got over it yet.” – Birgit Vanderbeke, The Mussel Feast

“Asking myself what were the most important things in my childhood, I get the answer ‘Falling in love, riding and reading.’.” – Diana Athill Stet, an Editor’s Life

“Como Picasso y Almodavar,
Blahník pertenece al genio
Español mas universal.” – Guillermo Cabrera Infante

“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.” – Jack Handey

“My country of Afghanistan is a land of stories. We honour those who take us away from the hardship of life with a fine tale.  In winter when I was a child, I would sit with my family and our neighbours in our yurt around a low table. Opposite each other at the table, two master storytellers would commence a duel. The story duel might go on for hours.  We decided the winner in a quiet way, just by nodding at the man who had told what we considered the finest tale. From fragments of tales I could remember, and events in my own life and those of people I knew, we fashioned the stories of  The Honey Thief.”  Najaf Mazari, The Honey Thief

JEFFREY BROWN: And what was it like to construct that, though, as a novelist? Did you know how all these connections were going to happen?



COLUM MCCANN: I had no clue whatsoever. It drove me nuts.

And, you know, what you want to do is create the appearance of ease.

JEFFREY BROWN: I appreciate your saying “honestly” before you answer the question.

COLUM MCCANN: Yes, I know, because it — you know, it was tough. I never — you know, it’s sort of a process of exploring. You set out. Your boat goes out. And you think you’re going to crash. And often you do shipwreck, but every now and then, you find a little island. And then you go exploring. And that’s what it felt like for me.

Colum McCann in interview with Jeffrey Brown

“When I teach a psychotherapeutic technique, I often include Charles Dickens’A Christmas Carol on the reading list. I do this because I believe it’s a story about an extraordinary psychological transformation, and that Dickens teaches us something essential about how people change.

Scrooge doesn’t change because he is frightened – he changes because he’s haunted…Ultimately, Scrooge changes because the ghosts unpick his delusion that you can live a life without loss.

As Scrooge grieves for those he had loved but put out of his mind, he begins to regain the world he had lost. He comes to life.”    Stephen Grosz, The Examined Life

“Why am I making such a great effort and taxing my endurance and energy to write this book that no-one will read? Why do I have to write? Because I have always written, all my life, and have always striven to do so, and have always faltered on the way and hardly ever succeeded in getting published….

What is lacking? I have a feeling for language…”    Elisabeth De Waal, The Exiles Return

“We never tell the whole story whole, because a life isn’t a story; it’s a whole Milky Way of events and we are forever picking out constellations from it to fit who and where we are.” Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

“At the end of all those hot, tiring afternoons, I wonder what the point has been. Perhaps it is this: that as long as there are places to visit and things to find out, my mother and I still exist in the present; are engaged, still, in conversation. And then I think of the places I can’t go.” Emma Brockes, She Left Me the Gun

“There are some things in the heart that do not die and the loves of early childhood are the strongest loves of all.” Irfan Orga, Portrait of a Turkish Family

Water that’s poured inside will sink the boat
While water underneath keeps it afloat
Driving wealth from his heart to keep it pure
King Solomon preferred the title “Poor”

That sealed jar in the stormy sea out there
Floats on the waves because it’s full of air
When you’ve the air of dervishood inside
You’ll float above the world and there abide…       Rumi

“You know about the Mother Goddess – the first female god, a fat woman with a lion on one side and a child between her legs. She was the first god of humankind.
Do you know why the ancient people of Anatolia chose her as their god? Because men were not aware of their roles as impregnators. They thought that it was the wind, the rain, the rivers, in short, nature, that impregnated women. And this was not at all a strange idea at the time. People viewed themselves as part of nature. They thought birth was magic, a miracle.” – Ahmet ÜmitPatasana

“Painting is the silence of thought and the music of sight.” – Orhan PamukMy Name is Red

“My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.” – Anaïs Nin

“Remember, remember always, that all of us,
and you and I especially,
are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”- Margaret Mitchell

“I Love A Sunburnt Country”

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of drought and flooding rains,
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me.

Dorothea MacKellar extract from her poem  I Love a Sunburnt Country

“It’s no good to complain about your flock,” she advised.
“A flock is nothing but the put-together of all your past choices.” – Barbara KingsolverFlight Behaviour

“So we beat on,
boats against the current,
borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us.
If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for?

So that it will make us happy, as you write?
Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to.

But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide.

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.
That is my belief.”

Franz Kafka

Cat Owner’s Prayer

Because I’m only human,
It’s sometimes hard to be
The wise, all-knowing creature
That my cat expects of me.

And so I pray for special help
To somehow understand
The subtle implications
Of each proud meowed command.

Oh, let me not forget that chairs
Were put on earth to shred;
And what I like to call a lap
Is actually a bed.

I know it’s really lots to ask
But please, oh please, take pity;
And though I’m only human,
Make me worthy of my kitty!

Author Unknown

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I got a little tired of this idea of an authorial voice of complete knowledge or perfect wisdom….

I wanted to express that feeling of self-alienation or the sense of not really having a self at all.” – Zadie SmithInterview Magazine

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” – Charles William Eliot

She ordered a martini and encouraged me to, but said she couldn’t drink it with her medication. She just liked seeing it in front of her, like the old days, all set to do its little magic. Richard Ford extract from Canada

Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination. – Bertrand Russell

Give me my scallop shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gauge,
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.  Sir Walter Raleigh – from his poem The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi

“How objects are handed on is all about story-telling. I am giving you this because I love you. Or because it was given to me. Because I bought it somewhere special. Because you will care for it. Because it will complicate your life. Because it will make someone else envious. There is no easy story in legacy. What is remembered and what is forgotten?” Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes, A Hidden Inheritance

“There are some men whose only mission among others is to act as intermediaries; one crosses them like bridges and keeps going.” Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education

Dear Jansson san

Thank you for your very wise letter.
I understand the forest’s big in Finland and the sea too but your house is very small.
It’s a beautiful thought, to meet a writer only in her books.
I’m learning all the time.

I wish you good health and a long life.
Your Tamiko Atsumi

Tove Jansson an extract from Correspondence, A Winter Book

“Though my body comes down mechanically, having been trained that way by punctual parents, my soul never thinks of beginning to wake up for other people till lunch-time, and never does so completely till it has been taken out of doors and aired in the sunshine.
Who can begin conventional amiability the first thing in the morning? It is the hour of savage instincts and natural tendencies; it is the triumph of the Disagreeable and the Cross.
I am convinced that the Muses and the Graces never thought of having breakfast anywhere but in bed.” Elizabeth von Arnim,  Elizabeth and her German Garden

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” – Rumi

“We deceive ourselves when we fancy that only weakness needs support. Strength needs it far more.” – Madame Swetchine

“A bag has no intentions or desires of its own, it embraces every object that we ask it to hold. You trust the bag, and it, in return, trusts you. To me, a bag is patience; a bag is profound discretion” – Yoko Ogawa, from Sewing for the Heart,  Revenge

“If we work always in words, sometimes we need to recuperate in a place where language doesn’t join up, where we’re thrown back on a few elementary nouns. Sea. Bird. Sky.” – Kathleen Jamie, Findings

“The existence of forgetting has never been proved: we only know that some things do not come to our mind when we want them to.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“The more one is able to leave one’s cultural home, the more easily is one able to judge it, and the whole world as well, with the spiritual detachment and generosity necessary for true vision.” – Edward Said, Orientalism

“It is greed that blurs our conscience just as a black cloud covers the sun or the moon. Feelings between father and son, teacher and student, brother and brother can all be maligned and destroyed by greed.” – Dương Thu Hương

‘“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” – Madeleine L’Engle

‘Remember this, Komar,’ I told him, ‘The stupid neither forgive or forget; the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget. And, if the years have taught me anything, it is a wisdom of sorts.’ – Martin Booth, The Industry of Souls

“Novel-writing can be a cold-blooded business. One uses whatever happens to be lying around in memory and employs it to suit one’s ends. Then again, during the months whilst one is writing about the past, a story is coloured by what presently is happening to its writer. So, imperceptibly, the tone of voice changes, original intentions slip away. And I found myself looking through another window at a darker landscape inhabited by neither the present nor the past.” – J.L.Carr

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” – Charles William Eliot

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”  – Oscar WildeThe Critic as Artist

“My candle burns at both ends,
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends
It gives a lovely light!”  – Edna St.Vincent Millay

“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”  J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

“Writing is a struggle against silence.”  Carlos Fuentes

“That’s what the world is, after all: an endless battle of contrasting memories.” Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” – George Bernard Shaw

“Luck is everything… My good luck in life was to be a really frightened person. I’m fortunate to be a coward, to have a low threshold of fear, because a hero couldn’t make a good suspense film.” – Alfred Hitchcock

“It’s always been difficult for me to speak and express my innermost thoughts. I prefer to write. When I sit down and write, words grow very docile, they come and feed out of my hand like little birds, and I can do almost what I want with them; whereas when I try to marshal them in open air, they fly away from me.”
― Philippe ClaudelBrodeck: A novel

“Never meet a person’s anger directly. Deflect, distract him, even agree with him. Unbalance his mind, and you can lead him anywhere you want.”  Tan Twang Eng, The Gift of Rain

“Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to stay whimpering at the back door.” ― Hilary MantelBring Up the Bodies

“Lulled in the countless chambers of the brain, our thoughts are linked by many a hidden chain; awake but one, and in, what myriads rise!” – Alexander Pope

“Be sure to enjoy language, experiment with ways of talking, be exuberant when you don’t feel like it – language can make your world a better place to live.” – Deborah Levy

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
Haruki Murakami

To write, Marguerite Duras remarked, is also not to speak. It is to keep silent. It is to howl noiselessly.

“no man is safe who happens to fall in company with a lady of somewhat mature age, with an excitable imagination and a cacoethes scribendi“― Observer newspaper 1856

“We clung to it – the possibility that he existed among us, even as a ghost, even as an echo or shadow – because to let go was to relinquish our hope, to admit and submit to utter, irreversible despair.”― Vaddey Ratner, In the Shadow of the Banyan

“If you want to know a country, read its writers.” ― Aminatta Forna

“In the red tent, the truth is known. In the red tent, where days pass like a gentle stream, as the gift of Innana courses through us, cleansing the body of last month’s death, preparing the body to receive the new month’s life, women give thanks — for repose and restoration, for the knowledge that life comes from between our legs, and that life costs blood.” – Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?” – Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1846)

“And he knows then that his hands are made from the same stuff as those that worked here long ago. That there is memory deep in these hands, in the bones and the flesh.” – Vanessa Gebbie, The Coward’s Tale

“A bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.” – Ecclesiastes 10:20

“The person you are (in total, at that moment in time) is what creates the story you’re writing. It’s infused in every piece of punctuation, in the plot, in the most minor character who crosses the page. It’s all your voice.” — Victor Lavalle

“It is what our imagination feasts off, the bone, not the meat, the bits that are left behind. The less you are given the more you can make up; once you make a story up, it is hard not to believe it yourself.” — Jackie Kay, Red Dust Road

“Our whole spiritual transformation brings us to the point where we realise that in our own being, we are enough.” — Ram Dass

“And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.” — Thomas Hardy, excerpt from The Convergence Of The Twain

“The Man Booker Prize is a very strange thing. It’s a huge thing in an author’s career. When you go back to your desk and you’re confronted with the blank paper, the blank screen, you’re faced with the realisation that you are only as good as your next sentence. But, of course, I do have this Man Booker stamp of quality which, with readers… will do me nothing but good.” — Hilary Mantel, Man Booker Prize-winner 2009

“She was fine when she left here.” – Belfast Residents on the Titanic

“Prodigal Summer, the season of extravagant procreation. It could wear out everything in its path with its passionate excesses, but nothing alive with wings or a heart or a seed curled into itself in the ground could resist welcoming it back when it came.” – Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer

“We’ll always have Paris.” –  Howard Koch

“We encounter books at different times in life, often appreciating them, apprehending them, in different ways.  But their language is constant. The best sentences orient us, like stars in the sky, like landmarks on a trail.” ― Jhumpa Lahiri, My Life’s Sentences

“You fix what you can fix and you let the rest go. If there ain’t nothin to be done about it it aint even a problem. It’s just a aggravation.”― Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for. – Ray Bradbury

“Thus great Achilles, who had shown his zeal In healing wounds, died of a wounded heel.” – O.W.Holmes

“A country is considered the more civilised the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak and a powerful one too powerful.”    — Primo Levi

“Wine makes a symphony of a good meal.”  – Fernande Garvin, in ‘The Art of French Cooking’

“Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated.  You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” – David Lloyd George

“A perfect woman, nobly plann’d, to warn, to comfort, and command; And yet a spirit still, and bright with something of an angel light.”  – William Wordsworth, 19th Century Poet

“For just when ideas fail, a word comes in to save the situation.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“If one way be better than another, that you may be sure is Nature’s way.”  – Aristotle

“She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbor:

“Winter is dead.”

–  A.A. Milne, ‘When We Were Very Young’

“I know I am but summer to your heart, and not the full four seasons of the year.” – Edna St. Vincent Millay

“A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.” – Chinese Proverb

“There is no essential truth about being a female writer. The best writing comes from the boundaries, the ungendered spaces between male and female…..”  –  Yvonne Vera in Writing Near the Bone

“A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells people you’re at home.” – Author Unknown

“Were it up to me to begin again, I would make  the same choice. Roses on the fence. I would travel the same roads that might or might not lead to Cordoba. I would lay my shadow down on two rocks, so that birds could nest on one of the boughs. I would break open my shadow for the scent of almond to float in a cloud of dust and grow tired on the slopes.”

Mahmoud Darwish extract from the poem ‘Were It Up to Me to Begin Again’

“In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.” – Alice Walker

“I’m ambitious. I worry, I have to believe that what I’m writing is exceptional, that it will be admired, and I get excited believing this but collapse when I lose faith.” –Emmanuel Carrère

“Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I learn.  Involve me and I remember.” – Benjamin Franklin

‘What is understood by essence, in the pure sense as used by mediaeval alchemists, for example, is the actual energy, the ‘soul’ of the plant.’ -Marguerite Maury

‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’ -Nelson Mandela

Pero yo ya no soy yo Ni mi casa es ya mi casa.  But now I am no longer I nor is my house any longer my house. ― Federico Garcia Lorca

“And there stand those stupid languages, helpless as two bridges that go over the same river side by side but are separated from each other by an abyss.  It is a mere bagatelle, an accident, and yet it separates…” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, in a letter to his wife, September 2, 1902, from Paris

“Dear, sweet Mabel,” she said. “We never know what is going to happen, do we? Life is always throwing us this way and that. That’s where the adventure is. Not knowing where you’ll end up or how you’ll fare. It’s all a mystery, and when we say any different we’re just lying to ourselves. Tell me, when have you felt most alive?” ― Eowyn Ivey, The Snow Child

“People never explain to you exactly what they think and feel and how their thoughts and feelings work, do they? They don’t have time. Or the right words. But that’s what books do. It’s as though your daily life is a film in the cinema. It can be fun, looking at those pictures. But if you want to know what lies behind the flat screen you have to read a book. That explains it all.” ― Sebastian Faulks, A Week in December

‘We don’t own Mother Earth, the Earth owns us’  – Mandawuy Yunupingu, lead singer of Yothu Yindi

“All this for the factory, for their possessions, for something that was, to their eyes more durable and faithful than love, women or their own children.” – Irène NémirovskyAll Our Worldly Goods

“Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, are all very good words for the lips.” – Charles Dickens 

“When you’re twenty, love is like a fever, it makes you almost delirious. When it’s over you can hardly remember how it happened…Fire in the blood, how quickly it burns itself out.”   – Irène Némirovsky

“The early mist had vanished and the fields lay like a silver shield under the sun. It was one of the days when the glitter of winter shines through a pale haze of spring.” – Edith Wharton Ethan Frome

“Treat the earth well, It was not given to you by your parents, It was loaned to you by your children.” – Indian Proverb

“Can one think that because we are engineers, beauty does not preoccupy us or that we do not try to build beautiful, as well as solid and long lasting structures? Aren’t the genuine functions of strength always in keeping with unwritten conditions of harmony?  Besides, there is an attraction, a special charm in the colossal to which ordinary theories of art do not apply.”   – Gustave Eiffel

“Every culture that has lost myth has lost, by the same token, its natural healthy creativity.  Only a horizon ringed about with myths can unify a culture.”   – Nietzsche, in The Birth of Tragedy

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”   – Confucius  

“If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:”

Rudyard Kipling, from the poem ‘If’

“Mathematics is the sister, as well as the servant, of the arts and is touched by the same madness and genius.” – Marston Morse
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
 “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” – Italo Calvino
“Books have led some to learning and others to madness.” – Petrarch
“All stories interest me, and some haunt me until I end up writing them. Certain themes keep coming up: justice, loyalty, violence, death, political and social issues, freedom.” – Isabel Allende
“If you can discover what you are like, if you can discover what you truly believe about most of the major matters of life, you will be able to write a story which is honest and original and unique” –Dorothea Brande

“Eternal truths are ultimately invisible, and you won’t find them in material things or natural phenomena, or even in human emotions.”  –  Yoko Ogawa

“Courage is grace under pressure.” – Ernest Hemingway

“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” – Honoré de Balzac

“Everything can change but not the language that we carry inside us.” –  Italo Calvino

“Beloved, you are my sister, you are my daughter, you are my face; you are me.” – Toni Morrison, Beloved


“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden


“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop (620 BC – 560 BC), ‘The Lion and the Mouse’


“Imagination rules the world.”  – Napoleon Bonaparte


” A nice girl should never go anywhere without a loaded gun and a big knife.” – Sarah Prine

12 thoughts on “What They Said

  1. You’ve got a lovely blog here. It is very thoughtful and respectful towards words and all their magic. And I appreciate the collection you’ve posted here. I liked this one a lot – “If we work always in words, sometimes we need to recuperate in a place where language doesn’t join up, where we’re thrown back on a few elementary nouns. Sea. Bird. Sky.” – Kathleen Jamie, Findings. I also like the proverb about the earth being on loan from our children. I wanted to let you know I’ll be reading your blog and thought you might like to read mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words, with each post I try to find a quote either from the author or someone connected in some way. In order not to lose those wonderful words, I then collect them here on this page and love how easily accessible they have now become and also how their meanings evolve when I look back on them, without the context of the initial book review. A constant source of enlightenment. Thank you so much for visiting and following and all the best in your endeavours.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Edith, each review I write, I find an accompanying quote, but once I post a new review the quotes are deleted, so I decided to create this page to keep them, they have a new life without the review and I just love to find new quotes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really, really like your collection of important passages.

    I used to keep my favorite quotes in a spiral notebook, and then it became unwieldy. But, I like having a source to which one can refer in order to remember the beauty of each book read.

    What a beautiful idea to keep it here, on your lovely blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Bellezza, I didn’t want to lose them, as these are quotes I haven’t put in the review, I put them to the side when I write the review and they are like the essence of something within the book that resonated. It’s interesting that often when I look back over them, they have a very different context, I see them outside the book and take something else from them. I’m so happy you stumbled across them and got some joy from them too. I still have my very first notebook of quotes from years ago, I guess this an extension of that little book. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • This year, as I make my way through the Bible again, I am writing down a verse each day that particularly strikes me. As you say, it can sometimes come across in a whole new meaning whenever I reread them. This has become a very special record for me, and I feel I must apply it to the literature I read as well. You’ve inspired me!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This one is a treasure. Thanks for creating this wonderful blog.
    I so happen to encounter one book that linked to this site and it really is good to read this one.
    I’m sharing this information and hopefully would inspire and motivate you guys.

    Eugene McCann is the Author of Jesus Was and Is Always with Me.


    Liked by 1 person

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