94. Quotation Station…

16 Dec
94. Quotation Station…

Continuing the series of quotations from various books which didn’t quite merit a full review, but featured some turns of phrases and ideas I wanted to remember…

The Ministry of Special Cases,‘ Nathan Englander

(A wonderful, heart-breaking novel on the trauma of living through the era of Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ of military dictatorship versus Argentine citizens in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s):

“She didn’t want to get hopeful, but outside the financial pressures which threatened to put them on the street, and the political uncertainty that kept them locked inside, it was the best in a while that their lives had been…”

“This is what set loose the panic in her, a reverse progression she’d been caught up in before. First the government declares victory, next comes the fighting, and then – as an afterthought – an enemy is picked up along the way…”

“The first line of defence for any corrupt dysfunctional system is an ignoramus guarding the door…”

“There are three things that show a person’s true self: when money is involved, when speaking in anger, and when drunk…”


Good To Be God,’ Tibor Fischer (one of my favourite, highly-quotable contemporary authors who has already been fully reviewed here):

“I have the same problems as when I left home, but I don’t care. I’m not kidding myself. I really don’t care. And not caring about your problems is as good as not having them…”

“…I’ve never met anyone from Miami. That’s what Miami is, a city you come to, not from…”

“What galls me most about failure, is the amount of effort I’ve gone to to achieve it…”

“As you get older, you get more relaxed about being around failed individuals who are of a lower value than you, because it’s understood that they can’t be your friends, they’ve just drifted into your presence. You never lose that sentiment of caste…”

“I dislike children because they’re typically noisy and smelly; you have to spend your whole time escorting food in and out of their bodies…”

“‘I’ve no idea how this happened,’ says Gamay. I have some idea, but explaining to Gamay and Muscat that if a goldfish could move the pieces, it would beat them at chess, won’t improve anything…”

“I’m making that dish that no one can mess up: spaghetti bolognese…”

“‘I’m horrified of what I’m becoming.’ Being horrified of what you’re becoming is one of the most common human experiences…”

“I’ve had some good meals in Vietnamese restaurants, but I’ve never had good service or a trace of a smile…”

“This is what’s so infuriating about life: it occasionally works. Every so often, you need a loan, you ask a girl out, apply for a job, and you get a yes. There’s just enough compliance to keep you in the game, like the odds in casinos, carefully honed to yield enough to keep punters on the premises…”


How To Live: a life of montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer,’ Sarah Bakewell

“Another topic Montaigne shows no interest in is Jesus Christ…As the modern critic David Quint has summed it up, Montaigne would probably have interpreted the message for humanity in Christ’s crucifixion as being ‘Don’t crucify people’…”

“‘I am so sick for freedom, that if anyone should forbid me access to some corner of the Indies, I should live distinctly less comfortably’…”

(an almost direct descendant of this quote can be found in my review of Christopher Hitchens’s ‘Hitch 22’).


It’s Not Me, It’s You,’ Jon Richardson (a notoriously dry-humoured, obsessive-compulsive English comedian)

“Once we could all get through the days without trying, we had to find some other reason to wake up each morning; we had to adopt a scoring system to see who was winning at being alive – happiness!”

On how scarily similar his OCD is to some of my, erm, funny habits:

“Some numbers are better than others, obviously. Even numbers are better than odd, excepting multiples of five, which should be used whenever altering the volume control on a television. No television should ever have to suffer the ignominy of being left at volume thirteen…”


“I have always believed that there is a reason they call it the right angle, and that is because the other 359 are wrong…”


The Hunters,’ James Salter

“DeLeo was a good companion. He had always traveled. He was at rest while moving…”


The Brain-Dead Megaphone,’ George Saunders

“Humor is what happens when we’re told the truth quicker and more directly than we’re used to…”

“…the Himalayas, pure, Platonically white, the white there was before other colors were invented…”

“The traveler must, of course, always be cautious of the overly broad generalization. But I am an American, and a paucity of data does not stop me from making sweeping vague conceptual statements and, if necessary, backing these statements up with troops…”


The Reason Of Things,’ A.C.Grayling

On Madness:

“‘All the world is queer, except me and thee,’ the Quaker saying has it, ‘and even thee is a bit odd at times.'”


The Meaning Of Things,’ A.C.Grayling

On Hope:

“…you learn more about a person when you learn about his hopes than when you count his achievements, for the best in what we are lies in what we hope to be…”

On Countries:

“Oddly, patriotism is most virulent in countries which do least for their citizens in the provision of welfare – the United States and China, for instance…”

On Punishment:

“[A] Chinese saying: ‘Beat your child every day; if you don’t know what for, he certainly does’…”

And finally, on Sorrow, the single most touching and helpful thing I have ever read on how to begin overcoming grief:

“Think of those you care about; imagine them mourning when you die; and ask yourself how much sorrow you would wish them to bear. The answer would surely be: neither too much, nor for too long….If that is what what we wish for those we will leave behind us when we die, then that is what we must believe would be desired by those who have already died…”

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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in BOOKS


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