Toni Morrison

  • Nov. 5th, 2016 at 8:22 PM
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I just think goodness is more interesting. Evil is constant. You can think of different ways to murder people, but you can do that at age five. But you have to be an adult to consciously, deliberately be good – and that’s complicated.

Neil Gaiman

  • Aug. 8th, 2016 at 8:06 PM
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It would be a poor sort of world if one were only able to read authors who expressed points of view that one agreed with entirely. It would be a bland sort of world if we could not spend time with people who thought differently, and who saw the world from a different place. Kipling was many things that I am not, and I like that in my authors.

Malcolm Gladwell

  • Jul. 25th, 2016 at 7:26 PM
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Creative property, Lessig reminds us, has many lives—the newspaper arrives at our door, it becomes part of the archive of human knowledge, then it wraps fish. And, by the time ideas pass into their third and fourth lives, we lose track of where they came from, and we lose control of where they are going.

Marie Howe

  • Jun. 14th, 2016 at 2:00 AM
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This week I have no faith in language. I must tell you I don’t, but that’s my own failing, not language’s. I feel like it’s the last outpost for us humans. I take it very seriously. I feel language has been utterly cut off by this culture and used in the service of consumerism and that poetry insists on the integrity of words, of a word... The language itself I feel is endangered more than it has ever been. To try to say what we mean, to try to make something beautiful and meaningful from language, feels to me like a profound political act still and a spiritual act.

It’s terrifying, really terrifying what Madison Avenue and people who sell things are doing. I feel like poets and writers are the monks writing illuminated manuscripts, in the sense of trying to preserve the integrity of language, just to expand the possibilities for expression, because the culture is trying to push us into the same twenty words over and over again.

People now want the information fast and they want a certain kind of information that they can eat, essentially, instead of dwelling with mystery. Negative capability, Keats called it—to dwell with uncertainty without grasping after an easy solution. A poem often asks us to dwell there, and it’s unbearable, especially if you have no practice, if you don’t read or if you don’t go off by yourself and sit alone for a while. Even those of us who write, we’re often rushing around. So this dwelling, not fully comprehending something instantly, is very difficult. Anything that pushes us into the depths of our being is very hard to bear. I find it hard to bear. Sometimes I open a book that’s so beautiful I have to shut it because it hurts me. I can’t stand it. It’s like, Oh no! Oh no! Oh no! This is going to drive me into my own heart. A day or two days later I’m saying, All right, and I just surrender to it: Do it to me. Go ahead. I want it. I don’t want it. I want it. I don’t want it.

Vladimir Nabokov

  • Apr. 2nd, 2016 at 11:37 PM
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One cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader. And I shall tell you why. When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation. When we look at a painting we do no have to move our eyes in a special way even if, as in a book, the picture contains elements of depth and development. The element of time does not really enter in a first contact with a painting. In reading a book, we must have time to acquaint ourselves with it. We have no physical organ (as we have the eye in regard to a painting) that takes in the whole picture and can enjoy its details.

Virginia Woolf

  • Mar. 6th, 2016 at 7:09 PM
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Each had his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart; and his friends could only read the title.

J. M. Barrie

  • Mar. 24th, 2015 at 12:21 AM
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Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.
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...I write my books on what I call "The Pizza Model." Fifty years ago, pizza was a strange exotic food, the subject of ethnic slurs. Now, not only does it have coast-to-coast acceptance, but American chefs and eaters have made it their own: in Italy you would be hard put to find a Cajun-blackened-chicken pizza topped with mango salsa on a whole-wheat sourdough crust! In the same way, I think of [A Single] Shard as an "American" novel. Its setting and characters may be twelfth-century Korean, but its author was concerned with the search for belonging and the drive to innovate, both very much part of the American experience. This strikes me as a fine parallel to both the Newbery Award itself — named for an Englishman, yet now wholly American-and to American culture as a whole. It is one of our great strengths that we have such a richness of cultures from which to draw in the continuing evolution of our own.

Is it important that I am the first Asian American in seventy-five years to have been awarded the Newbery Medal? In some ways, yes. Seventy-five years is a long time — three or four generations. We all know now how important it is for young people to see themselves reflected in positive images from the culture around them. And I think it is even more important for those in the majority to see images of people of color in a variety of contexts, to move away from seeing them as "other."

However, I was pleased by Kathleen Odean's comment that the book's multiculturalism was not a factor in its selection. Certainly I did not write the book with an overt political agenda in mind. It has also been difficult for me to deal with the idea of becoming a sort of poster child for Korean Americans and for Asian writers in general.

I feel strongly that the author's bio should be kept separate from consideration of the text itself, so much so that for my first three books I declined to have my photo printed on the back flap. I wanted the books to stand or fall on their own, without help or hindrance from information about my ethnicity. And I still believe that this is the goal — the ideal we must strive for, But the response from Koreans and Korean Americans demonstrates that we are still a long way from inhabiting that ideal world. I was stunned and humbled to learn what the award for A Single Shard means to so many people, young and old, complete strangers, who have written to tell me how proud they are that a book set in Korea by a Korean American had won this award — how they now feel "included" in a way that they did not before...

William Faulkner

  • Sep. 21st, 2014 at 12:27 AM
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Between grief and nothing I will take grief.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tom Stoppard

  • Oct. 10th, 2013 at 12:09 AM
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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.


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