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  • Good Writing Soothes the Mind





    "...I dig out beautiful caves behind my characters;...The idea is that the caves shall connect, and each comes to daylight at the present moment." Diary, 30 August 1923, Virginia Woolf

    "She had always wanted words, she loved them, grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape. Whereas I thought words bent emotions like sticks in water." The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje

    "Now I no longer believe that people's secrets are defined and communicable, or their feelings full-blown and easy to recognize. I don't believe so. Now, I can only say, my father's sisters scrubbed the floor with lye, they stooked the oats and milked the cows by hand...That was their life. My mother's cousins behaved in another way; they dressed up and took pictures of each other; they sallied forth. However they behaved they are all dead. I carry something of them around in me. But the boulder is gone, Mount Hebron is cut down for gravel, and the life buried here is one you have to think twice about regretting." "Chaddeleys and Flemings" from The Moons of Jupiter, Alice Munro

    "Love is lak de sea. It's uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore." Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

    "Monotonously the lorries sway, monotonously come the calls, monotonously falls the rain. It falls on our heads, and on the heads of the dead up in the line, on the body of the little recruit with the wound that is so much too big for his hip; it falls on Kemmerich's grave; it falls in our hearts." All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque

    "Yes, there were times when I forgot not only who I was, but that I was, forgot to be." Molloy, Samuel Beckett

    "This man tonight is dangerous. His despair complete. This story is the safety net above which he swoops and dives like a brilliant clown in a bankrupt circus. It's all he has to keep him from crashing through the world like a falling stone. It is his color and his light. It is the vessel into which he pours himself. It gives him shape. Structure. It harnesses him. It contains him. His Love. His Madness. His Hope. His Infinnate [sic] joy." The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

    "He smiled warmly at me, then wrapped his hand around my arm, pulled me toward him, and kissed me. It was a strange sensation, a clumsy stumbling falling being caught, the broad, sunlit world narrowing to the dark focus of his cushiony lips on mine. It scared me to death, but still I discovered how much I had been waiting for it." A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley

    "The compensation of growing old...was simply this; that the passions remain as strong as ever, but one has gained - at last! - the power which adds the supreme flavour to existence, - the power of taking hold of experience, of turning it round, slowly, in the light." Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

    "The sun hung on the lip of the horizon, filling the sky. I don't know whether it was the angle or the drifting smoke that half obscured it, but it was enormous. The whole scene looked like something that couldn't be happening on earth, partly the sun, partly the utter lifelessness of the land around us, pitted, scarred, pockmarked with stinking craters and scrawls of barbed-wire...And I stumbled along at the head of the company and I waited for the sun to go down. And the sodding thing didn't. It rose. It wasn't just me. I looked round at the others and I saw the same stupefaction on every face. We hadn't slept for four days. Tiredness like that is another world, just like noise, the noise of a bombardment, isn't like any other noise. You see people wade through it, lean into it. I honestly think if the war went on for a hundred years another language would evolve, one that was capable of describing the sound of a bombardment or the buzzing of flies on a hot August day on the Somme. There are no words. There are no words for what I felt when I saw the setting sun rise." The Ghost Road, Pat Barker

    "Sometimes it seems as though sorrow is the only truth." Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

    "..we have placed an antique mirror so old that it can't reflect anything anymore. Its surface, worn down to nubbled grainy gray stubs, has lost one of its dimensions. Like me, it's glimmerless. You can't see into it now, only past it. Depth has been replaced by texture. This mirror gives back nothing and makes no productive claim upon anyone. The mirror has been so completely worn away that you have to learn to live with what it refuses to do." The Feast of Love, Charles Baxter

    "And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
    Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
    Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
    I would not change it."
    "As You Like It," William Shakespeare

    "But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,
    My left hand hooking you round the waist,
    My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the pub- lic road.

    Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
    You must travel it for yourself...
    It is not far, it is within reach,
    Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,
    Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land."
    Walt Whitman, excerpt from Song of Myself

    "Venture too far for love, she tells herself, and you renounce citzenship in the country you've made for yourself. You end up just sailing from port to port. Still, there is this sense of missed opportunity. Maybe there is nothing, ever, that can equal the recollection of having been young together. Maybe it's as simple as that. Richard was the person Clarissa loved at her most optimistic moment...It had seemed like the beginning of happiness, and Clarissa is still sometimes shocked, more than thirty years later, to realize that it was happiness; that the entire experience lay in a kiss and a walk, the anticipation of dinner and a book...What lives undimmed in Clarissa's mind more than three decades later is a kiss at dusk on a patch of dead grass, and a walk around a pond as mosquitoes droned in the darkening air. There is still that singular perfection, and it's perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more. Now she knows: That was the moment, right then. There has been no other." The Hours, Michael Cunningham

    "O time, thou must untangle this, not I;
    It is too hard a knot for me t' untie."
    "Twelfth Night" William Shakespeare

    "His eyes grew large and round and lidless with desperate, protesting innocence..gills beat time, urgent, hopeless strokes through the salty ocean that engulfed the treetops and surged between their roots; and for all the crying, calling sounds he thought were his own, he formed a single thought: he had nowhere to go, no moment that could embody him, he was not expected, no destination or time could be named; for while he moved forward violently, he was immobile, he was hurtling round a fixed point. And this thought unwrapped a sadness that was not his own. It was centuries, millennia old. It swept through him and countless others like the wind through a field of grass. Nothing was his own, not his strokes or his movements, not the calling sounds, not even the sadness, nothing was nothing's own." The Child In Time, Ian McEwan

    "Not only was she the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, she was also the most comforting woman he had ever met. Her beauty was not a sharp, cold commodity. She smelled musty, womanly, like a bundle of your favorite clothes. Though she was disorganized physically - legs and arms speaking a slightly different dialect from her central nervous system - even her gangly demeanor seemed to Archie exceptionally elegant. She wore her sexuality with an older woman's ease, and not (as with most of the girls Archie had run with in the past) like an awkward purse, never knowing how to hold it, where to hang it, or when to just put it down." Zadie Smith, White Teeth

    "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan

    "What's agitating about solitude is the inner voice telling you that you should be mated to somebody, that solitude is a mistake. The inner voice doesn't care about who you find. It just keeps pestering you, tormenting you...You look up from reading the newspaper and realize that no one loves you, and no one burns for you." The Feast of Love, Charles Baxter

    "I just needed to see him look down at me with those sweet eyes and that slightly dumb-founded smile under his crooked moustache, like I was the answer to every painful question he'd ever asked himself..." House of Sand and Fog, Andre Dubus III

    " 'What you're supposed to be, what you're supposed to do, all that, it just kills everything...The secret little moment - if that's the whole deal. The slice you get. That slice out of time. It's no more than that, and I hope you know it.' " Faunia Farley in The Human Stain, Philip Roth

    "You made me confess the fears that I have. But I will tell you also what I do not fear. I do not fear to be alone or to be spurned for another or to leave whatever I have to leave." James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man


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