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"What they said": Quotable stuff

"What a bitch of a thing prose is!  It is never finished; there is always something to be done over. However, I think it can be given the consistency of verse. A good prose sentence should be like a good line of poetry—unchangeable, just as rhythmic, just as sonorous."

                —Gustave Flaubert

"A man that sleeps all night wastes too much of life."

               —Augustus McCrae, in Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove

If it were possible I would like to devote the fifty minutes of every class meeting to mute meditation, concentration, and admiration, of Dickens."

                —Vladimir Nabokov, to his students at Cornell

If you sift the world's prose literature . . . Dickens will remain; sift Dickens and David Copperfield will remain."

                —The Great Lev Nicholayevich Tolstoy

"Are these things then necessities? / Then let us meet them like necessities."

                —King Henry, in Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 2

"The more one reads and ponders the plays of Shakespeare, the more one realizes that the accurate stance toward them is one of awe. How he was possible, I cannot know, and after two decades of teaching little else, I find the enigma insoluble. . . . Bardolatry, the worship of Shakespeare, ought to be even more a secular religion than it already is. The plays remain the outward limit of human achievement: aesthetically, cognitively, in certain ways morally, even spiritually. . . . The answer to the question 'Why Shakespeare?' must be 'Who else is there?'"

                —Harold Bloom

"Too often the pattern that even the most scientific of critics 'discover' in a story is one that their interpretation put into it in the first place."

                —Wallace Martin

"Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune whose words do jar; nor his reason in frame whose sentence is preposterous; nor his elocution clear and perfect whose utterance breaks itself into fragments and uncertainties. . . . Negligent speech doth not only discredit the person of the speaker, but it discrediteth the opinion of his reason and judgment: it discrediteth the force and uniformity of the matter and substance."

                —Ben Jonson

"We took up Jane Eyre one winter's evening, somewhat piqued at the extravagant commendations we had heard, and sternly resolved to be as critical as Croker. But as we read on we forgot both commendations and criticism, identified ourselves with Jane in all her troubles, and finally married Mr. Rochester about four in the morning."

                —Anonymous reviewer

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one."

                —George R. R. Martin

"In the long run, a people is known, not by its statements or its statistics, but by the stories it tells."

               —Flannery O'Connor

"There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living."

                —Thoreau, in "Life Without Principle"

"It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman."

                — Proverbs 21:19

"It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first."

                —Elizabeth Bennet, in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

"If you are going through hell, keep going."

                —Winston Churchill

"How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are:
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

                —Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Ulysses"

On attending a great school: "You are not engaged so much in acquiring knowledge as in making mental efforts under criticism. A certain amount of knowledge you can indeed with average facilities acquire so as to retain; nor need you regret the hours you have spent on much that is forgotten, for the shadow of lost knowledge at least protects you from many illusions. But you go to a great school not for knowledge so much as for arts and habits; for the habit of attention, for the art of expression, for the art of assuming at a moment's notice a new intellectual posture, for the art of entering quickly into another person's thoughts, for the habit of submitting to censure and refutation, for the art of indicating assent or dissent in graduated terms, for the habit of regarding minute points of accuracy, for the habit of working out what is possible in a given time, for taste, for discrimination, for mental courage and mental soberness. Above all, you go to a great school for self-knowledge."

                —William Cory, Eton College, 1861

"[Cubs pitching coach] Billy Connors asked me the question one time, 'Do you ever want to find out how good you can be?' And I think I just always tried to find the answer to that question. I think it's just going out there and trying to find out how good you can be."

                —Legendary Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux