Too many books and too little time. Here are a few worth considering…
SNORING, language disturbance caused by accidental sleeping, in which a person speaks in compressed syllables and bulleted syntax, often stacking several words over one another in a distemporal deliverance of a sentence.
—Ben Marcus, The Age of Wire and String
If the Nazis come in the middle of the night and try to take me away to a concentration camp, these are the things I plan to take with me: some food, my allowance money, a sleeping bag, my Walkman, a toothbrush, a knife from the kitchen, my nunchucks, some Ninja throwing stars, a flashlight and my comic books.
—Shalom Auslander, Beware of God: Stories)
This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.
One of them was a science-fiction writer named Kilgore Trout. He was a nobody at the time, and he supposed his life was over. He was mistaken. As a consequence of the meeting, he became one of the most beloved and respected human beings in history.
—Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
When I went off to college, I started telling people that my mother died in a car crash. Lying comes easy when you’re raised by a liar. I said it happened a long time ago, when I was very young, and I always added that she died instantly and did not suffer. It was something I could easily imagine my father saying to a small child to comfort her. Hearing this, people felt bad, but at least they knew what to say. When people learn the truth, they’re always at a loss.
—Elisabeth Hyde, Crazy as Chocolate
One summer afternoon Mrs. Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary.
—Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
I like dogs. You always know what a dog is thinking. It has four moods. Happy, sad, cross, and concentrating. Also, dogs are faithful and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk.
—Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
It was the beginning of spring and all the girls were going around with bare legs and there was a girl with bare legs on the subway and she was reading a magazine and I said to her: “What is that you’re reading?” and without looking up at me she crossed her legs.
—Ken Sparling, dad says he saw you at the mall
South Richmond was a neighborhood of mouse holes, lace curtains, Sears catalogs, measles epidemics, baloney sandwiches—and men who knew more about the carburetor than they knew about the clitoris.
—Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
They have said that we owe allegiance to Safety, that he is our Red Cross who will provide us with ointment and bandages for our wounds and remove the foreign ideas the glass beads of fantasy the bent hairpins of unreason embedded in our minds.
—Janet Frame, Faces on the Water
riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.
—James Joyce, Finnegans Wake
As he rolled about on the prickly flooring he realized the ceiling light was on. Overhead light mumbled Fisher Death! He stumbled toward the wall and pawed the switch like a drugged bear. He collapsed and began to crawl back to his spot. I sure appreciate this Mr Fisher said Frank of Oregon. In spite of the drunk darkness, the sickening colors tossing against one another, Fisher felt happy. As though he were seven and had a favorite playmate staying overnight. He wanted to talk with Frank of Oregon but he was too drunk and a snoring was coming from the sofa. Think nothin of it Frankorkin slobbered Fisher Yer man after mown heart.
—Todd McEwen, Fisher’s Hornpipe
“When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets,” Papa would say, “she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing.”
—Katherine Dunn, Geek Love
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…
—F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Joe Gould is a blithe and emaciated man who has been a notable in the cafeterias, diners, barrooms, and dumps of Greenwich Village for a quarter of a century. He sometimes brags rather wryly that he is the last of the bohemians.
—Joseph Mitchell, Joe Gould’s Secret
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
—Walt Whitman (Song of the Open Road from Leaves of Grass)
Born in a pesthole, sired by a lout and a jade, and treated most cruelly by both throughout his childhood, Cack the Sissy grew up in our midst to wear his nickname of opprobrium like a war decoration.
—John Howland Spyker, (Cack the Sissy from Little Lives)
We drove past Tiny Polski’s mansion house on the main road, and then the five miles to Northampton, Father talking the whole way about savages and the awfulness of America—how it got turned into a dope-taking, door-locking, ulcerated danger zone of rabid scavengers and criminal millionaires and moral sneaks. And look at the schools. And look at the politicians. And there wasn’t a Harvard graduate who could change a flat tire or do ten pushups. And there were people in New York City who live on pet food, who would kill you for loose change. Was that normal? If not, why did anyone put up with it?
—Paul Theroux, The Mosquito Coast
My friend has a great deal of unused talent. He is careful to keep it unused. This increases his “potential” quota. He justifies his inactivity under the motto, “Better latent than never.”
—Marvin Cohen, The Self-Devoted Friend
In youth my wings were strong and tireless
But I did not know the mountains.
In age I knew the mountains
But my weary wings could not follow my vision—
Genius is wisdom and youth.
—Edgar Lee Masters (Alexander Throckmorton from Spoon River Anthology)
Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn. He cared nothing for boxing, in fact he disliked it, but he learned it painfully and thoroughly to counteract the feeling of inferiority and shyness he had felt on being treated as a Jew at Princeton.
—Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
When I was a child I had a friend who became a Kool-Aid wino as the result of a rupture. He was a member of a very large and poor German family. All the older children in the family had to work in the fields during the summer, picking beans for two-and-one-half cents a pound to keep the family going. Everyone worked except my friend who couldn’t because he was ruptured. There was no money for an operation. There wasn’t even money to buy him a truss. So he stayed home and became a Kool-Aid wino.
—Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America
It is an unfortunate juncture we have reached. I am falling for a lunatic. She says she is not sick, that she is getting well, but I know better. There is Dr. Rosenthal’s concern, and there is what I see for myself, the eyes just shutting down. There is nothing that will break you like loving a crazy person. I do not know from experience, but I have seen them, the loved ones, the mothers and fathers and wives and husbands.
—W. Glasgow Phillips, Tuscaloosa
She was so frightened by the thought of what she had done that when the man had gone on his way she did not dare to get to her feet, but crawled on hands and knees through the grass to the house. When she got to her own room she bolted the door and drew her dressing table across the doorway. Her body shook as with a chill and her hands trembled so that she had difficulty getting into her nightdress. When she got into bed she buried her face in the pillow and wept brokenheartedly. “What is the matter with me? I will do something dreadful if I am not careful,” she thought, and turning her face to the wall, began trying to force herself to bravely face the fact that many people must live and die alone, even in Winesburg, Ohio.
—Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio
Two things to get straight from the beginning: I hate doctors and have never joined a support group in my life. At seventy-three, I’m not about to change. The mental health establishment can go screw itself on a barren hilltop in the rain before I touch their snake oil or listen to the visionless chatter of men half my age. I have shot Germans in the fields of Normandy, filed twenty-six patents, married three women, survived them all, and am currently the subject of an investigation by the IRS, which has about as much chance of collecting from me as Shylock did of getting his pound of flesh.
—Adam Haslett (Notes to My Biographer from You Are Not a Stranger Here)