Writing Quotes

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A Word or Two From the Dept. of Speculation


In the past two days I read Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation. Defined as a novel, it proves just how protean and flexible that word can be. It includes a story of sorts, but it is told not in paragraphs so much as unindented blurbs.

The author, a college writing teacher, shares a few quotes related to writing and life (but I repeat myself). I copied a few here just to have. And share, if you like. They mean different things to different people, which is the strength of a good quote, I guess.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Once the phial was full—here is the bottle it came in. Hold on, there’s a drop left there…No, it was just the way the light fell.”

(Oh so bittersweet, that. And oh so F. Scott.)

Simone Weil: “Attention without object is a supreme form of prayer.”

(And attention with object equals a chance to make something of yourself. It won’t happen by rote, apparently.)

Arabic Proverb: “One insect is enough to fell a country.”

(Makes me think of locusts. In what was the land of milk and honey. But you don’t need to go back to Biblical ties for one insect to wreak havoc. Or, more likely, one chemical company. Like Monsanto. Which I think was swallowed by Bayer. Which means you best buy aspirin to swallow elsewhere.)

Stefan Zweig: “It was quite difficult to reach Rilke. He had no house, no address where one could find him, no steady lodging or office. He was always on his way through the world and no one, not even he himself, knew in advance which direction it would take.”

(Reminds me of North American Indians, who had no concept of property. Earth was everyone’s property. Maybe Rilke was channeling his inner Indian.)

John Berryman: “Let all flowers wither like a party.”

(Similes can remain pretty, even after the flowers die.)

Rainer Maria Rilke: “I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.”

(But how do you know if they know a secret thing? It is a secret, after all. Explains why Rilke and I so value being alone.)

Rainer Maria Rilke: “Surely all art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, to where no one can go any further.”

(Dear Writers Writing Every Day: Please don’t forget to leave your desks and live. This message from your Muse, who lives much like a North America Indian did.)

Franz Kafka: “I write to close my eyes.”

(I read for that same purpose. Many present-day writers put me there, and a few yesterday writers, too.)

John Keats: “No such thing as the world becoming an easy place to save your soul in.”

(It only seems easy, the world. The difficulty will come in saving your soul on the other side. By then it may be reaped and sold.)

Thank you, Jenny! And thank you, quotes! I wish any Americanos reading this a Happy Fourth. My Fourth-of-July wish is the the Electoral College President will put down his binkie (tweeting device) and read Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence instead. Then the Constitution. Both short. Both more substantive than Fox & Friends, too.