Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you, life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised some people prefer books.
How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.
Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people's lives, never your own.
Later on in life, you expect a bit of rest, don't you? You think you deserve it. I did, anyway. But then you begin to understand that the reward of merit is not life's business.
Though why should we expect age to mellow us? If it isn't life's business to reward merit, why should it be life's business to give us warm, comfortable feelings towards its end? What possible evolutionary purpose could nostalgia serve?
It's the best way of telling the truth; it's a process of producing grand, beautiful, well-ordered lies that tell more truth than any assemblage of facts. Beyond that … [it's] delight in, and play with, language; also, a curiously intimate way of communicating with people whom you will never meet.
This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn't turn out to be like Literature. Look at our parents--were they the stuff of Literature? At best, they might aspire to the condition of onlookers and bystanders, part of a social backdrop against which real, true, important things could happen. Like what? The things Literature was about: Love, sex, morality, friendship, happiness, suffering, betrayal, adultery, good and evil, heroes and villains, guilt and innocence, ambition, power, justice, revolution, war, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, the individual against society, success and failure, murder, suicide, death, God.
To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness - though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless.
Remember the botched brothel-visit in L’Education sentimentale and remember its lesson. Do not participate: happiness lies in the imagination, not the act. Pleasure is found first in anticipation, later in memory.
Is despair wrong? Isn’t it the natural condition of life after a certain age? … After a number of events, what is there left but repetition and diminishment? Who wants to go on living? The eccentric, the religious, the artistic (sometimes); those with a false sense of their own worth. Soft cheeses collapse; firm cheeses endurate. Both go mouldy.
He always thought that Touie's long illness would somehow prepare him for her death. He always imagined that grief anf guilt, if they followed, would be more clear-edged, more defined, more finite. Instead they seem like weather, like clouds constantly re-forming into new shapes, blown by nameless, unidentifiable winds.
The writer has little control over personal temperament, none over historical moment, and is only partly in charge of his or her own aesthetic.
Everything in art depends on execution: the story of a louse can be as beautiful as the story of Alexander. You must write according to your feelings, be sure those feelings are true, and let everything else go hang. When a line is good it ceases to belong to any school. A line of prose must be as immutable as a line of poetry.
The better you know someone, the less well you often see them (and the less well they can therefore be transferred into fiction). They may be so close as to be out of focus, and there is no operating novelist to dispel the blur.
If the writer were more like a reader, he’d be a reader, not a writer. It’s as uncomplicated as that.
What is the easiest, the most comfortable thing for a writer to do? To congratulate the society in which he lives: to admire its biceps, applaud its progress, tease it endearingly about its follies.
The imagination doesn’t crop annually like a reliable fruit tree. The writer has to gather whatever’s there: sometimes too much, sometimes too little, sometimes nothing at all. And in the years of glut there is always a slatted wooden tray in some cool, dark attic, which the writer nervously visits from time to time; and yes, oh dear, while he’s been hard at work downstairs, up in the attic there are puckering skins, warning spots, a sudden brown collapse and the sprouting of snowflakes. What can he do about it?
Well, they each seem to do one thing well enough, but fail to realize that literature depends on doing several things well at the same time.
He feared me as many men fear women: because their mistresses (or their wives) understand them. They are scarcely adult, some men: they wish women to understand them, and to that end they tell them all their secrets; and then, when they are properly understood, they hate their women for understanding them.
You get towards the end of life - no, not life itself, but of something else: the end of any likelihood of change in that life. You are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question: what else have I done wrong?
This was long before the term 'single-parent family' came into use, back then it was a 'broken home'...
History isn't the lies of the victors, as I once glibly assured Old Joe Hunt; I know that now. It's more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious or defeated.
Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time's malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing--until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.
[Flaubert] didn’t just hate the railway as such; he hated the way it flattered people with the illusion of progress. What was the point of scientific advance without moral advance? The railway would merely permit more people to move about, meet and be stupid together.
I didn't doubt for a moment that she had read them all, or that they were the right books to own. Further, they seemed to be an organic combination of her mind and personality, whereas mine struck me as functionally separate, straining to describe a character I hoped to grow into.
Women scheme when they are weak, they lie out of fear. Men scheme when they are strong, they lie out of arrogance.
Pride makes us long for a solution to things – a solution, a purpose, a final cause; but the better telescopes become, the more stars appear.
Most people, in my opinion, steal much of what they are. If they didn't what poor items they would be.
The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonorably, foolishly, viciously.
The best form of government is one that is dying, because that means it’s giving way to something else.
What is history? Any thoughts, Webster?''History is the lies of the victors,' I replied, a little too quickly.'Yes, I was rather afraid you'd say that. Well, as long as you remember that it is also the self-delusions of the defeated. ...'Finn?''History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation. (quoting Patrick Lagrange)
He thought of trying to explain something he had recently noticed about himself: that if anyone insulted him, or one of his friends, he didn't really mind--or not much, anyway. Whereas if anyone insulted a novel, a story, a poem that he loved, something visceral and volcanic occurred within him. He wasn't sure what this might mean--except perhaps that he had got life and art mixed up, back to front, upside down.