"In order that the mind may not be taxed, moreover, by the manifold and confused reading of so many such things, and in order to prevent the escape of something valuable that we have read, heard, or discovered through the process of thinking itself, it will be found very useful to entrust to notebooks ... those things which seem noteworthy and striking."

[Commonplace books: Thomas Farnaby, 17th-century]

He had pleasant manners which he had learnt at school, while Oxford had fostered, the one through the dons, the other through the undergraduates, two separate veins of pedantry and lechery, which, united when drunk and when sober divided, were the most definite things you noticed about him.

[Pedantic Lechers: Cyril Connolly , The Rock Pool]

Posted by stronzo on 05.22.2017

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Little is to be expected of that day, if it can be called a day, to which we are not awakened by our Genius, but by the mechanical nudgings of some servitor, are not awakened by our own newly-acquired force and aspirations from within, accompanied by the undulations of celestial music, instead of factory bells, and a fragrance filling the air--to a higher life than we fell asleep from; and thus the darkness bear its fruit, and prove itself to be good, no less than the light.

[Alarm clocks: Henry David Thoreau, Walden]

Posted by stronzo on 01.24.2017

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After all, a footnote is where civilization survives.

[Footnotes: Joseph Brodsky, "In the Shadow of Dante"]

Posted by stronzo on 09.25.2014

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Authors and uncaptured criminals, Miss Benbow, are the only people free from routine.

[Freelancers: Eric Linklater, Poet's Pub]

Posted by stronzo on 03.22.2013

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People are like food. There are lots of bourgeois who seem to me like boiled beef: all steam, no juice, and to taste (it fills you up straight away and is much eaten by bumpkins). Other people are like white meat, freshwater fish, slender eels from the muddy river-bed, oysters (of varying degrees of saltiness), calves' heads, and sugared porridge. Me? I'm like a runny, stinking macaroni cheese, which you have to eat a lot of times before you develop a taste for it. You do finally get to like it, but only after it has made your stomach heave on countless occasions.

[Food: Gustave Flaubert, Letters]

Posted by stronzo on 03.04.2013

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"I was thinking," he said absently, "about Euripides; how, when he was an old man, he went and lived in a cave by the sea, and it was thought queer, at the time. It seems that houses had become insupportable to him. I wonder whether it was because he had observed women so closely all his life."

[On Returning from a Shopping Trip with a Woman: Willa Cather, The Professor's House]

Posted by stronzo on 03.04.2013

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"I hope," said Mark Bitterly, "that one day you fall irrevocably for some unresponsive manufacturer of plastic ferns." He slammed through the green baize door and immediately returned. "I didn't mean that."

[Putdowns to Botanists: Penelope Lively, According to Mark]

Posted by stronzo on 12.10.2012

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Yes, of course, this gargantuan aimlessness has a purpose: it is that in life all things hang together, that personalities persist through the ages and bad people can become good if they bear witness to love and truth. It’s so vague and stupid it seems worthy of Mitt Romney, but of course he hasn’t had three hours to spare in years, and for all I know he eschews the movies.

[Cloud Atlas : David Thomson, The New Republic]

Posted by stronzo on 11.12.2012

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Lincoln was once invited to referee a cockfight where a bird refused combat. Its enraged owner, one Babb McNabb, flung the creature onto a woodpile, whereat it spread its feathers and crowed mightily. "Yes, you little cuss," yelled McNabb, "you are great on dress parade, but you ain't worth a damn in a fight." Long afterward, confronted with the unmartial ditherings of General George B. McClellan, Lincoln would compare the chief of his army--and subsequent electoral challenger--to McNabb's pusillanimous rooster.

[Roosters: Christopher Hitchens, Abraham Lincoln: Misery's Child]

Posted by stronzo on 09.05.2012

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Lieut. Col. Jean Martinet, Louis XIV's inspector-general of infantry, rather similarly [to Chauvin] had his surname applied to any extreme disciplinarian. He would punish delinquent soldiers with a cat-o'-nine-tails later known as a martinet. To this day any severe person in authority is liable to be called a martinet, but the man's name has never been applied to any foe of feminism, real or imagined.

[Martinet: Kingsley Amis, The King's English]

Posted by stronzo on 08.29.2012

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Popular? How on earth could it be popular? The thing was charming with all his charm and powerful with all his power: it was an unscrupulous, an unsparing, a shameless merciless masterpiece. It was, no doubt...the worst he could do; but the perversity of the effort, even though heroic, had been frustrated by the purity of the gift...He'll try again for the common with what he'll believe to be a still more infernal cunning, and again the common will fatally elude him, for his infernal cunning will have been only his genius in an ineffectual disguise.

[Magnificent Mistakes: Henry James, The Next Time]

Posted by stronzo on 08.29.2012

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I'm not sure how interested we should be in the idea of interest. It's such a secular category of mental activity--it implies such an emptying out of content. One can't imagine Dante or Pascal being 'interested' in something. Pascal's 'interest' in roulette was a terrifying confrontation with the omnipresent immanence of his creator, a face-to-face interview with God. You would no more ask him if it was 'interesting' than you would ask a matador if he was 'interested' in bulls, a man in a crow's nest on a windjammer during a gale whether he was 'interested' in reefs, a ballet dancer at the apogee of his leap whether he is 'interested' in gravity, a whore checking the balance of her savings account whether she is 'interested' in men. It's a condition of our banality that we are so interested in things; that we assume that the idea of interest has any force. None of the most important events in our life is 'interesting'--birth, copulation, death. A man standing on the edge of the abyss has passed beyond interest in the void.

[Interest: John Lanchester, The Debt to Pleasure]

Posted by stronzo on 08.29.2012

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Eccentricity, n. A method of distinction so cheap that fools employ it to accentuate their incapacity.

[Eccentricity: Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary]

Posted by stronzo on 08.29.2012

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Ryan is animated as much by a theory of government as by a theory of life; but his theory of government is erected in part on his theory of life. For government, limits; for the individual, no limits. A terrible fear of dependence has led him to a terrible exaggeration of independence. The self in Ryan’s self-reliance is a monster. I would not raise a child, let alone design a budget, on this stunted ideal.

[Paul Ryan: Leon Wieseltier, The New Replublic]

Posted by stronzo on 08.29.2012

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Most young men are alarmed on hearing that a young woman writes poetry. Combined with an ill-groomed head of hair and an eccentric style of dress, such an admission is almost fatal.

[Poetess: Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm]

Posted by stronzo on 04.25.2012

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