Sunday, December 27, 2015

Literary Bite: My Favorite Quotes This Year


Nowadays I'm a sorry excuse for a blogger. But life sometimes gets in the way -- you understand -- and the more momentum you lose on a project so finicky as writing, the harder it is to get it back. 

I write to you now from Tahoe, two days after Christmas (362 sleeps 'til next Christmas!). I have this week off of work and have truly epic plans of reading, sleeping, making and eating delicious treats, reading more, sleeping even more, skiing a couple days, and probably going on some chilly but much-needed (in light of all the eating) runs. Yep, I live the dream. 

You may have noticed that the literary portion of this blog has pretty much ceased to exist. Which is an interesting turn of events considering that unlike running, travel, and baking -- activities I love but for various reasons do not always do consistently -- reading is a constant. Granted, for the past couple years grad school reading supplanted most (but not all!) of my fun fiction reading. Though now that I'm a back to full time real person-ing (aka working a normal job), there's really no excuse. 

So enough chit-chat. Back to business. Or something like that.

When I come across a passage I like, I take a picture on my phone (it's way easier than copying out a quote), then save those in a folder for future reference. This folder often just exists, but can be nice to look back at and figure out what it was that struck me about any given phrase, sentence, page, or paragraph. Thus, in lieu reviewing each book I read this year, instead I'd like to share with you my favorite quotes from the best books I read. I recommend reading them out loud -- good ideas are best when heard as well as read.

My Favorite Quotes (and books) of 2015


  • “That's the way it is in life. You let go of what is beautiful and unique. You pursue something new and don't even know that the wind of your own running is a thief.” Sena Jeter Naslund, Ahab's Wife, or The Star-Gazer

  • I would cry my cry to you if you were here. But you are not. Therefore it must be to Florence. Florence must be the one to suffer these moments when a veritable blast of fear goes out from me scorching the leaf on the bough. "It will be all right": those are the words I want to hear uttered. - J.M. Coetzee, Age of Iron
  • "a wretched set of incompetent noodles." - Adam Hochschild, King Leopold's Ghost
  • I love to recall when you were one year old and you took your first steps and you fell on your bottom and cried, surprised at the hardness of the wood floor. The first stomp of your tomboy foot. The day you came in with the firewood and stood in the doorway, almost taller than I, and you said that you would be leaving soon, and I asked where and you replied to me: Exactly. - Colm McCann, Zoli
  • Colman put back his head and roared. "Being with you," he said, "is just like being with myself. Only better." - Ruth Reichl, Comfort Me with Apples
  • “So few American novels have happy endings. Perhaps this is not surprising in a nation whose declaration of independence provides its citizens not with the right to happiness, but the right to its pursuit.” - Azar Nafizi, The Republic of Imagination

  • “I think about pinball, and how being a kid’s like being shot up the firing lane and there’s no veering left or right; or you’re just sort of propelled. But once you clear the top, like when you’re sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen, suddenly there’s a thousand different paths you can take, some amazing, others not. Tiny little differences in angles and speed’ll totally alter what happens to you later, so a fraction of an inch to the right, and the ball’ll just hit a pinger and a dinger and fly down between your flippers, no messing, a waste of 10 p. But a fraction to the left and it’s action in the play zone, bumpers and kickers, ramps and slingshots and fame on the high-score table.”  - David Michell, The Bone Clocks
  • “It was one of those humid days when the atmosphere gets confused. Sitting on the porch, you could feel it: the air wishing it was water.” Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
  • “Furthermore, unlike many other great predators of history, from Genghis Khan to the Spanish conquistadors, King Leopold II never saw a drop of blood spilled in anger. He never set foot in the Congo. There is something very modern about that, too, as there is about the bomber pilot in the stratosphere, above the clouds, who never hears screams or sees shattered homes or torn flesh.” - Adam Hochschild, King Leopold's Ghost
  • “the most powerful mind is the quiet mind. It is the mind that is present, reflective, mindful of its thoughts and its state. It doesn’t often multitask, and when it does, it does so with a purpose.” - Maria Konnikova, Mastermind

  • “Pragmatists are sometimes more prone to illusion than dreamers; when they fall for something, they fall hard, not knowing how to protect themselves, while we dreamers are more practiced in surviving the disillusionment that follows when we wake up from our dreams.” - Azar Nafizi, The Republic of Imagination
  • “Emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." Or: "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." I'd like to show how "intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members" connects with "the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age." I'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar." I've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I've entered my story, I need them more than ever. ” Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
  • “If an atrocity isn't written about, it stops existing when the last witnesses die. That's what I can't stand. If a mass shooting, a bomb, a whatever, is written about, then at least it's made a tiny dent in the world's memory. Someone, somewhere, some time, has a chance of learning what happened. And, just maybe, acting on it. Or not. But at least it's there.”  - David Michell, The Bone Clocks
  • “Whereas I, even now, persist in believing that these black marks on white paper bear the greatest significance, that if I keep writing I might be able to catch the rainbow of consciousness in a jar.” Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex



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