Favorite book quotes

In my Love in the Time of Cholera post, I mentioned that I liked the quote: “A man should have two wives: one to love and one to sew on his buttons.”  And I did, I thought it was funny.  But sometimes a passage from a book just speaks to you, manifests your feeling, but more eloquently, says it in a way you wish but know you never could.

Sometimes a quote is an instant classic, perfectly capturing the significance of a moment: “The horror, the horror” in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Famous beginnings: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”  Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

Sometimes it articulates a feeling you have felt, or wish you had felt:  “But it was too interesting, too new, too flattering, too deeply comforting to resist, it was a liberation to be in love and say so, and she could only let herself go deeper.” On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan (actually, this book speaks to me poignantly on a number of levels, both in literary substance and storyline.  Read it, and we can discuss).

Sometimes you admire a quote’s wording or simplistic conciseness:  “I suppose the shock of recognition is one of the nastiest shocks of all.”  The Secret History, Donna Tartt;  “Beauty is rarely soft or consolatory. Quite the contrary. Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.”   Id.

Sometimes everything an author says seems to speak our heart, speak the philosophical depths of our thought-secret souls:  “We are all more intelligent than we are capable, and awareness of the insanity of love has never saved anyone from the disease.”  On Love, Alain de Botton; also “There are things that are not spoken about in polite society. Very quickly in most conversations you’ll reach a moment where someone goes, ‘Oh, that’s a bit heavy,’ or ‘Eew, disgusting.’ And literature is a place where that stuff goes; where people whisper to each other across books, the writer to the reader. I think that stops you feeling lonely – in the deeper sense, lonely;” and “The moment we cry in a film is not when things are sad but when they turn out to be more beautiful than we expected them to be;” and finally “It is in books, poems, paintings which often give us the confidence to take seriously feelings in ourselves that we might otherwise never have thought to acknowledge.” The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton.

I recently came across two passages in a book I am reading that I liked very much, but wonder if they have any impact if taken out of context.  They are:

How lonely I am! he told himself.  Lonely in his battle against ignorance, in his love of wisdom, truth, and order.  Lonely in his love of beauty, too.  He wondered if in all the town there was one other who stopped now to behold the sunset.  That great slow soundless splash of color in the sky!  Its beauty pained him, it called him to respond—one was obliged to beauty.  And he wished with all his heart, that moment, for a way to answer, a way to praise it, for some one, even, to say to simply, “How beautiful it is.”
The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton, p. 121, and:
It was a habit he had, this falling in love with a schoolgirl; an affliction, like epilepsy, quiescent for long periods and cropping out unexpectedly, throwing him into fits.  Wild palpitations, sweating palms, uncontrollable levity, and hallucinations of brilliance, personal comeliness, invincibility—in short, grandeur.  All of this was part of the forbidden, secret rapture of having a young girl look upon him day after day as if he were the rising sun, that he should shine upon her.  It renewed him, filled him with excessive wild delight.
The Moonflower Vine, p. 123.
What do you think?
I have about a billion others.  I will start posting them below.  Feel free to do the same.


20 thoughts on “Favorite book quotes

  1. “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” Catcher in the Rye- J.D. Salinger

  2. “That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid, you fall in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. Girls…[t]hey can drive you crazy. They really can.” Catcher in the Rye- J.D. Salinger

  3. “It’s funny. All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they’ll do practically anything you want them to.” Catcher in the Rye- J.D. Salinger

  4. “Since Alice had never received any religious instruction, and since she had led a blameless life, she never thought of her awful luck as being anything but accidents in a very busy place. Good for her.” Vonnegut, Slapstick.

  5. If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? Wolves cull themselves, man. What other creature could? And is the race of man not more predacious yet? The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day. He loves games? Let him play for stakes. This you see here, these ruins wondered at by tribes of savages, do you not think that this will be again? Aye. And again. With other people, with other sons.”
    The Judge, Blood Meridian

  6. Appleby was as good at shooting crap as he was at playing Ping-Pong, and he was as good at playing Ping-Pong as he was at everything else. Everything Appleby did, he did well. Appleby was a fair-haired boy from Iowa who believed in God, Motherhood, and the American Way of Life, without ever thinking about any of them, and everybody who knew him liked him.

    “I hate that son of a bitch,” Yossarian growled.

    Catch 22

  7. “Maybe…you’ll fall in love with me all over again.”
    “Hell,” I said, “I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?”
    “Yes. I want to ruin you.”
    “Good,” I said. “That’s what I want too.”
    — Ernest Hemingway (A Farewell to Arms)

  8. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
    — C.S. Lewis (The Four Loves)

  9. “There is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is only the comparison of one state with another. Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. It is necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live…..the sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words: Wait and Hope.”
    — Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo)

    • You read it, good. I have signed copies of this whole trilogy. Mr. Quisling found an Angry Clam review on WSL and got in touch with me and sent them to me. End of run on. Pretty cool.

  10. “[h]e loved women and always had, the idea of them, the way they dressed and looked, the smell and sound and shape of them. And there were now so many he met and saw he felt he would like to fall in love with, at least for a while, and so little time left.”

    Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man- Joseph Heller

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