Tag Archives: “quote”

W. Somerset Maugham, A Writer’s Notebook, 1940:

“Fundamentally man is not a rational animal. It is this that makes fiction so difficult to write; for the reader, or the spectator of a play, demands, at all events today, that he should behave as if he were. We feel dissatisfied when the persons of a story do not act from motives that we accept as sufficient. We expect their behavior to be rational, and if it isn’t we say: “But people don’t act like that.” Our demand for probability grows more and more stringent. We balk at coincidence and accident. We expect the characters that are presented to us invariably to behave like themselves.

The behaviour of the persons in Othello, of Othello himself principally, but to a less extent of almost everyone in the play, is wildly irrational. The critics have turned themselves inside out to show that it isn’t. In vain. They would have done better to accept it as a grand example of the fundamental irrationality of man. I am quite ready to believe that contemporary theatre-goers saw nothing improbable in the behaviour of any of the characters.”

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“To a Mouse” by Robert Burns

Burns

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Robert Trevelyan, bookish person.

Back to posting semi-random paragraphs from stuff I’m reading:

“Bob Trevelyan was, I think, the most bookish person that I have ever known. What is in books appeared to him interesting, whereas what is only real life was negligible. Like all the family, he had a minute knowledge of the strategy and tactics concerned in all the great battles of the world, so far as these appear in reputable books of history. But I was staying with him during the crisis of the battle of the Marne, and as it was Sunday we could only get a newspaper by walking two miles. He did not think the battle sufficiently interesting to be worth it,because battles in mere newspapers are vulgar. I once devised test question which I put to many people to discover whether they were pessimists. The question was: “If you had the power to destroy the world, would you do so?” I put the question to him in the presence of his wife and child, and he replied: “What? Destroy my library? Never!” He was always discovering new poets and reading their poems out aloud, but he always began deprecatingly: “This is not one of his best poems.” Once when he mentioned a new poet to me, and said he would like to read me some of his things, I said: “Yes, but don’t read me a poem which is not one of his best.” This stumped him completely, and he put the volume away.” — The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell 1872-1914.

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Clarify creative ideals w/ Venn Diagram

Buried in this B.J. Novak interview from the Onion's A.V. Club is a terrific little nugget about The Office producer/writer Greg Daniels use of a Venn diagram to define his approach to comedy. A simple approach to define what's import to him:

[Novak]: […] I had met with Greg Daniels, spoke to him for about an hour and a half
about his theory of comedy, and I thought it was brilliant and simple
and entirely what I believed in, too. […]
[Interviewer]: What did Greg Daniels say about his philosophy of comedy?

[Novak]: He drew a Venn diagram, and he said, “This is
groundbreaking comedy that I really respect.” And he said, “This is
what makes people laugh.” And he said, “I am only interested in the
shaded part in the middle where they overlap.” And I thought, “Sign me
up!” I thought it was humble and honest, but still with the value of
quality. I know it’s a simple thing to say, and anyone can say it, but
you could also tell that he meant it, and had proven it as he was
saying it.

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Cronching

I heard the cronching of the snow made by the step of a long-headed
farmer, who from far through the woods sought my house, to have a
social "crack"; one of the few of his vocation who are "men on their
farms"; who donned a frock instead of a professor's gown, and is as
ready to extract the moral out of church or state as to haul a load of
manure from his barn-yard. — Thoreau, Walden.

Reading Walden via the excellent email reading service DailyLit, I googled cronching which yielded 1160 hits, mostly misspellings, nicknames, and discussions of this very neologism, so Thoreau's  invention which didn't catch on. Still, is there a more perfect word for the sound of snow packing underfoot by a  winter hiker's approach? Thoreau's a wondeful writer.

(One interesting hit came up to the Chicago Manual of Style Online, which uses this sentence from Walden as an example of how to use the term "sic.")

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Thoreau on reading the classics.

Men sometimes speak as if the study of the classics would at length
make way for more modern and practical studies; but the adventurous
student will always study classics, in whatever language they may be
written and however ancient they may be. For what are the classics but
the noblest recorded thoughts of man? They are the only oracles which
are not decayed, and there are such answers to the most modern inquiry
in them as Delphi and Dodona never gave. We might as well omit to study
Nature because she is old.

— from Walden, Chapter Three: "Reading."
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Quoting from “Walden”

One farmer says to me, “You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with”; and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle. — Henry David Thoreau

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Characters in isolation

It's comforting to hear about very accomplished writers struggling (and solving) with the same kind of story issues I have. In this post, Nicola Griffith comes up with a solution for the common problem of having a character in her current project spending a lot of time alone, thinking. How to maintain tension, engagement?
Here's the snip:

Ever since I started writing Hild I've been searching for a way for her to have alone time that wasn't just wandering about in the woods. (Personally, I love wandering about in the woods, in real life and as a writer, but it is difficult to maintain any kind of narrative tension/reader engagement.) The other day the solution presented itself: Hild climbs trees. (I have Anthony to thank for this: I downloaded a sample chapter of Robert Macfarlane's The Wild Places and, bam, there was the solution.) So now I going through the ms. looking for places to feather in her tree climbing habit. Along the way I'm researching a variety of tree species and growing conditions, and the beasties that live amongst them.

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Post some quotes

…when you need to remind yourself you have a blog.
These are the same one's I stuck on my facebook, and are inspiring, and kind of linked in my mind — despite the now-archaic misuse of the word "man" for "person." 

"A man's got to know his limitations." – Harold Francis "Dirty Harry" Callahan

 “Let their work be to them as is his common work to the common laborer. No gigantic efforts will then be necessary. He need tie no wet towels round his brow, nor sit for thirty hours at his desk without moving, — as men have sat, or said that they have sat.” — Anthony Trollope on writers. 

“Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful, beautiful flamingo, flying across in front of a beautiful sunset? And he's carrying a beautiful rose in his beak, and also he's carrying a very beautiful painting with his feet. And also, you're drunk.” – Jack Handy 

I especially like the last clause of the Trollope quote, 'cause it's never a good idea to trust what writers say about writing.

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Charles Schulz / "Mad Men" / Radio Lab

"But in the mid-1950s a large part of [Schulz's] public consisted of good, plain people who felt guilty at being discontented in an epoch of unprecedented prosperity. Peanuts struck a chord with those who had thought they had everything they wanted only to discover that they didn't, and needed an acceptably gentle reminder of this insight."

— David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts pg 342.

Mad Men begins at the dawn of the sixties but the same dynamic is in play. Today the existential anxiety is coming from the unprecedented level of possibilities the connected world promises to offer (or should that be threatens to offer), as discussed in the first part of WNYC's Radio Lab latest program "Choice" with it description of new college grads frozen into inaction from fear of making decisions — each decision taken represents an elimination of some tantalizing (and now lost) hypothetical opportunity.

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Charles Schulz / “Mad Men” / Radio Lab

"But in the mid-1950s a large part of [Schulz's] public consisted of good, plain people who felt guilty at being discontented in an epoch of unprecedented prosperity. Peanuts struck a chord with those who had thought they had everything they wanted only to discover that they didn't, and needed an acceptably gentle reminder of this insight."

— David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts pg 342.

Mad Men begins at the dawn of the sixties but the same dynamic is in play. Today the existential anxiety is coming from the unprecedented level of possibilities the connected world promises to offer (or should that be threatens to offer), as discussed in the first part of WNYC's Radio Lab latest program "Choice" with it description of new college grads frozen into inaction from fear of making decisions — each decision taken represents an elimination of some tantalizing (and now lost) hypothetical opportunity.

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If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Shermer

Nah, probably you won’t.

Skepticblog » Gay Marriage: Stone Them to Death! : “Mark my words. Here is what is going to happen. Within a decade, maybe two, Christians will come around to treating gays no differently than they now treat members of other groups whom they previously persecuted — women, Jews, blacks — but not because of some new interpretation of a biblical passage, or because of a new revelation from God. These changes will come about the same way that they always do: by the oppressed minority fighting for the right to be treated equally, and by a few enlightened members of the oppressing majority supporting their cause.”

— Michael Shermer

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"And sure he is an honorable man."

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Act 3. Scene 2. The Forum in Rome.

ANTHONY
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interrèd with their bones.
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious.
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answered it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest —
For Brutus is an honorable man,
So are they all, all honorable men —
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me.
But Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honorable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept.
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honorable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And sure he is an honorable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause.
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O Judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason!

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Biden on his Boss’s "Intellectual Security"

via HuffingtonPost:
“Biden says Obama reminds him of Bill Clinton in his ‘confidence, cognitive ability, judgment’ and intellectual security–that he can listen and absorb advice without having to prove he’s the smartest person in the room, a critical leadership skill. He says he experienced an ‘epiphany’ during a recent conference call on the bailout bill with Bob Rubin, Paul Volcker, Warren Buffett, Paul O’Neill, Joseph Stiglitz, Larry Summers and Laura Tyson. ‘He [Obama] comes on the call and says, ‘Well, folks, sorry I’m late. I’ve got four questions.’ He was in total frigging command! Here’s a 47-year-old guy in one of the most complicated economic dilemmas anyone has had to face since 1929 to ’33. And it was like, ‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’ I called him afterward and said, ‘You sold me, sucker!’ “

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