Once upon a time, I was considered to be a highly “promising” young writer. In fact, I was supposed to write a novel. This didn’t happen for several reasons — one of which was that I am simply not very good at making things up; which, as far as I can tell, is a major component of writing a novel. Another reason is my love for daytime television, which is highly distracting.
Also, I got distracted by reading the imaginary reviews for my unwritten novel, and then composing imaginary responses to, say, the letters page of The New York Times Book Review: “…Mr. Franzen has entirely failed to grasp the central message of my book ‘This Is the Meaning of Everything,” failing to comprehend that in fact my novel is actually deliberately anti-ironic in intent…” And so on and so forth.
The final reason that I never wrote a novel is that I got distracted by finding epigraphs — i.e., pithy little quotes — for my unwritten book. Man, do I love me some pithy little quotes! And finding epigraphs is wa-aaay easier than, say, writing a novel — for the simple reason that someone else has already written the quotes. So by the time I was done, I had like fifty quotes, but no book.
So here is part of what I like to call “The Quote Board” — an ancient MS Word document containing all my favorite quotes ever. I share this with you in the spirit of open-sourcing, in the hopes that you, O Gentle Reader, will add your own favorite quotes in the comment section below, and thus the journey will continue.
I should also note that I didn’t bother to look some of the quotes up, and so fucked some of them up badly from memory. Especially the quote from Aliens, which there’s really no excuse for, fucking up a quote from Aliens like that. So here is…
THE QUOTE BOARD
Go too far in every direction; cross every firebreak, and then cross that one. Pile extremity upon extremity, and then more extremity, and then more.
–Martin Amis, London Fields
If personality is a successful series of unbroken gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened reactivity to hope… such as I have never seen before, and never hope to see again.
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Shut up, he explained.
Hold onto the here, the now, through which the future plunges into the past.
–James Joyce, Ulysses
And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea,
And all disheveled wandering stars…
Do you know it? Do you know what it is that I’m going to tell you?
Let them say what they liked, but I didn’t mean to drown myself. I meant to swim until I sank – but that’s not the same thing.
–Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer
Suicide is the night train, speeding your way towards darkness. You won’t get there so fast, not by normal means. You take your ticket, and you climb on board. It’s a one-way ticket, but it costs everything that you have. It’s the night train.
–Martin Amis, Night Train
When I remember that dizzy summer, that dull, stupid, lovely, dire summer, it seems that in those days I ate my lunches, smelled another’s skin, noticed a shade of yellow, even simply sat, with greater lust and hopefulness — and that I lusted with greater faith, hoped with greater abandon. The people I loved were celebrities, surrounded by rumor and fanfare; the places I sat with them, movie lots and monuments. No doubt all of this is not true remembrance but the ruinous work of nostalgia, which obliterates the past, and no doubt, as usual, I have exaggerated everything.
–Michael Chabon, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
These were people I would never have spoken to out of this room, but here, at the party, I loathed them more than I thought possible.
–Bret Easton Ellis, The Rules of Attraction
I say we nuke this place and get the hell out of here.
–Lt. Ripley, Aliens
GOOD ANGEL: And now, poor soul, must thy good angel leave thee.
(Music. The throne descends.)
The gates of Hell are open to receive thee.
(Exit. Hell is discovered.)
–Christopher Marlowe, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus
Alas, my friends.
He looked not like the ruins of his former self,
But like the ruins of those ruins.
–John Ford, The Broken Heart
Now I dream of the soft touch of women, the songs of birds, the smell of soil crumbling between my fingers, and the brilliant green of plants that I diligently nurture. I am looking for land to buy and I will sow it with deer and wild pigs and birds and cottonwoods and sycamores and build a pond and the ducks will come and fish will rise in the early evening light and take the insects into their jaws. There will be paths through this forest and you and I will lose ourselves in the soft curves and folds of the ground. We will come to the water’s edge and there will be a small, unobtrusive sign that says, THIS IS THE REAL WORLD… AND WE ARE ALL IN IT. …I am not making this up, it will all really happen, it is all already happening.
–Charles Bowden, Blood Orchid
First of all:
—I am tired, I am true of heart!
—You are tired, you are true of heart!
Nothing can come from nothing.
Where you have nothing, there you should want nothing.
The process of getting shot by a bullet is very interesting and I think deserves to be described in great detail.
“You hear that? The kid here says he’s never been crazy yet.”
“He’s got a lot coming to him.”
Where are my women now, with their wild wet ways, and their songs?
Thy fingers make early flowers of all things.
Thy hair mostly the hours love.
A silence that sings, saying–
Though life be but a day,
We will go a-Maying.
Brown hair is sweet,
Brown hair over the mouth blown…
–T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday
And meanwhile, time goes about its immemorial work of making everyone look, and feel, like shit. You got that? And meanwhile, time goes about its immemorial work, of making everyone look — and feel — like shit.
–Martin Amis, London Fields
–Mr. T, Rocky III
“Baby, when you were young and your heart was an open book, you used to say live and let live. You know you did, you know you did, you know you did.”
–Bret Easton Ellis, Glamorama
And the days are not long enough,
And the nights are not long enough,
And life slips by like a field mouse,
Not even shaking the grass.
A. A violent order is disorder; and
B. A great disorder is an order. These
Two things are one. (Pages of illustrations.)
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
–William Carlos Williams
…As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking, –John, I
sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what
can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,
drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.
And Jesus said: Become passers-by.
–The Gospel of Thomas
…And so that’s “The Quote Board”! Remember to leave your own favorite quotes in the comments. Or just leave comments bitching about how I “wrote” a “column” that is mainly other people’s quotes. Both options are good.