--Kurt Vonnegut, Galapagos
They don't make memories like that anymore.
--Kurt Vonnegut, Galapagos
What gets me most about these people, Daddy, isn't how ignorant they are, or how much they drink. It's the way they have of thinking that everything nice in the world is a gift to the poor people from them or their ancestors. The first afternoon I was here, Mrs. Buntline made me come out on the back porch and look at the sunset. So I did, and I said I liked it very much, but she kept waiting for me to say something else. I couldn't think of what I was supposed to say, so I said what seemed like a dumb thing. "Thank you very much," I said. That is exactly what she was waiting for. "You're entirely welcome," she said. I have since thanked her for the ocean, the moon, the stars in the sky, and the United States Constitution.
--Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
They like life alright, but that they would like it even better if they could know that it was going to end sometime.
--Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake
And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.
--John Steinbeck, East Of Eden
They learned no compassion from their own anguish. Thus their suffering was wasted.
--Betty Smith, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn
I was ravenous for my child and took to gorging myself in the boneyard, hoping that she might possibly meet me halfway, or just beyond, one night, if only for an instant—step back into her own bare feet, onto the wet grass or fallen leaves or snowy ground of the living Enon, so that we could share just one last human word.
--Paul Harding, Enon
I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken - and I'd rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived.
--Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind
You're doomed at being you.
--Chuck Palahniuk, Diary
I wanted to tell you that I was so sad I felt as if I might be happy, or in love, simply because such powerful feelings can appear the same to the naive. I was mighty with grief, and I thought I should be empowered by it. I thought my hands should shine with a yellow light, and that should I reach out to touch our mother on the head, I would call her back from the place she'd gone.
--Chris Adrian, Gob's Grief
Wonder. Go on and wonder.
--William Faulkner, The Sound And The Fury
I've got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.
--Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
This is man, who, if he can remember ten golden moments of joy and happiness out of all his years, ten moments unmarked by care, unseamed by aches or itches, has power to lift himself with his expiring breath and say: "I have lived upon this earth and known glory!"
--Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
Music could ache and hurt, that beautiful music was a place a suffering man could hide.
--Pat Conroy, Beach Music
You're the man who stands on the street corner with a roll of toilet paper, and written on each square are the words, 'I love you.' And each passer-by, no matter who, gets a square all his or her own. I don't want my square of toilet paper.'
I didn't realize it was toilet paper.
--Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
The letter said that they were two feet high, and green., and shaped like plumber's friends. Their suction cups were on the ground, and their shafts, which were extremely flexible, usually pointed to the sky. At the top of each shaft was a little hand with a green eye in its palm. The creatures were friendly, and they could see in four dimensions. They pitied Earthlings for being able to see only three. They had many wonderful things to teach Earthlings, especially about time. Billy promised to tell what some of those wonderful things were in his next letter.
Billy was working on his second letter when the first letter was published. The second letter started out like this:
The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.
When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is "so it goes."
--Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
Everyone struggles against despair, but it always wins in the end. It has to. It's the thing that lets us say goodbye.
--Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
The nuns taught us there are two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things. The nuns taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end. I will be true to you. Whatever comes.
--"The Tree Of Life", 2011
One can show no greater respect than to weep for a stranger.
--Jose Saramago, Seeing
I am...sad and angry. Why is my spirit so sad and angry? I look back at my life and all I can remember is rage and rage and rage.
--Chris Adrian, The Children's Hospital
Thinking of a kid who doesn’t want to say he’s still
using heroin. He’s six minutes old and the cut
below his eye’s on fire just beneath
the visible wavelengths. I suspect
he’ll drop out of college and washing his clothes.
He’ll go to New York, which is my favorite actor,
how tall it stands and green in the middle
of murder or love, and then Africa,
because getting around is like practicing death,
the unknown cliffs and call to prayer in the morning
in a city he can’t speak to. Were I a sailor,
I’d cut my ship loose one night and miss it
the rest of my life, go looking in ports
with my eyes closed. I sense wandering in him
on a suicidal scale, like he’ll pick a fight
with the ocean. When I came into Heraklion,
I spent hours on the concrete blocks
along the shore, they’re shaped like jacks, those
we scooped as tots while a ball bounced,
and three times as big as a man. People
and sunlight went by and that was enough for me,
but this kid, I fear he wants a bullet in every second,
for time to be furious and piercing
and will make it so by putting his face
through a windshield each day. There are so many
round things, like an O in the arm, the O of poets,
that gasping sound, that syllable of praise
we offer in lieu of sense. How romantic,
the poem he’s writing in his skin, this kid
who doesn’t know what he’s trying to let go
and so throws everything in.
He woke with a start. It was cold, but not so cold. He had never slept before on these vigils, but he was old, not quite finished, but nearly finished. He thought of all those that were suffering, of Gertrude the weak and foolish one, of the people of Shanty Town and Alexandra, of his wife now at this moment. But above all of his son, Absalom. Would he be awake, would he be able to sleep, this night before the morning? He cried out, My son, my son, my son.
With his crying he was now fully awake, and he looked at his watch and saw that it was one o'clock. The sun would rise soon after five, and it was then it was done, they said. If the boy was asleep, then let him sleep, it was better. But if he was awake, then oh Christ of the abundant mercy, be with him. Over this he prayed long and earnestly.
Would his wife be awake, and thinking of it? She would have come with him, were it not for the girl. And the girl, why, he had forgotten her. But she was no doubt asleep; she was loving enough, but this husband had given her so little, no more than her others had done.
And there was Jarvis, bereaved of his wife and his son, and his daughter-in-law bereaved of her husband, and her children bereaved of their father, especially the small boy, the bright laughing boy. The small boy stood there before his eyes, and he said to Kumalo, When I go, something bright will go out of Ndotsheni. Yes, I see, he said. Yes, I see. He was not shy or ashamed, but he said, Yes, I see, and laughed with his pleasure.
And now for all the people of Africa, the beloved country. Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, God save Africa. But he would not see that salvation. It lay afar off, because men were afraid of it. Because, to tell the truth, they were afraid of him, and his wife, and Msimangu, and the young demonstrator. And what was there evil in their desires, in their hunger? That men should walk upright in the land where they were born, and be free to use the fruits of the earth, what was there evil in it? Yet men were afraid, with a fear that was deep, deep in the heart, a fear so deep that they hid their kindness, or brought it out with fierceness and anger, and hid it behind fierce and frowning eyes. They were afraid because they were so few. And such fear could not be cast out, but by love.
It was Msimangu who had said, Msimangu who had no hate for any man, I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they turn to loving they will find we are turned to hating.
Oh, the grave and the somber words.
--Alan Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country
Mind is the Maker, for no reason at all, for all this creation, created to fall.
--Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
The good thing about being old, is you don’t have to worry about dying young.
--Stephen King, Doctor Sleep
But he said, in substance, to himself that if the earth and moon were about to clash, many persons would doubtless plan to get upon the roofs to witness the collision.
--Stephen Crane, The Red Badge Of Courage
She conceived of life as a road down which one traveled, an easy enough road through a broad country, and that one's destination was there from the very beginning, a measured distance away, standing in the ordinary light like some plain house where one went in and was greeted by respectable people and was shown to a room where everything one had ever lost or put aside was gathered together, waiting.
--Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping
It is just an illusion here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever.
--Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
That is what we do. That is what people do. They stay alive for each other.
--Michael Cunningham, The Hours
How beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken.
--Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie
What humanity was about to lose, though, except for one tiny colony on Santa Rosalia, was what the trackless sea could never lose, so long as it was made of water, the ability to heal itself.
--Kurt Vonnegut, Galapagos
If you're going to say the Jesus Prayer, at least say it to Jesus, and not to St. Francis and Seymour and Heidi's grandfather all wrapped up in one.
--J.D.Salinger, Franny and Zooey
I stopped in the middle of that building and I saw — the sky. I saw the things that I love in this world. The work and the food and time time to sit and smoke.
--Arthur Miller, Death Of A Salesman
Words betrayed her: beautiful butterflies in her mind; dead moths when she opened her mouth for their release into the world.
--Glen Duncan, I, Lucifer
Sometimes Sonny felt like he was the only human creature in the town. It was a bad feeling, and it usually came on him in the mornings early, when the streets were completely empty, the way they were one Saturday morning in late November.
--Larry McMurtry, The Last Picture Show
I don't have any regrets, really, except that one. I wanted to write about you, about us, really. Do you know what I mean? I wanted to write about everything, the life we're having and the lives we might have had. I wanted to write about all the ways we might have died.
--Michael Cunningham, The Hours
The Earthlings behaved at all times as though there were a big eye in the sky—as though that big eye were ravenous for entertainment.
--Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens Of Titan
Nobody's perfect. Well, there was this one guy, but we killed him...
--Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?
--William Golding, Lord Of The Flies
If you want to imagine the future, imagine a boy and his dog and his friends. And a summer that never ends.
--Neil Gaimen, Good Omens: The Nice And Accurate Prophecies By Anges Nutter, Witch
I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
--Harper Lee,To Kill A Mockingbird
I shall go on shining as a brilliantly meaningless figure in a meaningless world.
--F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful And The Damned
"I'm sorry," I say. "I didn't give you everything you wanted. I wasn't everything you wanted. You were everything I wanted."
--Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendants
Just remember: If one bird carried every grain of sand, grain by grain, across the ocean, by the time he got them all on the other side, that would only be the beginning of eternity.
--Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
There are plenty of good reasons for fighting...but no good reason to ever hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty hates with you, too. Where's evil? It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It's that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive....it's that part of an imbecile that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly.
--Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night
You are your best thing.
--Toni Morrison, Beloved
All this stood upon her and was the world
and stood upon her with all its fear and grace
as trees stand, growing straight up, imageless
yet wholly image, like the Ark of God,
and solemn, as if imposed upon a race.
As she endured it all: bore up under
the swift-as-flight, the fleeting, the far-gone,
the inconceivably vast, the still-to-learn,
serenely as a woman carrying water
moves with a full jug. Till in the midst of play,
transfiguring and preparing for the future,
the first white veil descended, gliding softly
over her opened face, almost opaque there,
never to be lifted off again, and somehow
giving to all her questions just one answer:
In you, who were a child once-in you.
--Rainier Maria Rilke
Translated by Stephen Mitchell
It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance - for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light .... Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don't have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it? .... Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave - that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm.
-Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
The crucified planet Earth,
should it find a voice
and a sense of irony,
might now well say
of our abuse of it,
"Forgive them, Father,
They know not what they do."
The irony would be
that we know what
we are doing.
When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
"It is done."
People did not like it here.
--Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without A Country
Nothing commonplace about The Common Place.