Neil Gaiman

  • Jun. 10th, 2014 at 9:49 PM
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...It occurs to me that the peculiarity of most things we think of as fragile is how tough they truly are. There were tricks we did with eggs, as children, to show who they were, in reality, tiny load-bearing marble halls; while the beat of the wings of a butterfly in the right place, we are told, can create a hurricane across an ocean. Hearts may break, but hearts are the toughest of muscles, able to pump for a lifetime, seventy times a minute, and scarcely falter along the way. Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things, can prove remarkable to kill...

Stories, like people and butterflies and songbirds’ eggs and human hearts and dreams, are also fragile things, made up of nothing stronger or more lasting than twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks. Or they are words on air, composed of sounds and ideas—abstract, invisible, gone once they’ve been spoken—and what could be more frail than that? But some stories, small, simple ones about setting out on adventures or people doing wonders, tales of miracles and monsters, have outlasted all the people who told them, and some of them have outlasted the lands in which they were created.

W. S. Merwin

  • Jun. 6th, 2014 at 12:50 AM
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Late Spring

Coming into the high room again after years
after oceans and shadows of hills and the sounds
after losses and feet on stairs

after looking and mistakes and forgetting
turning there thinking to find
no one except those I knew
finally I saw you
sitting in white
already waiting

you of whom I had heard
with my own ears since the beginning
for whom more than once
I have opened the door
believing you were not far

Pablo Picasso

  • May. 17th, 2014 at 11:15 PM
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There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.

Madeleine L'Engle

  • May. 8th, 2014 at 7:36 PM
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One time I was in the kitchen drinking tea with my husband and our young son, and they got into an argument about ice hockey. I do not feel passionate about ice hockey. They do. Finally our son said. “But Daddy, you don’t understand.” And my husband said, reasonably, “It’s not that I don’t understand, Bion. It’s just that I don’t agree with you.”

To which the little boy replied hotly, “If you don’t agree with me, you don’t understand.”

I think we all feel that way, but it takes a child to admit it.

William Faulkner

  • May. 5th, 2014 at 7:01 PM
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At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, train himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance. That is, to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is... to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does. And if you have that, then I don't think the talent makes much difference, whether you've got that or not.

e. e. cummings

  • Apr. 29th, 2014 at 10:22 PM
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if seventy were young
and death uncommon
(forgiving not divine,
to err inhuman)
or any thine a mine
to say would be to sing

if broken hearts were whole
and cowards heroes
(the popular the wise,
a weed a tearose)
and every minus plus
--fare ill:fare well--
a frown would be a smile

if sorrowful were gay
(today tomorrow,
doubting believing and
to lend to borrow)
or any foe a friend
--cry nay:cry yea--
november would be may

that you and i'd be quite
-come such perfection-
another i and you,
is a deduction
which(be it false or true)
disposes me to shoot
dogooding folk on sight

if seventy were young

Mary Oliver

  • Apr. 5th, 2014 at 11:28 PM
beth_shulman: (stock: black and white tree scene)
The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

Frances Hodgson Burnett

  • Apr. 3rd, 2014 at 2:25 AM
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"Is the spring coming?" he said. "What is it like?"

"It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine..."

Connie Willis

  • Feb. 15th, 2014 at 9:53 PM
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It's why I started reading in the first place: to find out what happened to Cinderella and to Peter Pan, to find out whether the twelve dancing princesses got caught, and whether Peter Rabbit made it out from under Mr. McGregor's flowerpot, and whether the prince was able to break the spell.

And it's still the reason I read, and I think the reason everybody reads. Forget subtext and symbolism and lofty, existential thees. We want to know - what happens to Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy and Frodo and Sam and Scout and the Yearling... We've got to know.

Why is it such a powerful desire, to know what happened? And what is it we really want to know? Is it what's going to happen to Frodo and Sam? Or what's going to happen to us?

Characters in stories grow up and go off on quests and fall in love and find out terrible things about their parents and even worse things about themselves and explore strange planets and travel through time and lose battles and win wars and give way to despair and solve mysteries and figure out what matters and find love and save the kingdom - and in the process they tell us about themselves. They show us what matters and what doesn't. They teach us what it means to be human. And tell us how our own stories might turn out...

In Blackout and All Clear, the elderly Shakespearean actor Sir Godfrey asks the time-traveler Polly, "Did we win the war?" and when she says yes, meaning far more than just the war they're in at that moment, he asks, "Was it a comedy or a tragedy?" I think that's what we really want to know in the end. Is is a comedy? Or a tragedy? Or, horrible though, a TV show that gets canceled before it has a chance to wrap things up properly? Literature is the only thing that can tell us...

And no single book knows the whole answer... Every book we read... has a piece of the answer.

...That's why I read, and why I write, adding my own fragment to the tangle of clues, and will go on doing both until I can't anymore. To find out what happens. To find out what kind of story we're in.

J. R. R. Tolkein

  • Jan. 7th, 2014 at 11:59 PM
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I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which "Escape" is now so often used: a tone for which the uses of the word outside literary criticism give no warrant at all. In what the misusers are fond of calling Real Life, Escape is evidently as a rule very practical, and may even be heroic. In real life it is difficult to blame it, unless it fails; in criticism it would seem to be the worse the better it succeeds. Evidently we are faced by a misuse of words, and also by a confusion of thought. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter...

(On Fairy Stories)

E. L. Konigsburg

  • Dec. 25th, 2013 at 1:55 PM
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I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything...

Maurice Sendak

  • Dec. 13th, 2013 at 3:04 PM
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There must be more to life than having everything.

C. S. Lewis

  • Dec. 8th, 2013 at 12:57 AM
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The way for a person to develop a style is (a) to know exactly what he wants to say, and (b) to be sure he is saying exactly that. The reader, we must remember, does not start by knowing what we mean. If our words are ambiguous, our meaning will escape him. I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road. If there is any gate open to the left or the right the reader will most certainly go into it.

Mark Strand

  • Nov. 14th, 2013 at 12:37 AM
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No Words Can Describe It

How those fires burned that are no longer, how the weather worsened, how the shadow of the seagull vanished without a trace. Was it the end of a season, the end of a life? Was it so long ago it seems it might never have been? What is it in us that lives in the past and longs for the future, or lives in the future and longs for the past? And what does it matter when light enters the room where a child sleeps and the waking mother, opening her eyes, wishes more than anything to be unwakened by what she cannot name?

Erin Bow

  • Oct. 28th, 2013 at 11:20 PM
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Fantasy elevates ordinary and eternal problems of youth into stories via the language of myth. It turns “No one really knows me” into “I’ve got a secret identity.” It turns “I don’t understand why other people act the way they do” into “I’m trapped in a faerie realm.” It turns “my high school must have been built over the mouth of hell” into “my high school must have been built over the mouth of hell.”

...There are certain things in life that are glorious, and they are glorious for everyone. There are more that are hard, and they are hard for everyone. We like to see these things retold, but with dragons.

T. S. Eliot

  • Oct. 18th, 2013 at 12:43 AM
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About anyone so great as Shakespeare, it is probable that we can never be right; and if we can never be right, it is better that we should from time to time change our way of being wrong.

Patricia McKillip

  • Oct. 16th, 2013 at 11:54 PM
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The thought held him still, wondering. Slowly he became aware of the silence that built moment by moment between his question and the answer to it.

He stopped breathing, listening to the silence that haunted him oddly, like a memory of something he had once cherished.

Tom Stoppard

  • Oct. 10th, 2013 at 12:09 AM
beth_shulman: (stock: black and white tree scene)
People do awful things to each other. But it's worse in places where everybody is kept in the dark. It really is. Information is light. Information, in itself, about anything, is light.

Carl Sandburg

  • Sep. 12th, 2013 at 11:23 PM
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Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.

T. S. Eliot

  • Sep. 12th, 2013 at 11:19 PM
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And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.

(Burnt Norton, The Four Quartets)


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