A Literary Mixtape

If you love someone, then you give them a mixtape. Everyone knows this — well, except for you kids these days who use MP3s and Napsters and such and thus are condemned to never know the glory of a true cassette mixtape; and no, making “retro” ones doesn’t count, and why? Because I said so, that’s why. Moving on.

Where was I? So, moving on. All lovers know the glory of a true mixtape — nothing says “I love you,” plus “I spent six hours on this,” plus “I want you to submit to my artistic taste” like a mixtape. The smudged fingerprints on the reverse/rewind button, the song that’s missing three seconds because it’s been clipped from the radio — it’s all in there.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been keeping random lists of quotes, and I could never figure out why, or what for. Back when I was writing a novel, I tricked myself into thinking I would use some of the quotes as epigraphs… ending up with me having four pages of epigraphs for my first novel.

I did this once before for Thought Catalog — posted an article that was a bunch of quotes which I had tried to nudge around slightly by theme. I thought people would hate it.  But actually, people liked it. I didn’t know what I was doing at the time, but now I get it.


…What I have created is the concept of “a literary mixtape.” That’s all I’m doing. When you make a “cassettesingle” for a loved one, what you’re doing is taking your favorite songs and hopefully aligning them to create a mood. That’s all I’m doing here. …I had to drop certain quotes, realign some. Some quotes (or “tracks,” if you prefer) wouldn’t fit in no matter how much I loved them; they were just “off,” as with a real tape. And some demanded to be put in.

So without yapping about it too much, here’s my “Lit Mixtape.” I’ll come back when it’s done and then we can talk. Let’s roll the garbage. I have helpfully also provided some glitter stickers just like I would with a real cassette. Also, I misquoted some sh-t — accidentally on purpose — because it’s my damn tape. Enjoy.




…A thousand tymes have I herd men telle
That ther Joye is in hevene and ther Peyne, in helle,
And I well accorde that it be so;

–Geoffrey Chaucer

But the information comes at night.  The communications technology it picks is not the phone or the fax or the E-mail.  It is the telex — so its teeth can chatter in your head.  The information makes sleep interdisciplinary, syllabus disciplines, and then disciplines unknown or not yet devised:  eschatoscopy, synchrodesics, thermodonture.

–Martin Amis, The Information

FERRO: We’re in the pipe. Five by five.

CORPORAL HUDSON: We’re on an express elevator to Hell, wheeehooooo!

Aliens (Director’s Cut)

And this like a dream
Keeps other time
And daytime is
The loss of this…

–W.H. Auden

 There was no need to row, for the current drifted them steadily to the east. None of them slept or ate. All that night and all next day they glided eastward, and when the third day dawned — with a brightness you or I could not bear even if we had dark glasses on — they saw a wonder ahead. …What they saw — eastward, beyond the sun — was a range of mountains. It was so high that either they never saw the top of it or they forgot it. None of them remembers seeing any sky in that direction. And the mountains must really have been outside the world. For any mountains even a quarter of a twentieth of that height ought to have had ice and snow on them. But these were warm and green and full of forests and waterfalls however high you looked. And suddenly there came a breeze from the east, tossing the top of the wave into foamy shapes and ruffling the smooth water all round them. It lasted only a second or so but what it brought them in that second none of those three children will ever forget. It brought both a smell and a sound, a musical sound. Edmund and Eustace would never talk about it afterwards. Lucy could only say, “It would break your heart.” “Why,” said I, “was it so sad?” “Sad!! No,” said Lucy.

–The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

…One night
On watch, I thought I saw in the fore cross-trees
Three women leaning forward, with white hair
Streaming behind, who sang above the wind
A song that charmed my senses, while I was
Frightened beyond fear, horrified past horror, calm,
(Nothing was real) for, I thought, now, when
I like, I can wake up and end the dream.

–T.S. Eliot, ‘The Waste Land’ (original manuscript)

It’s partly true, too, but it isn’t all true. People always think something’s all true.

–The Catcher in the Rye

I know the night is not the same as the day: that all things are different, that the things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist…

—Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools;
They never ask why build.

–Anne Sexton, ‘Wanting to Die’

There is in mankind a certain  *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *  
Hic multa                   *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *  
desiderantur             *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *       And this I take to be
a clear solution of the matter.

–Jonathan Swift, A Tale of a Tub

May the days be aimless. Let the seasons drift. Do not advance the action according to a plan.

–Don DeLillo, White Noise

The unfacts, did we have them, are too precisely few to warrant our certitude.

–James Joyce, Finnegans Wake

I considered it desirable that he should know nothing about me but it was even better if he knew several things which were quite wrong.

Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman

and it’s a story that might bore you but you don’t have to listen, she told me, because she always knew it was going to be like that…

Bret Easton Ellis, The Rules of Attraction

Colors so bright, they broke my heart.

–Donna Tartt, The Secret History

Beauty was mine, and I had mystery,
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery…

Wilfred Owen, Strange Meeting

…And in þis he shewed me a lytil thyng þe quantite of a hasyl nott. Lyeng in þe pawme of my hand as it had semed. And it was as rownde as eny ball. I loked þer upon wt þe eye of my vnderstondyng. and I þought what may þis be. And it was answered generally thus. It is all þat is mad. I merueled howe it myght laste. For me þought it myght sodenly haue fall to nought for lytyllhed. & I was answered in my vnderstondyng. It lastyth & euer shall for god louyth it. And so hath all thyng his begynning by þe loue of god. In this lytyll thyng I sawe thre propertees. The fyrst is. þt god made it. þe secunde is þet god louyth it. & þe þrid is. þat god kepith it.

—Julian of Norwich, A Revelation of Love (1373)

“That guy’s gotta stop. …He’ll see us.”

–James Dean (last words)


–James Tiberius Kirk, Star Trek II

This cosmos, which is the same for all, no god nor man did create — but it ever was, and is, and shall be an everlasting fire, in measures being kindled and in measures going out.

–Heraclitus, Fragment B30

“Well, the sun’s coming up. Or the earth’s going down, as the fashionable theory has it.”

–Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead

…Hearts to one purpose bent
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of it all.

William Butler Yeats

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

–Elizabeth Bishop

…I turned to the young man on my right and said “How is it,
there?” And he begged me protestingly don’t ask, we are poor
poor. And the whole room was suddenly posters and

of brake linings and other automotive accessories, cardboard
displays, the dead roaming from one to another
as bored back in life as they are in hell, poor and doomed
to mere equipments…

–Charles Olson

…And meanwhile, in the moonlight, the trees shake their heads like disco dancers in the nightlife of long ago.

Martin Amis, London Fields

I went inside and I wrote: It is midnight. It is raining. It was not midnight. It was not raining.

Samuel Beckett

All will be well and all will be well and all manner of thing shall be well.

–Julian of Norwich

Shut your eyes and see.

James Joyce



…So! Why’d I do this? I did this because I love books more, so much more than anything. So much more than music. Even though we all like music. …And who’d I make this for? Why, I made it for you guys. Because I lurve yew.

And then there’s the other thing! Now. So. So now. …So now, first of all, and in the spirit of Linux-esque Open Sourcing, I urge you to submit your own favorite quotes, or your own “mixtapes” in the comment section, so that the journey — and the adventure — may continue.

…And second, I’m sorry if this mixtape sucks; I liked my first version better, babe, you know how that goes.

And third, and finally, let’s all go to my van — it’s that one, there; with the wolf and the moon painted on the side — and let’s all have some fine bud, and let’s literary-ishly make out. Whaddya say? Whoa, not so fast there, lover. Calm down, honey. We’ve got allll night. …After all; it’s a slow ride, baby. Take it easyTC mark

You should follow Thought Catalog on Twitter here.

Thumbnail image – Kaseta magnetofonowa


More From Thought Catalog

  • Diana

    wait, so i actually think i’m in love with you.

    • Some Dude

      I fell in love, too.

  • Anonymous

    also: favorite quote- “i don’t want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again”- This Side of Paradise. Scott Fitzgerald

  • Lorraine Gotera

    i wish someone would write me a literary mixtape. danggg. haha

  • Ano

    Napsters, who still use that ?

  • http://twitter.com/alishaisgo Alisha Bicknell

    Best new idea: a literary mixtape exchange club. Has to happen.

  • lou

    This is a fun idea but omg that tracklist srsly killed my boner

    • Oliver Miller

      Yeah, I’m sort of an emo-type downer in my selections.  Just like with music. Which is why you guys should make your own.

  • Lex

    Wait can we get married or

    • Oliver Miller

      I am currently accepting all offers.

  • Christine

    Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the gaps between ideas.

  • http://twitter.com/Damn_Vandal David Esposito

    we are our own heroes, as well as our own dragons.  we must save ourselves from ourselves. -robbins

  • Tiffany

    Nooooooooooo, Donna Tart. It’s the mixtape equivalent of “Get Out of My Dreams and Into My Car.”

    • Oliver Miller

       H8ter.  You like that book!

  • http://twitter.com/mrwildflowers Jesse S.

    Study me then, you who should young lovers be,
    At the next world, at the next spring:
    For I am every dead thing
    In whom Love wrought new alchemy.

    -Donne, “A Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy’s Day…”

    • Oliver Miller

       “…Being the Shortest Day”

  • olivia

    Earth’s the right place for love:
    I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

    – Robert Frost, “Birches”

  • Mike

    These lamps, these planets
    Falling like blessings, like flakes

    Six-sided, white
    On my eyes, my lips, my hair

    Touching and melting.

    “The Night Dances” – Sylvia Plath

  • Anonymous

    ‘it’s just the side effects dear,
    fall into my arms,
    let’s rock and roll baby’

  • kasie

    “I know this because I was there. It is through these transferals that I came to know the girl on the tape. I kissed the screen and so gained access to her mind and lived inside it for a year like a vapor.”
    -Grace Krilanovich, The Orange Eats Creeps

  • Joanna

    “Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,

    Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.

    Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

    Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices

    That, if I then had waked after long sleep,

    Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,

    The clouds methought would open and show riches

    Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,

    I cried to dream again.” 

    -Shakespeare, The Tempest

  • Eeqlzmc2

    “when you come back to school, when she comes to see you, when she begins to cry and you see her tears, you won’t change your mind? this girl is full of tears…- Philip Roth,Indignation 

     ….They think I am tame , but they are wrong. Oh you need not be afraid that I will bite or froth at the mouth or tear my clothes off and caper naked before you. But I am dangerous just the same because I may cause you to think too much. You can die of that….
        —Isobelle Carmody, Long Live The Giant

  • Jonnifer_c

    Toda la vida es sueño, y los sueños sueños son…

  • Guestie

    that elizabeth bishop part, quote, bit -whatever gave me chills. i feel like it’s really sad that quotes from books are the only things that have ever given me that feelig.  damn life is crazy!
    but heree iz my contribution,,,

    tomas did not realize at the time that metaphors are dangerous. metaphors are not to be trifled with. a single metaphor can give birth to love.

    • Oliver Miller

       Yeah, I was going to quote that whole Bishop poem, but then, that didn’t really work, for whatever reason… 

      “…I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
      next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
      The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

      I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
      some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
      I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

      –Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
      I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
      the art of losing’s not too hard to master
      though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.”

      • emma

        the part that kills me is the last line. when she has to convince her that “losing you” is no more a disaster than losing a set of keys. and i mean that it kills me in the stab-me-in-the-heart, pull-me-to-my-knees, howl-at-the-moon, good sort of way.

  • tess

    “For need can blossom into all the compensation it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing-the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.” 
    From Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping. I keep track of quotable parts too, but this novel is just one whole, big special part. Way better than Gilead or Home…

  • Kate Knibbs

    “If you fused the instant when heartbreak occurs to the instant when one
    falls in love and shot that concoction straight into your brain stem,
    you might have a sense of what it felt like for me”- Junot Diaz, Homecoming with Turtle


    Although things vanish, are what mark our vanishing,

    we still hold on to them–ballast against the updraft

    of oblivion–as I hold on to this umbrella in a world of rain,


    of heavy wet greens and grays dissolving into a new

    atmosphere, a sort of underwater dulled electric glow

    off everything, the air itself drowning in it, breath


    thickening, growing mold.  Yesterday I felt the smell

    of grass greeting me as across a great distance, trying

    to tell me some good thing in an underglaze of memory,


    some forgotten summer trying to speak its piece.  It is

    the way of things and it never stops, never calls a halt–

    this knocking and dismantling, this uprooting, cutting out


    and digging down, so tall oaks and honey locusts are

    laid low and drop to earth like felled cattle, shaking

    the ground we’ve taken a stand on as if it were a steady


    establishment, a rock of ages to outface ruin itself, not

    the provisional slippery dissolving dissolute thing it is–

    which we have against all the evidence set our hearts on.- “Steady Now”, Eamon Grennan

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001867960615 Jenny Jerome Urbano

    You had me at Anne Sexton. 

  • Jess

    To be alive: not just the carcass
    But the spark.
    That’s crudely put, but…

    If we’re not supposed to dance,
    Why all this music?

    “To Be Alive” – Gregory Orr

  • Oliver Miller

    “Sea go dark, dark with wind,

    Feet go heavy, heavy with sand,

    Thoughts go wild, wild with the sound

    Of iron on the old shed swinging,

    Go dark, go heavy, go wild, go round,

    Dark with the wind,

    Heavy with the sand,

    Wild with the iron that tears at the nail

    And the foundering shriek of the gale.”

    –Allen Curnow

  • Chris Taljan

    It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness. -Tolstoy-
    “So what’s the point of being cool if I can’t wear my sombrero?!?!” -Calvin&Hobbes-

    “All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better” -Beckett-

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