A Literary Mixtape, Volume 3

This is a literary “mixtape,” of sorts, with literary quotes arranged in a hopefully thematic and pleasing way, sort of like a cassette tape that you’d give your boyfriend or girlfriend or something. This is the third “mixtape,” and as always, some of the quotes are slightly misquoted from memory.

…Confused? Are you? No? I hope not. If you are confused, fret not. Confusion is the natural state of mankind, and also, if you are confused, you can see the previous mixtape for details.

Anyway, as a reader, your job is to read this — yes, doy — but your job is also to leave your favorite quotes in the comment section, so that the journey may continue. For as a wise man once said, a book may have many beginnings. And many endings…

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One beginning and one ending for a book was a thing I did not agree with. A good book may have three openings entirely dissimilar and inter-related only in the prescience of the author, or for that matter one hundred times as many endings.

Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds

Now, witness the power of this fully operational battle station.

Emperor Palpatine, Return of the Jedi

Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.

–Satchel Paige

…Black to the bone; my home is your home.
So welcome to the terrordome.

Public Enemy

ROSENCRANTZ: I remember…


ROS: I remember when there were no questions.

GUIL: There were always questions. To exchange one set for another is no great matter.

ROS: Answers, yes. There were answers to everything.

GUIL: You’ve forgotten.

ROS: (flaring) I haven’t forgotten — how I used to remember my own name — and yours, oh; I haven’t forgotten — how I used to remember my own name — and yours, oh yes! There were answers everywhere you looked. There was no question about it — people knew who I was and if they didn’t they asked and I told them.

GUIL: You did, the trouble is each of them is… plausible, without being instinctive. All your life you live so close to truth, it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye, and when something nudges it into outline it is like being ambushed by a grotesque. A man standing in his saddle in the half-lit half-alive dawn banged on the shutters and called two names. He was just a hat and a cloak levitating in the grey plume of his own breath, but when he called we came. That much is certain — we came.

–Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

JULES: …You read the Bible, Brett?

BRETT: (gasping) …Yes.

JULES: Well, there’s this passage I got memorized, seems sorta appropriate for the occasion.

–Pulp Fiction (final revision)

I went mourning without the sun: I stood up, and I cried in the congregation–

‘…I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls.
My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat.
My harp is turned to mourning, and my organ to the voice of those
who weep...’

The Book of Job, Chapter 30: Verses 28 to 31

...At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitful face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man’s mouth driveling, beyond
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the fig’s fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Brown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind
over the third stair…

–T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

Then they began to climb and they were going to the East it seemed, and then it darkened and they were in a storm, the rain so thick it seemed like flying through a waterfall, and then they were out and he turned his head and grinned and pointed and there, ahead, all he could see, as wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro. And then he knew that there was where he was going.

–Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro

I love it when a plan comes together.

–John “Hannibal” Smith, The A-Team

I fight the comets, lick the moon,
pave its lonely streets.
I set the controls, I pioneer
The seeding of the ionosphere.
I translate the Bible into velociraptor.

–Michael Robbins

Welcome to Earth.

–Will Smith, Independence Day

The world! The world is alive!

–Douglas Coupland, Shampoo Planet

…But before the Law stands a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper there comes a man from the country and prays for admittance to the Law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant admittance at the moment. The man thinks it over and then asks if he will be allowed in later. “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not at the moment.”

Franz Kafka

There was only one catch, and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

It was raining. Gigantic ferns leaned over us. The forest drifted down a hill. I could hear a creek rushing down among rocks. And you, you ridiculous people, you expect me to help you.

Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son

…I saw her much later, not too many years ago, and when I smiled she seemed to believe I was making advances. But it was only that I remembered. I’ll never forget you. Your husband will beat you with an extension cord and the bus will pull away forever leaving you standing there in tears, but you were my mother.


I shall never be
Different. Love me.

–W.H. Auden

…Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

–William Blake

If you set out in this world,
better be born seven times.
Once, in a house on fire,
once, in a freezing flood,
once, in a wild madhouse,
once, in a field of ripe wheat,
once, in an empty cloister,
and once among pigs in a sty.
Six babes crying, not enough:
you yourself must be the seventh.

And if you write and can afford it,
let seven men write your poem.
One, who builds a marble village,
one, who was born in his sleep,
one, who charts the sky and knows it,
one, whom words call by his name,
one, who perfected his soul,
one, who dissects living rats.
Two are brave and four are wise;
you yourself must be the seventh.

–Attila József, from the Hungarian (trans. John Batki)

…Conclusion of the book, ultimate: Evil is even, truth is an odd number, and death is a full stop. When a dog barks late at night and then retires again to bed, he punctuates and gives majesty to the serial enigma of the dark, laying it more evenly and heavily upon the fabric of the mind. Sweeney in the trees hears the sad baying as he sits on the branch, a huddle between earth and heaven, and he hears also the answering mastiff that is counting the watches in the next parish. Bark answers bark till the call spreads like fire through all Erin.

Soon the moon comes forth behind her curtains riding full tilt across the sky, lightsome and unperturbed in her immemorial calm. The eyes of the mad king upon the branch are upturned, whiter eyeballs in a white face, upturned in fear and supplication. His mind is but a shell… Is he mad? Was Hamlet mad? It is extremely hard to say. Is he the victim of hard-to-explain hallucinations? Nobody knows. Even experts do not agree on these vital points.

The more one studies the problem, the more fascinated one becomes… One man will think that he has a glass bottom and will fear to sit in case of breakage. In other respects he will be a man of great intellectual force and will accompany one in a mental ramble throughout the labyrinths of mathematics or philosophy so long as he is allowed to remain standing throughout the disputations.

Another man will be perfectly polite and well-conducted except that he will in no circumstances turn otherwise than to the right and indeed will own a bicycle so constructed that it cannot turn otherwise than to that point. Others will be subject to colours and will attach undue merit to articles that are red or green or white merely because they bear that hue. Some will be influenced by the texture of a cloth or by the roundness or angularity of an object.

Numbers, however, will account for a great proportion of unbalanced and suffering humanity. One man will rove the streets seeking motor-cars with numbers that are divisible by seven. Well-known, alas, is the case of the poor German who was very fond of three and who made each aspect of his life a thing of triads. He went home one evening and drank three cups of tea with three lumps of sugar in each cup, cut his jugular with a razor three times and scrawled with a dying hand on a picture of his wife, good-bye, good-bye, good-bye.

Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds  Thought Catalog Logo Mark


Thumbnail image – Kaseta magnetofonowa

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