“Is there no context for our lives? No song, no literature, no poem full of vitamins, no history connected to experience that you can pass along to help us start strong? You are an adult. The old one, the wise one. Stop thinking about saving your face. Think of our lives and tell us your particularized world. Make up a story. Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created. We will not blame you if your reach exceeds your grasp; if love so ignites your words they go down in flames and nothing is left but their scald. Or if, with the reticence of a surgeon’s hands, your words suture only the places where blood might flow. We know you can never do it properly – once and for all. Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul. You, old woman, blessed with blindness, can speak the language that tells us what only language can: how to see without pictures. Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. Language alone is meditation.” —Toni Morrison, 1993 Nobel Lecture
“… though boys throw stones at frogs in sport, yet the frogs do not die in sport but in earnest.” —Plutarch, Moralia, “Which Animals Are the Craftiest”
“What I had to face, the very bitter lesson that everyone who wants to write has got to learn, was that a thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish.” —Thomas Wolfe
“I read about vampires, of the style found in the documents gathered in 1746 by Agustin Calmet, and found a fragment that fascinated me: the way of burying the impure.
“You filled their mouths with rocks. They were decapitated. They were buried under crossroads so they remained lost forever and, as an added precaution, they were pierced with a stake. Not the cinematographical one, absurdly portable. The traditional stake was a clumsy lance, heavy and huge, which basically nailed the corpse to the ground like a butterfly that should never fly again.
“What kind of monsters deserved such treatment, such rage and contempt?
“Vampires, yes, but also the bastard sons, the unbaptized ones, the inhabitants of other regions, the sodomites and those careless souls who allowed a black cat to jump over their bodies.
“In short: anyone.” —José Luis Zárate
“She was getting used to the combination: that doubling, the strangeness of being grateful for something she should never have had to experience in the first place.” —Arkady Martine, A Memory Called Empire
“No single Greek god even approaches Dionysus in the horror of his epithets, which near witness to a savagery that is absolutely without mercy… He is called the “render of men”, “the eater of raw flesh”, “who delights in the sword and bloodshed”. We hear not only of human sacrifice in his cult, but also of the ghastly ritual in which a man is torn to pieces. Where does this put us? Surely there can be no further doubt that this puts us into death’s sphere. The terrors of destruction, which make all if life tremble, belong also, as horrible desire, to the kingdom of Dionysus. The monster whose supernatural duality speaks to us from the mask has one side of his nature turned toward eternal night.” —Walter F. Otto, Dionysus: Myth and Cult
“As Arnold points out, there is an otherwise inexplicable shift in direction in the Piccadilly line passing east out of South Kensington. ‘In fact,’ she writes, ‘the tunnel curves between Knightsbridge and South Kensington stations because it was impossible to drill through the mass of skeletal remains buried in Hyde Park.’ I will admit that I think she means ‘between Knightsbridge and Hyde Park Corner’—although there is apparently a ‘small plague pit dating from around 1664’ beneath Knightsbridge Green—but I will defer to Arnold’s research.
“But to put that another way, the ground was so solidly packed with the interlocked skeletons of 17th-century victims of the Great Plague that the Tube’s 19th-century excavation teams couldn’t even hack their way through them all. The Tube thus had to swerve to the side along a subterranean detour in order to avoid this huge congested knot of skulls, ribs, legs, and arms tangled in the soil—an artificial geology made of people, caught in the throat of greater London.” —Geoff Manaugh, London and Its Dead
“A wounded deer leaps the highest.” —Emily Dickinson
“My point in [The Force of Nonviolence] is to suggest that we rethink equality in terms of interdependency. We tend to say that one person should be treated the same as another, and we measure whether or not equality has been achieved by comparing individual cases. But what if the individual – and individualism – is part of the problem? It makes a difference to understand ourselves as living in a world in which we are fundamentally dependent on others, on institutions, on the Earth, and to see that this life depends on a sustaining organisation for various forms of life. If no one escapes that interdependency, then we are equal in a different sense. We are equally dependent, that is, equally social and ecological, and that means we cease to understand ourselves only as demarcated individuals. If trans-exclusionary radical feminists understood themselves as sharing a world with trans people, in a common struggle for equality, freedom from violence, and for social recognition, there would be no more trans-exclusionary radical feminists. But feminism would surely survive as a coalitional practice and vision of solidarity.” —Judith Butler, interview in The New Statesman, September 22, 2020
The evidence of a successful miracle is the return of hunger. —Fanny Howe
“But he is asking the impossible—he is asking them to admit that the system they’ve labored in all their lives is false, ill-founded and wicked.” —Hilary Mantel, A Place of Greater Safety
“There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored. The reader of today looks for this motion, and rightly so, but what he has forgotten is the cost of it. His sense of evil is diluted or lacking altogether, and so he has forgotten the price of restoration. When he reads a novel, he wants either his senses tormented or his spirits raised. He wants to be transported, instantly, either to mock damnation or a mock innocence.” —Flannery O’Connor
“The voice positions me in space, and establishes the space of social relations; but the voice also by its nature makes the positioning of the self less than wholly certain.” —Steven Connor
“‘They’ll tell you that the most destructive force in the world is hate. Don’t you believe it, lad. It’s love. And if you want to make a detective you’d better learn to recognize it when you meet it.’” —P.D. James, Death of an Expert Witness