Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cornelia, Slightly the Worse for Wear after a Night in Marin County

By Cornelia

I have long been a collector of quotes. I have this yellow blank book I started writing what I consider the juicy memorable ones down in, starting around 1985.

These range from a character of Peter De Vries’s saying, in his Consenting Adults, or The Duchess Will be Furious:

“For the day of vengeance is at hand. ‘Ye are no longer my people, ye fancy schmancy, sayeth the Lord. ‘Wastrels and spoiled, ye eat only the tender tips of the asparagus and throw the rest away, yea, that which is still edible. Lo the lean years will come and ye shall learn your lesson. Yea the entire stalk will ye eat, and glad to get it.”

To an exchange overheard by my sister Freya when she was living in Maui with a bunch of pro sailboarders, during the summer of 1986:

Hawaiian dude: This is a Hawaiian Luau.

Freya’s friend Ralph: Yes, we have something similar in Connecticut. We call them “barbecues.”

Okay, so I stayed up WAY too late last night, hanging out with my buddies Muffy and Daphne and Katie, after we all went to hear the inimitably lanky and charming and achingly hip Lee Child speak at the sublime and lapidary Book Passage in Corte Madera.

I went to boarding school with these guys (not Lee, more's the pity). As my mother once observed, "I sent my daughters to boarding school. They learned to swear and smoke there." Also drink. Last night we proved her right. Again.

The school's motto is "Do it with thy might." It should probably have been "Party like tanker captains. Or Kennedys. Or both."

As a result, my brain is complete oatmeal this morning, so I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes on writing (well, okay, and art generally) with you all, herewith:

“The art of our necessities is strange that it can make vile things precious.”

--King Lear (from Diane Arbus’s noteboard)

“Q. How did you arrive upon the image of a toad for work or labour?

A. Sheer genius.”

--Philip Larkin, “The Paris Review Interview”

“The biggest lie is the fraud of purview. The illusion of omniscience. This is the basis of the first person in literature, the narrator as the only sensible person in a world of fools. We see it in Voltaire, we see it in William Burroughs. It’s a good way to make your readers think you are a genius.”

--Rene Ricard, “Pledge of Allegiance,” Art Forum

“We have art in order that we may not perish from the truth.”


“Let’s not go too deeply into these things. It’s only a movie.”

--Alfred Hitchcock

“Language is a virus from outer space.”

--William Burroughs

“The difference between a fairy tale and a war story is that a fairy tale starts with ‘Once upon a time’ and a war story starts with ‘This is no shit.’”

--Jim Morris

“If you can describe clearly without a diagram the proper way of making this or that knot, then you are a master of the English tongue.”

--Hillaire Belloc

“Hardly anyone believes himself to be against thought and culture. Men do not rise in the morning, grin at themselves in their mirrors, and say: ‘Ah, today I shall torment an intellectual and strangle an idea!’”

--Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

“Every time I hear the word ‘culture,’ I reach for my pistol.”

--Herman Goering

“No person is your friend (or kin) who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow and be perceived as fully blossomed as you intended. Or who belittles in any fashion the gifts you labor so to bring into the world.”

--Alice Walker, 1972 Graduation Convocation, Sarah Lawrence College

“The more articulate one is, the more dangerous words become.”

--May Sarton

“You are mistaken, cry’d the Inn-keeper, for admit the histories are silent in this Matter, the Authors evidently thinking it needless to mention Things so evidently necessary as Money and clean Shirts, yet there is no reason to think knights went without either…”

--Miguel Cervantes, Don Quixote

“The essential function of art is moral. Not aesthetic, not pastime and recreation. But moral. The essential function of art is moral. But a passionate, implicit morality, not a didactic. A morality which changes the blood, rather than the mind.”

--D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature

Last but not least, my personal fave:

“And there is absolutely no evidence that I could write a good book. It might very well be the most awful weasel vomit.”

--Brenda Ueland, Me

What are you guys’ favorite quotes? I would love to add to my collection!

ALSO! I have some signings today and over the weekend that I would love it if you could come to:

Signing 12:30pm
581 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94105


Signing 12:00pm
117 Cherry St.
Seattle, WA 98104
* with Lee Child


Signing 5:00pm
1036 C Broxton Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90024


Signing 1:00pm
348 S. Tustin Ave.
Orange, CA 92866


Signing 1:00pm
2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
* with Lee Child

Hope everyone has a FANTASTIC WEEK!!!


  1. Love the quotes, Cornelia. Hope to see you on Saturday at Mystery Bookstore!

  2. From my grandfather, relevant more to my job than to yours:

    "If it worked it wouldn't be research."

  3. A trio of my favorites ~

    "You live life looking forward. You understand life looking backward." ~ Soren Kierkegaard

    "The best portion of a good man's life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness." ~ William Wordworth

    "Not everythng that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced." ~ James Baldwin

    See you tomorrow, Cornelia!

  4. "Party like tanker captains. Or Kennedys. Or both."

    LOL! That wild party animal Brett didn't need the encouragement!

    And I hope you're having a good week C.

  5. Sorry I eschewed the champagne last night, Ms. C. My mistake.

    And my favorite quote for your collection:

    "We write to taste life twice."
    -Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

  6. Can't wait to see you, Janine and Brett! And sorry to miss you Monday, Daisy...

    I love the Wordsworth quote, especially, Janine, which reminds me of my favorite that my sister and I ever came up with: "The point of enlightenment is NOT being an asshole."

    May have to blog about the circumstances in which we decided that, some day.

    And Daisy, I guess the equivalent for my job (which I know will ALSO be your job soon), would be "if they were happy, it wouldn't be a novel."

  7. Ah, Sandra--this is a good thing to know about Brett...

    And Louise, you were *very* wise to eschew. We ended up at Katie's house at 1 a.m., making sandwiches... what a wonderful quote!

    Off to Stacey's...

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  9. Woman, you make me laugh.
    Favorite quotes, hmmm...
    I have one pinned to the door of my office, from Stuart Woods.
    "There are no rules except those you create, page by page."
    Helps me remember that all those English Lit classes were for shit.
    I think "Party like tanker captains" may usurp that one. It's an excellent philosophy to follow!

    (Above post deleted so I don't go broke owing $1.25 per typo to Ms. Ruttan)

  10. Here is one of my favs:

    "Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training."
    --Anna Freud

    See you in L.A.

  11. Damn JT! Missed those! And I'm trying to fund my bar tab for Harrogate too. When I'm scraping pennies to buy John Connolly a drink I'll tell him it's all your fault!

  12. Love the quotes, Cornelia. I have a notebook of quotes that I started in 1979!

    One of my faves that seems applicable to your evening: "True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country." Kurt Vonnegut

  13. Personally, I'm a fan of Hunter S.Thompson

    "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."

    "You can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug, especially when its waving a razor sharp hunting knife in your eye."

    Words to live by.

    Hadn't realized you'd be at the Mystery Bookstore this Saturday. Hope to make it.

  14. Oooh, love quote fests ;-) My very favorite source for quotes is Dorothy Parker. Here are a couple on writing:

    "If you're going to write, don't pretend to write down. It's going to be the best you can do, and it's the fact that it's the best you can do that kills you.”

    “I can't write five words but that I change seven.”

    And a random one....

    "Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves.”

    OK, stopping now...