In an effort to improve my writing, stimulate my reading, and get more disciplined about writing something (even if it’s someone else’s something) every single day, I introduce the “Quote of the Day.” These are mostly clips of colorful prose from some of my favorite author’s/books, song lyrics, poems, or just snips from daily observation/listening. I started saving some of these on index cards last winter, but the stack has gotten too tall. Hence forth, they go here. If you’d like to contribute, feel free to add your contribution to the comments section below (please include source.)
Thursday, January 9, 2014
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
— Oscar Wilde
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
— Frederick Douglass
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
“Openness, transparency – these are among the few weapons the citizenry has to protect itself from the powerful and the corrupt.”
— Michael Moore
Monday, January 6, 2013
“In the future, everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.”
— Andy Warhol
Sunday, January 5, 2014
“We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict.”
— Jim Morrison
Saturday, January 4, 2014
“Families are messy. Immortal families are eternally messy. Sometimes the best we can do is to remind each other that we’re related for better or for worse…and try to keep the maiming and killing to a minimum.”
— The Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan
Friday, January 3, 2013
“When you’re young, you always feel that life hasn’t yet begun—that “life” is always scheduled to begin next week, next month, next year, after the holidays—whenever. But then suddenly you’re old and the scheduled life didn’t arrive. You find yourself asking, ‘Well then, exactly what was it I was having—that interlude—the scrambly madness—all that time I had before?”
― Life After God, by Douglas Coupland (also authored Generation X, a seminal work that altered my life and my perceptions of the world in which I was forced to function.)
Thursday, January 2, 2014
“I ask of literature precisely those things of which I feel the lack in my own life.”
— James Branch Cabell
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
“War is God’s way of teaching American’s geography.”
— Ambrose Bierce
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
“History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.”
— Ambrose Bierce
Monday, December 30, 2013
“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.”
— James Branch Cabell (1879 – 1958)
Sunday, December 29, 2013
“Monday, December 29, 1862
Started this morning at eight o’clock, and after a march of about fifteen miles, encamped within two miles of Bowling Green. After getting into camp two comrades and myself went to this town to see what it was, and what we could buy. Went to the hotel and registered our names for supper, after which we endeavored to obtain a little of the “spirits of bad men made perfect” but without success. Bought some pies at fifty cents apiece, destitute of shortening in the crust and sugar in the pie. That man’s soul is not larger than one thousandth part of a knat’s eye.
“About dusk we repaired to the hotel and waited as patiently as our appetites would allow us. Presently the bell rung, when twenty hungry soldiers made a rush for the table. Did you ever see a rush for the ticket box of the theatre when it is open, every man fearful of not getting a good seat, if you have then you may form a faint idea of our rush. We finally got seated, and such a destruction of edibles I have never seen before. In less time than fifteen minutes we cleared the dishes of everything eatable, myself winding up with the last biscuit. I don’t know what the proprietor thought for I didn’t ask him. I am quite confident that no other twenty men could have done the job in as neat and clean a manner in the same space of time. After leaving the hotel we knocked around a little and went back to camp, well pleased with our trip, with the exception that we did not get some of the extract of corn.”
— Civil War Journal of William Ellis Jones
Saturday, December 28, 2013
“From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia…could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.”
— Abraham Lincoln
Friday, December 27, 2013
“There is no reciprocity. Men love women. Women love children. Children love hamsters. Hamsters don’t love anyone.”
— Alice Thomas Ellis
Thursday, December 26, 2013
“But you have no house and no courtyard to your no-house, he thought. You have no family but a brother who goes to battle tomorrow and you own nothing but the wind and the sun and an empty belly. The wind is small, he thought, and there is no sun. You have four grenades in your pocket but they are only good to throw away. You have a carbine on your back but it is only good to give away bullets. You have a message to give away. And you’re full of crap that you can give to the earth, he grinned in the dark. You can anoint it also with urine. Everything you have is to give. Thou art a phenomenon of philosophy and an unfortunate man, he told himself and grinned again.”
— For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.
Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with spirits, but lived upon the total abstinence principal ever afterwards; and it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, “God Bless Us Every One!”
— A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?”
“It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it.” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.”
From the foldings of its robe, it brought forth two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They kneeled down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.
“Oh, man! Look here. Look, look down here!” exclaimed the ghost.
They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate too in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out and touched them with freshest tints, a stale and shriveled hand like that of age, had pinched and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creatures, has monsters half so horrible and dread.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
“Spirit! Are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.
“They are Man’s.” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is named Ignorance. This girl is named Want. Beware them both, and all their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is DOOM, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out his hand towards the city. “Slander all those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!”
“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.
“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”
— A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, (c) 1843
Monday, December 23, 2013
“Oh! Captive, bound, and double-ironed!” cried the phantom… “Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one’s life of opportunities misused! Yet such was I! Oh! Such was I!”
“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob.” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing his hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
— A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, (c) 1843
Sunday, December 22, 2013
“Does such a thing as ‘the fatal flaw,’ that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn’t. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.”
— The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
Saturday, December 21, 2013
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”
Friday, December 20, 2013
“When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.”
— Mark Twain
Thursday, December 19, 2013
“A taste for irony has kept more hearts from breaking than a sense of humor, for it takes irony to appreciate the joke which is on oneself.”
— Jessamyn West
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
“The world breaks everyone. Afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
“It is not from ourselves that we learn to be better than we are.”
— Wendell Berry
Monday, December 16, 2013
“Sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words.”
— William Faulkner
Sunday, December 15, 2013
“Never commit anything to writing that you would not want your grandparents, or for that matter your grandchildren, to read. The written word lasts. Eventually it’s all that defines us. Figure out how you want to define yourself – and write that. Be careful about it. Someone, someday, is going to use it against you.”
— Thomas Ellis Jones (1930 – 1998). It’s hard to believe he’s been gone sixteen years.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
“..The images in the pictures told me nothing about Remeta. He was simply a necromancer with broken glass in his head trying to find a historical context for the rage and pain his mother had bequeathed to him…”
— Purple Cane Road, page 287, by James Lee Burke
Friday, December 13, 2013
“I can’t understand why I got in trouble for flipping off Mrs. ______. I mean, it’s not like it’s my fault she gave me a 20 on my Social Studies test.”
— Overheard conversation between two thirteen year old boys wearing private school uniforms, walking on the sidewalk at Ridgeview Shopping Center, Raleigh, North Carolina, December 13, 2013.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
“Choose your enemies carefully ’cause they will define you.
Make them interesting ’cause in some ways they will mind you.
They’re not there in the beginning, but when your story ends.
Gonna last with you longer than your friends.”
— Cedars of Lebanon, from the album No Line on the Horizon, by U2 (lyric by Bono)
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
“…His face was full of self-irony and boyish good cheer. Even the streaks of sweat on his shirt, like the stripes of flagellum would make on the chest of its victim, excited sympathy for his plight and the humble role he had chosen for himself. If his smile could be translated into words, it was perhaps the old adage that goodness is its own reward.
“I gave him the thumbs up sign and made a mental note to run his name through the computer at the National Crime Information Center in Washington, D.C., at the first opportunity…”
— Jolie Blon’s Bounce, page 81, by James Lee Burke
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
“…So he just waited, and seethed, and hated it, because there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.
They had power over him in a way no man had ever had, and it burned a hole in him. He had been in jail before, but every time until now, he had by God earned it.”
— Ava’s Man, page 205, by Rick Bragg
Monday, December 9, 2013
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Sunday, December 8, 2013
“We sat nights with a 5th of gin,
downing all the world in sips.
There was midnight blues on
a scratchy college station,
and good stuff to smoke from tiny metal tips.
We all knew The Man would crush you like a can,
and drink your blood like common table wine.
He’d take apart your dreams, rip ’em at the seams,
while telling you that everything, everything was fine.
So where are you presently sitting down to dinner?
Where did you lay your old felt hat?
Well here’s a letter from one who knew you better,
back when we were ordinary cats.
Just ordinary cats.”
— Ordinary Cats, from the album Ordinary Cats, by Jon Shain
Saturday, December 7, 2013
“On this infested, tepid globe
Which every clock-tick
Brings closer the Moons’
White nakedness and quiet,
The wise shall play.
And their playthings shall be words,
For man finds nowhere any lovelier toys.”
— William Ellis Jones (1899 – 1951)
[Eds. Note: William Ellis Jones was my grandfather, and his works served as the ignition source for all my efforts at becoming a “real” writer.]
Friday, December 6, 2013
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
― Requiem for a Nun, by William Faulkner
Thursday, December 5, 2013
“I don’t want your money. I want your love. However, I’ll settle for your money.”
— Stumbling in the Shadows of Giants, by C.H. Jones
Wednesday, December 4, 2014
“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”
— Jane Austen
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
— Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Monday, December 2, 2013
“We sometimes assume that contemporary initiation is accomplished by being confirmed, or receiving the Bar Mitzvah ceremony, or getting a driver’s license. To receive initiation truly means to expand sideways into the glory of oaks, mountains, glaciers, horses, lions, grasses, waterfalls, deer. We need wilderness and extravagance. Whatever shuts a human being away from the waterfall and the tiger will kill him.”
— Iron John: A Book About Men, by Robert Bly
Sunday, December 1, 2013
“…The beer bottle was dark green, running with moisture, the whiskey in the mug brownish gold, like autumn light trapped inside a hardwood forest…”
— Purple Cane Road, page 226, by James Lee Burke
Friday and Saturday, November 29 & 30, 2013
“What most people don’t seem to realize is that there is just as much money to be made out of the wreckage of a civilization as from the upbuilding of one.”
— Gone With the Wind, page 191, by Margaret Mitchell. (Remark made by Rhett Butler, the blockade running hero of the novel.)
Thursday, November 28, 2013 (Thanksgiving Day)
“Of all God’s creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.”
— Mark Twain
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
— Mark Twain
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
“You say love is a temple,
Love a higher law.
You ask me to enter but then you make me crawl.
And I can’t be holding on to what you got,
When all you got is hurt.”
— One, from the album Achtung Baby!, by U2, (lyric by Bono)
Monday, November 25, 2013
“A late summer evening in Manhattan, the crowds out of town, cycling down lower Park Avenue with the lights slanting in from the cross-streets and a stream of monarch butterflies, alternately brown in the shadow and golden in the sun, coming round the Pan Am building, descending from the statue of Mercury and Grand Central Station and continuing downtown towards the Caribbean.”
— The Songlines, page 274, by Bruce Chatwin
Sunday, November 24, 2014
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Saturday, November 23, 2013
“…too greedy to kill himself. He was the kind of guy who clings to the silverware when the mortician drags him out of his house.”
— The Glass Rainbow, page 223, James Lee Burke
Friday, November 22, 2013
“…And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”
— Thomas Jefferson, in a letter written to John Taylor, 1816.
Thursday, November 22, 2013
“Best Dharma practice was compassion for all sentient beings, thus using them for targets was contra indicated.”
— Fifty Degrees Below, page 180, Kim Stanley Robinson
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
“The dead carry a special kind of passport and they go wherever they want.”
—The Glass Rainbow, page 346, James Lee Burke
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
— On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft, page 125, Stephen King
Monday, November 18, 2013
“If truth is not to be found on the shelves of the British Museum, where, I asked myself, picking up a notebook and pencil, is truth?”
Sunday, November 17, 2013
“I against my brother.
I and my brother against our cousin.
I, my brother and our cousin against the neighbors.
All of us against the foreigner.”
— Bedouin proverb
Saturday, November 16, 2013
“In early May (1861), he (Lincoln) had said to his young secretary, ‘For my part I consider the central idea pervading this struggle is the necessity that is upon us of proving that popular government is not an absurdity. We must settle the question now, whether in a free government the minority have the right to break up the government whenever they choose. If we fail it will go to prove the incapacity of the people to govern themselves… The issue embraces more than the fate of the United States. It presents to the whole family of man the question whether… a government of the people, by the same people, can or cannot maintain its… integrity against its own domestic foes.'”
– The Civil War; A Narrative Vol. 1, page 68, Shelby Foote
Friday, November 15, 2013
“…Supposedly ancient people placed heavy stones on the burial places of the dead so their spirits would not roam. I believe there is another explanation, too. When we can fasten the dead to the Earth and keep them safely in our midst, they cannot obligate us to search for them in our sleep…”
— The Tin Roof Blowdown, page 292, James Lee Burke
Thursday, November 14, 2013
“…I had reached the age when cynicism and humor became poor surrogates for the rage we feel when our lives are treated with disregard.”
— Crusader’s Cross, page 94, James Lee Burke
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
“White people had it hard and black people had it harder than that, because what are the table scraps of nothing? This was not the genteel and parochial South, where monied whites felt they owed some generations-old debt to their black neighbors because their great-great-grandfather owned their great-great-grandfather. No one I knew ever had a mammy. This was two separate states, both wanting and desperate, and kept separate by hard men who hid their faces under hoods and their deeds under some twisted interpretation of the Bible, and kicked the living shit out of anyone who thought it should be different. Even into my own youth, the orange fires of shacks and crosses lit up the evening sky. It seems cliché now, to see it on movie screens. At the time it burned my eyes.”
— All Over But the Shoutin’, page 4, Rick Bragg
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
“…in all the naked unadornment of wintry banks, [the river] looked very picturesque and refreshing as it gushed along, broken by rocks and small islands into rapid reaches and currents. Immediately after crossing it, we stopped at a small knot of houses, which, although christened Weldon, and therefore pretending to be a place, was rather the place where a place was intended to be. Two or three rough pine warerooms, or station houses, belonging to the railroad; a few miserable dwellings, which might be either not half built up, or not quite fallen down, on the banks of a large millpond; one exceedingly dirty-looking old wooden house, whither we directed our steps as to the inn; but we did not take our ease in it, though we tried as much as we could.”
— Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839, page 19, by Frances Anne Kemble
[Note: The above passage is the earliest known written account of the town in which I was born and raised. It’s still a fairly accurate description, even after the passage of nearly two hundred years.]
Monday, November 11, 2013
Aetas parentum peior avis tulit
Nos nequiores, mox daturos
– Q. Horatii Flacci Carminum
Our parents’ generation,
which was worse than our grandparents,
produced us, who are more wicked,
and who will soon bear offspring
yet even more sinful.
– Odes of Horace
Sunday, November 10, 2013
“…and biker girls in black leather whose purple makeup bloomed like a death wish on their cheeks.”
— Cimarron Rose, page 19, James Lee Burke
Saturday, November 9, 2013
“The men went about their deadly business of firing and reloading and melting away in a grim silence broken only by the rattling crash of musketry and the deeper roar of guns, with the screams of the injured sometimes piercing the din. Far from resembling panoplied war, it was more like reciprocal murder.”
– The Civil War; A Narrative, Vol. 1, p.94, Shelby Foote
Friday, November 8, 2013
“…The buildings were small scale, as if built for halflings, and pressed together so tightly that they reminded me of tipsy friends, holding each other upright on the way home from the pub…”
– People of the Book, page 26, Geraldine Brooks
Thursday, November 7, 2013
“Good and Evil? Evil isn’t just malice; murder; rape and massacre. Before everything, the Devil is the father of lies. The lies you tell. The truth you don’t tell. Everything hidden is theft. Everything reserved from those we love is fraud.”
– The Wisdom of Crocodiles, Paul Hoffman.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
“This is something I cannot touch without hurting.”
— Beck Hanson, from Turn the Light off When You Go, which was included in Songbook 2012
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
“Any serious student of popular media will tell you that the real story lies not in what is written, but in what is left out.”
— The Glass Rainbow, page 383. James Lee Burke.