Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekly Quotes Part 42

The dog opened one eye, cocked it at me, and rolled it up before her lids closed.  People should not feed moralistic animals.  If they’re so holy, where are their books?  (51)

This is another example of the perverse humor Dillard shares in her book because prior to this quirky observation she is questioning her reason for writing, struggling with the temptation to just chuck it all for something easier, less complicated, less demanding.  And then she looks at her dog . . . who obviously is nonplussed. 

A work in progress quickly becomes feral.  It reverts to a wild state overnight.  It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you cannot catch.  It is a lion you cage in your study.  As the work grows, it gets hard to control; it is a lion growing in strength.  You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it.  If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room.  (52)

 I'm afraid my WIP has become feral . .  . I don't know that I dare approach it.

I was too far removed from the world.  My work was too obscure, too symbolic, too intellectual.  It was not available to people.  Recently I had published a complex narrative essay. . . . (54)

Dillard goes on to describe this "complex narrative essay" which is part of her book Holy the Firm.  If you read my review, you know I didn't like the book because I thought it was overly pretentious and obtuse.  When I read this confession from Dillard that she herself thought it was too obscure/symbolic/intellectual, I was thrilled.  She's right.  It is.  And maybe someday I'll be smart enough to reread it and actually enjoy it.  But Ms. Dillard, if you are reading this, I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you; you'll simply have to settle for my liking this later book.

[I]f you ask a twenty-one-year-old poet whose poetry he likes, he might say, unblushing, 'Nobody’s.'  In his youth, he has not yet understood that poets like poetry, and novelists like novels; he himself likes the role, the thought of himself in a hat.  (70)

Dillard teaches writing and this observation of hers, no doubt, is not unique to her experience.  I can imagine professors everywhere hearing something equally pretentious in various forms.  I never met  a  published poet (or writer of any prose) who didn't read voraciously.  It's rather like saying you're a singer but don't like listening to music.  Or an artist who doesn't like to look at drawings/paintings/whatever.

Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.  (79)

Quoting Julian Barnes’s Flaubert’s Parrot
It’s easy, after all not to be a writer.  Most people aren’t writers, and very little harm comes to them.  (91)

Best argument I've ever heard for not writing.  

[T]he sense of an Italian love-song must not be talked of. . . .  (184)

I would argue that the sense of any love song must never be talked of but I can see where Italian love songs might take this to a whole new level of pointlessness.

[I]f you please, no examples in books.  Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story.  Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands.  I will not allow books to prove any thing.  (231)

Given the era in which this novel was written, when the protagonist, Anne Elliot, says this I laughed aloud.  Clearly, an intelligent woman who knows how to make her point.  

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.  (214)

[T]o the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.  (297)

The trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.  (297)

Always use the proper name for things.  Fear of a name increases fear for the thing itself.  (298)

The truth. . . . It is a beautiful and terrible thing and should therefore be treated with great caution.  (298)

I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance.  I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know.  I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help.  (302)

This last quote struck me, not so much for its profundity as for its irony.  Given that this book has been challenged (along with the rest of the series, obviously) I can't help but be bemused by the idea that an adult (the "he" in this quote is Dumbledore) wanting to allow a younger person to find his or her own way being an offense to some people.  Of course, I realize that those who dislike the books are offended by the use of magic, which is Satanic, overlooking the more relevant theme of good versus evil, the power of friendship and love, etc.  There's no use in defending these books to some people.  I shall continue to adore the books for more reasons than I can enumerate.

Artists of the everyday excel in elevating the simple to the level of the Sacred.  (October 15)


  1. love the reason not to write and a few of the harry potter quotes...i keep getting told i should read those...

  2. Samael, I first read them with very low expectations because they were so over-hyped and I rarely like books that others say are brilliant. (Too many to number but Memoirs of a Geisha comes to mind as does The Girl With a Pearl Earring.)

    If you can read the novels with an emphasis on "written for children" and "fantasy" then you will be more open-minded than I was and perhaps like the first few books more than I did. As I continue to read through the series and post reviews, you'll see that I refer to how the stories become more mature as the characters do so, that the challenges they face become more complicated, and the climactic moment increasingly dangerous.

    It is this gradual sophistication in plot and theme that caused me to eventually fall in love with the series. But if Rob had bought me the first book instead of the fourth, I doubt I'd have read further. I'm awfully glad he bought me the fourth. Still, they are "merely" fantasy novels written for the younger reader. But there are some awfully good books out there that could be described in the same way.