Quotes: Books


The Heron Prince

“If you have to, think of me and set something on fire.”

“Poor thing, I didn’t want to upset him so I never let on. He thought he was invisible, I mean of course part of the time he was. I think he just wasn’t very good at it.”

“No living being can support going unseen by the eyes of their fellows forever, no matter what the prince may or may not have wished for. If you go without for too long, you forget how to be seen at all. You’re standing right there, but you’re only a shadow of a memory. And then no one remembers you. And then you’re dead.”


The Black Dudley Murder

…Michael Prenderley lay doubled up on a long, flat stone sink which ran the whole length of the place some three feet from the floor.  Martin Watt, every trace of his former languidness vanished, was fighting like a maniac with one of the erstwhile prisoners in the shadow at the extreme end of the room; but it was Wyatt who was the central figure of the drama.
He stood balanced on the edge of the sink in front of Michael.  The flickering firelight played on the lines of his lank figure, making him seem unnaturally tall.  His longish hair was shaken back from his forehead, and his clothes were bloodstained and wildly disheveled; but it was his face that most commanded attention.  The intellectual, clever, and slightly cynical scholar had vanished utterly, and in its place there had appeared a warrior of the Middle Ages, a man who had thrown his whole soul into a fight with fanatical fury.
In his two hands he wielded a wooden pole tipped at one end with a heavy iron scoop, such as are still used in many places to draw water up out of wells.  It was clearly the first thing that had come to his hand, but in his present mood it made him the most formidable of weapons.  He was lashing out with it with an extraordinary fury, keeping the three men at bay as if they had been yelping dogs, and as an extra flicker from the fire lit up his face afresh it seemed to Abbershaw that it was transformed; he looked more like an Avenging Angel than a scholar with a well scoop.
…Gradually Wyatt’s uplifted weapon sank to the ground and he jumped off the sink and collapsed, his head between his knees, his arms hanging limply by his sides.

Wyatt remained where he had collapsed; the others had not addressed him, realizing in some vague subconscious way that he would rather they left him alone.
Abbershaw had forgotten him entirely, so that when he raised himself suddenly and staggered to his feet the little red-haired doctor was considerably startled.  Wyatt’s face was unnaturally pale, and his dark eyes had become lacklustre and without expression.

More Work for the Undertaker

In the intervals Adrian Siddons recited.

When telling the story afterwards, Harold Lines used to lower his voice on that statement and stare deeply into his glass.


Beware of the Trains – “Within the Gates”

“Discretion,” said Fen with great complacency, “is my middle name.”
“I dare say. But very few people use their middle names.”


Jane Eyre

I fell to breathing on the frost-flowers with which the window was fretted, and thus clearing a space in the glass through which I might look out on the grounds, where all was still and petrified under the influence of a hard frost…


Storm Front
“An actual wizard?” he asked, grinning, as though I should let him in on the joke. “Spells and potions? Demons and incantations? Subtle and quick to anger?”
“Not so subtle.”

Paranoid?  Probably.  But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.


She trailed a fingertip over her chin, down across her throat, and down over her sternum, and gave me a smile so wicked that its parents should have sent it to military school.

My brain started gibbering and running in circles at the very thought of what Mab had asked me to do, but I forced it to sit down and start breathing into a paper bag…

…I could almost pretend I was there again. That I was home.
But they’d burned down my home. I had repaid them for it, with interest, but I still felt oddly hollow in my guts when I thought about how I would never see it again. I missed Mister, my cat. I missed my dog. I missed the familiarity of having a place that I knew, that was a shelter. I missed my life. I’d been away from home for what felt like a very long time.

“Okay, come on,” I said. “You’re going to buy me a lawsuit, Bob.”
“Hush, Harry. Or you’ll go to the special hell.”
I blinked at that, confused. I’m not supposed to be the guy who doesn’t get the reference joke, dammit.

I whistled down a cab and went to my next destination: Graceland Cemetery.
The place was actually kind of busy, it being Halloween and all. Graceland is one of the great cemeteries of the nation, the Atlantic City of graveyards. It’s filled with monuments to men and women who evidently had too much money to throw around while they were still alive. There are statues and mausoleums everywhere, made from granite and ornate marble, some of them in the style of ancient Greece, some obviously more influenced by ancient Egypt. There’s one that’s practically a full-size temple. The actual style of the various monuments ranges from incredible beauty to absolutely outrageous extravagance, with artists and tycoons and architects and inventors all lying silently together now.
Walk in Graceland and you can find yourself lost in a maze of memories, a cloud of names that no one living could attach to a face anymore. I wondered, passing some of the older monuments, whether anyone ever visited them now. If you’d died in 1876, it would mean that your great-great- or even great-great-great-grandchildren were the ones living now. Did people visit the graves of those who had been gone that long?
No. Not for any personal reason. But that was all right. Graves aren’t for the dead. They’re for the loved ones the dead leave behind them. Once those loved ones have gone, once all the lives that have touched the occupant of any given grave had ended, then the grave’s purpose was fulfilled and ended.
I suppose if you looked at it that way, one might as well decorate one’s grave with an enormous statue or a giant temple. It gave people something to talk about, at least. Although, following that logic, I would need to have a roller coaster, or maybe a Tilt-A-Whirl constructed over my own grave when I died. Then even after my loved ones had moved on, people could keep having fun for years and years.
Of course, I’d need a slightly larger plot.

Ghost Story

I’ve said before that only the dead feel no pain, but I’d never spoken from experience before. Pain used as a weapon is one thing. Personal pain, the kind that comes from just living our lives, is something else. Pain isn’t a lot of fun, at least not for most folks, but it is utterly unique to life. Pain – physical, emotional, and otherwise – is the shadow cast by everything you want out of life, the alternative to the result you were hoping for, and the inevitable creator of strength. From the pain of our failures we learn to be better, stronger, greater than what we were before. Pain is there to tell us when we’ve done something badly. It’s a teacher, a guide, one that is always there to both warn us of our limitations and challenge us to overcome them. For something no one likes, pain does a whole hell of a lot of good.


Lucifer’s Crown

“St. Bernard said, ‘Every word one writes smites the Devil.'”


The Mysterious Mr. Quin

The Duchess cleared her throat.
“It seems quite easy to be an artist nowadays,” she observed witheringly. “There’s no attempt to copy things.  You just shovel on some paint – I don’t know what with, not a brush, I’m sure –”
“Palette knife,” said Naomi, smiling broadly once more.
“A good deal at a time,” continued the Duchess.  “In lumps.  And there you are!  Everyone says ‘How clever!’  Well, I’ve no patience with that sort of thing.  Give me –”
“A nice picture of a dog and a horse by Edward Lanseer.”
“And why not?” demanded the Duchess.  “What’s wrong with Landseer?”
“Nothing,” said Naomi.  “He’s all right.  And you’re all right.  The tops of things are always nice and shiny and smooth.  I respect you, Duchess; you’ve got force; you’ve met life fair and square and you’ve come out on top.  But the people who are underneath see the under side of things.  And that’s interesting in a way.”
The Duchess stared at her.
“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about,” she declared.


Vineyard Blues

And Corrie told us how he wandered from down south to up north and from out west to back east, always playing in small clubs and bars, never making it onto the big stages and never minding that at all because the real blues people knew who he was and what he could do, and that was enough since the music had always been the important thing.  He had no ego, for when he talked about his music, it was as though his talent were one thing and he himself was something else; the talent was a gift that had been entrusted to his care, and to which he owed a duty.  He was only its caretaker, and took no credit for possessing it.  As he tried to explain this, I was reminded of hearing Pavarotti talking about his voice (“the voice”, he called it) in the same way, as though it were something apart from himself, toward which he had the duties of a caretaker.
A Greyhound of a Girl

“Here goes,” said Granny.
And she shut her eyes.
She opened them.
“Just checking.”
She closed them.
“Go on,” she said. “I’m fine. I’m too lively to die today.”
Her eyes stayed closed. They watched her breathing, a little smile on her old face. She was asleep.
They left.
“What’s actually wrong with Granny?” Mary asked, on the way home in the car.
“Nothing really,” said her mother. “She’s very old, you know. No one lives forever.”
“Why not?”
Her mother looked at Mary.
“We just don’t,” she said. “We’re mortal. You know what that means.”
“Yeah,” said Mary. “But it just seems mean.”
“You’re right,” said her mother. “It does seem mean. Especially when it’s someone you love.”
They cried. And they laughed a bit too, because they were crying.


The Count of Monte Cristo

There were landscapes by Dupre, with their long reeds and tall trees, their lowing oxen and marvelous skies; Delacroix’s Arabian cavaliers, with their long white burnouses, their shining belts, their damasked arms, their horses, who tore at each other with their teeth while their riders contended fiercely with their maces; aquarelles of Boulanger, representing Notre Dame de Paris with that vigor that makes the artist the rival of the poet; there were paintings by Diaz, who makes his flowers more beautiful than flowers, his suns more brilliant than the sun; designs by Decamp, as vividly colored as those by Salvator Rosa, but more poetic; pastels by Giraud and Muller, representing children like angels and women with the features of a virgin; sketches torn form the album of Dauzats’ “Travels in the East” that had been made in a few seconds on the saddle of a camel, or beneath the dome of a mosque – in a word, all that modern art can give in exchange and as recompense for the art lost and gone with ages long since past.

“Starvation!” exclaimed the Abbé, springing from his seat. “Why, the vilest animals are not suffered to die by such a death as that. The very dogs that wander houseless and homeless in the streets find some pitying hand to cast them a mouthful of bread; and that a man, a Christian, should be allowed to perish of hunger in the midst of other men who call themselves Christians, is too horrible for belief. Oh, it is impossible – utterly impossible!”


The Gate of Ivory

I thought about all those marvelous stories I’d read back on Athena, the legends I’d fallen in love with – the heroes setting off to seek firtune and adventure. Knights and damosels rode forth to do battle at castles perilous, and the damosels never had this problem. And hobbits and tall elves strode swiftly over the earth, and the hobbits never had any trouble keeping up. Of course, hobbits were supposed to have great endurance.

If only I were a hobbit. A male hobbit.


April Morning

“I say amen to that. We fight in God’s cause.”
“Nobody fights in God’s cause,” the Reverend replied harshly. “Isn’t it enough to kill in freedom’s name? No one kills in God’s name. He can only ask God’s forgiveness.”

…A half a dozen books, with pages torn out and fluttering in the evening breeze, as if there could be no barbarism without the destruction of a book….

The house was filled with neighbors. The widow Susan Simmons had taken charge in the kitchen, and the whole house was warm with the smell of good things cooking and baking.  I think that then I was somewhat upset that so much attention should be paid to food and cooking and eating in a house where death had been, but as time goes on I appreciate the deep wisdom of it.  Food is close to the meaning of life. There are tributes enough to the dead; the food is a tribute to the living, who are in need of it at the time. There could have been no better consolation for Mother than the need to feed hungry people, among them myself.


New-Slain Knight

Sketch, fill in a line, an angle, a curve.

The colour, now – that was going to be the thing.  Was there a pencil in Gowan’s little notion-store box that came anywhere near?  Not really, no – at least, not in the depth of just how blue it had been.  For a moment, disheartened and distracted, Becca found herself wondering how the world’s great artists could possibly get across a blue that meant summer…


“And where did you get permission to host a dance?” I asked, using the same tone of voice I’d have used if one of my little sisters tried the same stunt.  Nora, back in the pink gown, gathered her laughter in her gloved hands.
“From the voices in my head,” Chas replied, chipper.  “They’re always so nice to me.”


Fever Season

Rose: “Dum spiro spero; where there’s life there’s hope.”
“And as a doctor I can tell you,” he replied, “that where there’s hope there’s often life.”
“And where there’s a will,” added Hannibal…”there’s a relative.”

Scraps and shards of quill lay all over [the desk], tobacco-stained and scarified surface. The report he’d been working on looked as if a lizard had escaped from the inkwell and run madly about the page. (Shaw)

Sold Down the River
HS “As Cinderella would probably tell you, even a prince who only recognizes your footwear is preferable to a lifetime of cleaning grates.”

Mohammed: “So many men say to Allah, ‘Show me your will and I’ll do it,’ and then when Allah says ‘Take this staff and go save that flock of sheep from wolves,’ they say, ‘Show me your other will.'”

Die Upon a Kiss
“If I were on trial for murder, I’d make sure I couldn’t get the gloves on either.” Hannibal bit into a beignet in a snowfall of powdered sugar.

The Emancipator’s Wife

Abraham Lincoln: “It’s like we’re in a runaway buggy headin’ straight for a brick wall.  Sooner or later we’re gonna have to do somethin’ about that wall.”

The world of peace and beauty that had been the South – the world of black and white in which she’d grown up – had vanished, its passage marked by blackened walls and the black clothes of widowed belles who, like her, would never forget what they had lost.

… A world of peace and beauty that had floated like a crust over a cesspool of agony, bleak misery, dependent on that layer and lost without it.

It was, of course, unthinkable that a man should campaign openly to become president.  No man who boldly strove for office was regarded as quite trustworthy.

The Silent Tower
Bishop:  “You are frivolous!”
“Of course I’m frivolous,” [Antryg] replied mildly. “You yourself must know how boring gravity is to oneself and everyone else.”

The House of the Mages lay a moonlit chiarascuro of ice-gray and velvet black, gargoyle-decorated balconies and windows unlighted and silent, like an anesthetized dragon.

“You mean magic is predicated on hope?”
“Hope,” [Antryg] said, “and belief in life.  We move blindly from second to second through time.  Hope and magic both involve the casting forward of the soul.  In a way, both magic and hope are a kind of madness.”

“Funny,” [Antryg] said, “if you’re a mage, they always ask you to read the future, as if knowing it will help.  I think three-fourths of all prayers prayed are for two and two not to equal four.”

“To the pure, all things are pure,” Antryg remarked, in Magister Magus’ best soothsayer voice, “and to the unimaginative, all things are devilish.”

Darkness on His Bones 

‘Imbeciles,’ Greuze had muttered the fifth time an intoxicated reveler had darted into the street to plaster the newspaper’s headline against the window of the cab, as if the fact had somehow escaped Greuze’s attention. ‘Worse – dupes. Going out and dying because one group of wealthy men in politics wants to score points over another group of wealthy men in politics! Pfui! Jaurès – a great man, madame, a socialist and a man of peace – warned us of this! You know what the true definition of war is, madame? Eh?’ Lydia had shaken her head, disconcerted by the rage in the driver’s voice. ‘A gun with a working-man at each end of it. Only those who sell weapons – and those who are excused from slaughter because they are “too important” to go into combat – have cause to rejoice in these days.’

And we kiss the rods that scour our backs, and name as heroes those who march away with the army and leave their families to starve.

Those men who teach peace and hope, like Jaurès – those men they shoot in the streets for being without love of their country. And when all is over, nothing in this world will be as it was.’

Is it not enough to follow Christ’s teachings and live humbly and with forgiveness in our hearts, without killing other men over His nature, His mother’s nature, and the small facts about His life on earth?

Blood Maidens

‘But the thing is,’ Lydia went on, ‘it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s the troubling thing about it. Not the religion – because I should imagine, in all the centuries of the human race, that God has seen so many varieties of religious sensibility that He’s past being surprised by anything – but the waste of minds and energy that could better be used at actually helping the poor, instead of . . . of trying to get in touch with the dead, or find out how many civilizations of hyper-sentient spirits rose and fell on this planet in the dark abysses of time before humankind evolved.’

‘And now those young ladies are twenty-seven, twenty-eight, and they have not had educations and can not marshal either the mental discipline or the informational knowledge to take pleasure in— What did you call it? Analyzing results? Their souls are ravenous, and they do not know for what.’

…But he would unhesitatingly have ordered her not to go through this door and, worse, her friend Josetta Beyerly would have looked down her nose and said, Oh, Lydia, that’s PRECISELY the sort of thing those birdbrained girls are always doing in novels! Come out of there at once.


<Are you trying to play Six Degrees of Bilbo Baggins again?>

People used to say obvious things ironically or as a form of understatement, but in the last few decades they seem to say it with a sense of discovery, and it worries me.

<You know I usually like hanging out with random people, but even you have to admit the drunk ones can get annoying in about three nanoseconds.>



I got bored and moved on to look at another picture, one that looked like rockets on a time warp.  It was in blues with vicious-looking stars in orange and yellow.  I wondered what kind of person saw the world like that.  I wondered if I’d want to meet the artist.  I wondered if I’d been in Vegas too long.


The Agency: The Traitor in the Tunnel

“You don’t feel even the slightest inclination to boast of your clever scheme?” asked Mary. She felt cheated.


A Storm of Swords

Olenna, Queen of Thorns: “Once the cow’s been milked, there’s no squirting the cream back up her udder.”

Bran: Old stories are like old friends, [Nan] used to say.  You have to visit them from time to time.


Bold Sons of Erin

‘Twas queer.  Mr. Lincoln could speak with all the grace and formality of Cicero, when the occasion asked it, and he kept his pockets filled with words, as if he had plucked a luxuriant row of books.  But his favorite role was that of the country lawyer, the man of simple language masking great wiles.  He had played that role so long it fit him like an old, favorite coat.  I believe he hid behind it, although he was no coward.  Ever underestimated by men who lived above their mental economy, he lived within the means of his thoughts and spoke for a wounded nation.
But let that bide.

Call Each River Jordan

And yet that smile seemed a sort of mask to me.  It was not meant to keep the world at bay, but to hold some business in.  Still, ’twas white and lovely, a smile to haunt the elder sister of the beauty on whom it was wasted.

Summer of the Danes

Owain Gwynedd: “… requires a measure of penitence before forgiveness is due.  The two, separated, are of no value, and where the one is not, I will not waste the other.”

Flight of a Witch
You only saw the abyss when you were already falling.

She’d merely indicated to him that the plate was hot, so that he wouldn’t burn his fingers. She’d taken it for granted that no more was necessary where a sane and sensible adult was concerned.

…Or come back years later like Kilmeny, with no memory of the time between, and as young as when they disappeared…

George: We think we have sound relationships, and suddenly there’s a word said or a thing done, so shatteringly out of key that you find yourself alone, and know you’ve never actually touched your partner at any point, or said a word in the same language. And it doesn’t always even absolve you of loving when it happens. That’s the hell of it.


Cut to the Quick
“I try to be interested in very nearly everything. I always think boredom is to some extent the fault of the bored.”

There was a long pause. Julian faced facts. He was not going to be dragged into other people’s business. He was going to plunge in headfirst. “What are we going to do about this tangle?”
“We?” she echoed hopefully.
“I thought I’d apply for the position of knight-errant. References available upon request.”

“I’ve often been told it’s every Englishman’s duty to enforce the law. That’s why we supposedly have no need of police, and why any man can be called up on the order of a magistrate to help keep the police.”

“I don’t mind people going about unobtrusively doing good, but I can’t stomach moral indignation.”

A Broken Vessel

Julian didn’t like the look of the place at all. The right-hand house had an air of rigour, stinginess, distrust. He would have liked to cut the two houses apart and set the left one free. He went up to the front door of the right-hand house to read the brass plate. It said: “Reclamation Society”.
Reclamation of what? he wondered. Stolen goods? The American colonies? People’s lost buttons and boots?

Whom the Gods Love

He went to a bookshelf in a corner, away from the direct light of the windows. Close examination revealed that books and shelves were an illusion – a mere painting on the wall.
“He seems to have delighted in this sort of effect. Imaginative, as I said. That may explain the political views he revealed in his letters to you. People of intense imagination are apt to sympathize with the poor and despised – they envision themselves in the same plight, and the picture is so real and horrifying, it impels them to action. I daresay that’s why so many of our best poets have flirted with radicalism: Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth.”

Eugene: “I think you’re extremely rude! And you’re doing it on purpose!”
“Of course. One should never be rude except on purpose.”
…”Because one should never appear to anything without intent. It’s the secret of poise.”

“People suppose what I do must be right, because I do it with conviction. A true dandy ought to be able to walk down Pall Mall with an upturned bucket on his head, and have every young blood in London scrambling for one just like it. It’s all conviction – sheer effrontery if you prefer. A kind of philosophical conjuring trick. I believe in myself, therefore I am…

“I highly recommend cleanliness. It pleases women and annoys men, which are two excellent ways to get on in society.”

Felix: “When she was in a strong light, you could see she was pale and tired – fragile, like a wavering flame. You wanted to cup your hands around her, to keep her from going out.”

The Devil in Music

“Modesty alone doesn’t prove a man a hero. But it’s incontrovertible that immodesty makes him a bore.”

“A wonderful country, England,” de la Marche went on dreamily. “A place where the practical and the absurd meet – where men calculate with mathematical nicety at precisely what angle and with what force to tilt with a windmill.”


The Franchise Affair
Three hundred years old they were, and the waiting-room was panelled in oak that extinguished the last valiant ray of light as it fought its way past the old greenish glass of the window-pane. The light died on the window-sill as the last survivor of a charge dies on the enemy parapet, murdered but glorious.

The Wynns’ home outside Aylesbury was in a countrified suburb; the kind of district where rows of semi-detached houses creep along the edge of the still unspoiled fields; self-conscious and aware that they are intruders, or smug and not caring, according to the character their builders have given them. The Wynns lived in one of the apologetic rows; a red-brick string of ramshackle dwellings that set Robert’s teeth on edge; so raw they were, so crude, so hang-dog. But as he drove slowly up the road, looking for the appropriate number, he was won over by the love that had gone into the decoration of these regrettable objects. No love had gone to their building; only a reckoning. But to each owner, as he took over, the bare little house had represented his “sufficient beauty,” and having found it he served it. The gardens were small miracles of loveliness; each succeeding one a fresh revelation of some unsuspected poet’s heart.
Nevil really ought to be here to see, Robert though, slowing down yet once more as a new perfection caught his eye; there was more poetry here than in a whole twelve months of his beloved Watchman. All his clichés were here: form, rhythm, colour, total gesture, impact …
Or would Nevil see only a row of suburban gardens? Only Meadowside Lane, Aylesbury, with some Woolworth plants in the gardens?


It must be a dreadful business catering exclusively for the human failings.

…It might, if you asked her, be wise not to remind Mr. Macdermott about it or he would stay up too late and she had great trouble getting him up in the morning.
“It’s not the whisky,” Blair said, smiling at her, “it’s the Irish in him. All the Irish hate getting up.”
This gave her pause on the doorstep; evidently struck by this new idea.
“I wouldn’t wonder,” she said. “My old man’s the same, and he’s Irish. It’s not whisky with him, just original sin. At least that’s what I always thought. But perhaps it’s just his misfortune in being a Murphy.”


The Fingerprint

“I really rather like Cinderella stories myself,” said Monica Abbott, “but I like them well done, and of course sometimes they are just sloppy.  But anyhow I think they are better for you than the sort of gloomy book which goes on for about six hundred pages and ends up with someone committing suicide or facing a hopeless dawn.  Because really, whatever you feel like, in real life you just have to get on with your job.”

review from somewhere, by Iamshort830@….com:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. 4 1/2 stars.
“I loved this book. It was good. I loved how there was suspense in the book. J.R.R. Tolkien knows how to write. I enjoyed this book. I’m glad the hobbit returned safely.”

National Geographic Lord of the Rings Special

Dr. Patrick Curry – “I think Tolkien himself, personally, was quite pessimistic, but I think there’s hope in the books. This is a phrase Tolkien used, by the way: ‘hope without guarantees’. A very good description of what his book offers. Despair is for people who know, beyond any doubt, what the future is going to be. Nobody is in that position. So despair is not only a kind of sin, theologically, it’s also a simple mistake, because nobody actually knows; in that sense, there is always hope. ”

Tom Shippey:
“When people say that this kind of fantasy fiction is escapist and evading the real world and so on, well, I think that’s an evasion. It’s actually trying to confront something that most people would rather not confront. ”

Philippa Boyens:
“You can waste a lot of time = and we did, we did do this, we wasted a lot of time trying to bring so much of the world to life, trying to explain some of the cultures such as Dwarves – and what we discovered is if you want to explain to an audience about the culture of the Dwarves, you cast John Rhys Davies as the Dwarf, and he’ll tell you. He’ll show you. He’ll bring that culture to life for you. ”


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