Category Archives: Quotable

Alfred Hitchcock


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


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



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


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



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


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

The Platinum Age of Television


Before it was a TV series on Comedy Central, South Park was a bootleg: A five-minute foulmouthed holiday cartoon,  with crude construction-paper animation and dialogue to match, called “The Spirit of Christmas.” Brian Graden, then an executive at Fox, commissioned the University of Colorado film school graduates Trey Parker and Matt Stone to create a cartoon “Christmas card” he could send to friends for the holidays in 1995. “The Spirit of Christmas” featured prototypes of the characters we now know from South Park–Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny–who witness an expletive-filled fight to the finish between Santa Claus and Jesus.

-David Bianculli, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific

300 Arguments


There will come a time when people decide you’ve had enough of your grief, and they’ll try to take it away from you.

-Sarah Manguso, 300 Arguments: Essays



Nobody thought the apocalypse would be so polite and quirky. Things just popped out of existence, like they had forgotten all about themselves. Now when you misplaced your keys, you didn’t go looking for them.

-Alexandra Kleeman, “You, Disappearing,” in Intimations: Stories

Ray and Joan


Before southern California’s glorious, golden landscape was etched with eight-lane superhighways and tangles of concrete flyovers choreographing a continuous vehicular ballet; before families became enchanted with the thrill and convenience of popping TV dinners into the oven; before preservatives and GMOs allowed food in mass quantities to be processed, preserved, and transported in refrigerated trucks and served up in disposable packaging at fast-food franchises for quick consumption on the go by harried, hungry travelers, there were oranges. Millions of oranges, fragrantly punctuating thousands of acres.

-Lisa Napoli, Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away