Category Archives: Quotable

The Art of Fiction

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People can be known to faint at the sight of something or upon hearing some news or the voice of someone thought to be long dead, but no one faints upon reading a book. Which is not to say books have no power; they have a different kind of power. You’re not seeing or hearing anything as you read, but you believe you are.

-James Salter, The Art of Fiction

Mister Monkey

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Who cares if it’s children’s theater? Margot is playing a criminal lawyer crusading for truth and justice! So would someone please tell me where, in what deranged fashion universe, a defense lawyer would appear before a judge in a rainbow Harpo Marx wig and an obscenely short, hobblingly tight, iridescent purple suit?

-Francine Prose, Mister Monkey: A Novel

Deep Thinking

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The nineteenth-century African American folk legend of John Henry pits the “steel-driving man” in a race against a new invention, a steam-powered hammer, bashing a tunnel through a mountain of rock. It was my blessing and my curse to be the John Henry of chess and artificial intelligence, as chess computers went from laughably weak to nearly unbeatable during my twenty years as the world’s top chess player.

-Gary Kasparov, Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins

The Rules Do Not Apply

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I wanted what we all want: everything. We want a mate who feels like family and a lover who is exotic, surprising. We want to be youthful adventurers and middle-aged mothers. We want intimacy and autonomy, safety and stimulation, reassurance and novelty, coziness and thrills. But we can’t have it all.

-Ariel Levy, The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir

Alfred Hitchcock

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The preparation of the set for Rear Window began on 12 October [1953] on stage eighteen of the Paramount lot. It represented the back of a residential block in Greenwich Village with thirty-one separate apartments, eight of them with fully furnished rooms. It also had to include fire escapes and roof gardens, together with an alley leading to a street that can be fitfully glimpsed as a relic of the outside world. The huge and complex set took a month to construct, by the coordinated efforts of fifty men, and rose forty feet into the air at a length of 185 feet. One hundred arc lights and 2,000 smaller lamps were installed….It was the biggest project on the Paramount lot since the heroic days of Cecil B. DeMille, and it shared the same theatricality. It was not real. It was bigger than reality.

-Peter Ackroyd, Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life

Blood at the Root

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There was nothing unusual about the lynching of a black man in Georgia in 1912, and the next morning the sight of Edwards’s body, laid out on the courthouse lawn, seemed to satisfy those most hungry for vengeance.

-Patrick Phillips, Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America

Wonderland

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Deep history can usually be detected in the most banal of artifacts, if you know where to look. Consider one of the most derided items on a modern supermarket shelf: the humble Doritos chip. Originally introduced in 1964 as an exclusive treat for Disneyland visitors, showcased at the “Casa de Fritos” in Adventureland, Doritos have become the crown jewel in the Frito-Lay empire of snacks.

-Steven Johnson, Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World

Eleanor and Hick

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The letters between Eleanor and Hick are less remarkable now for their shock value than for the moving and poignant story they tell of two women who loved each other intensely and deeply. Women who loved women surrounded both of them, and showed the way to a freer life.

-Susan Quinn, Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady

Adapt

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You may not be able to think of a weirder, more otherworldly creature than the cuttlefish. It has no backbone, strange W-shaped pupils in its bulbous eyes and thick floppy-looking arms protruding from its face. It swims around with a tutu-like frill that floats around its body, but propels itself backward to escape predators. To look at its many-fingered face is to look into the visage of Cthulhu, that fictional god of H.P. Lovecraft’s strange horror stories, or the alien Ood of the rebooted cult TV show Doctor Who.

-Amina Khan, Adapt: How Humans Are Tapping into Nature’s Secrets to Design and Build a Better Future

Frida Kahlo

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Frida fell for America’s malted milk, dime stores, and movies like “Tarzan” and “Frankenstein,” but found Americans, particularly the wealthy circles she and Diego socialized in, to “completely lack sensibility and good taste.” She renamed America “Gringolandia.”

-Zena Alkayat & Nina Cosford, Frida Kahlo: An Illustrated Biography