On Writers, Books, and Such

Writing and publishing seem to attract more than their fair share of commentary. And much of it, unsurprisingly, gets written down and published. Just for fun, I’ve gathered a few of my favorite literary quotations. If you have any favorites, please add them to the comments!

My favorite literary quote comes from Flannery O’Connor, the novelist and short story writer. On the subject of popular literature, she said, “Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.” Remembering some of the things I wrote in college, I have to laugh. (One of O’Connor’s nonliterary quotes also resonates with me: “Total nonretention has kept my education from being a burden to me.”)

“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” This was proclaimed by erstwhile three-volume novelist Miss Prism in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

In A Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield says, “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” Ironically, well-known hermit J. D. Salinger is probably the last person in the world who’d want a reader calling him up to chat. But I agree with Holden.

Another famous literary teenager, Adrian Mole, begins his story with this explanation: “I have decided to keep a full journal, in the hope that my life will perhaps seem more interesting when it is written down.”

In his study of fellow novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James wrote, “It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.” Luckily for all of us involved in the school/library market, that statement is not true when it comes to nonfiction.

What’s missing from this list? The casual cruelty of reviewers and critics, of course. I’ll save those quotes for another blog entry.

And for fun and interesting quotes about art, look for Bob Raczka’s Speaking of Art, due out in Spring 2010.