About William Faulkner



William Cuthbert Faulkner (1897 – 1962) was an American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner wrote novels, short stories, screenplays, poetry, essays, and a play. Wikipedia

References:   Encyclopaedia Britannica   |   Biography.com

  

Quotes by William Faulkner

William Faulkner (quotes)

  • Listen to the voices.
  • I will never lie again.
  • I listen to the voices.
  • Poor man. Poor mankind.
  • Go on and wonder.
  • Caddy smelled like trees.
  • History is not was, it is.
  • You can’t. You just have to.
  • Who gathers the withered rose?
  • She was the captain of her soul
  • Try to be better than yourself.
  • My, my. A body does get around.
  • Don’t be ‘a writer’. Be writing.
  • Read, read read. Read everything.
  • You men,’ she says. ‘You durn men.
  • I decline to accept the end of man.
  • Idleness breeds our better virtues.
  • A man is the sum of his misfortunes.
  • Did you ever have a sister? did you?
  • Civilization begins with distillation
  • No one individual can tell the truth.
  • A gentleman can live through anything.
  • Love doesn’t die; the men and women do.
  • The past isn’t over. It isn’t even past.
  • Pouring out liquor is like burning books.
  • If a story is in you, it has to come out.
  • There is no such thing as was — only is.
  • If there is a God what the hell is He for?
  • The past is never dead. It’s not even past.
  • In writing, you must kill all your darlings.
  • Between grief and nothing, I will take grief.
  • I believe in God, God. God, I believe in God.
  • Some things you must always be unable to bear.
  • I don’t want money badly enough to work for it.
  • You have to write badly in order to write well.
  • The writer’s only responsibility is to his art.
  • Only when the clock stops does time come to life
  • No man can write who is not first a humanitarian
  • Don’t do what you can do – try what you can’t do.
  • The salvation of the world is in man’s suffering.
  • If happy I can be I will, if suffer I must I can.
  • I am not one of those women who can stand things.
  • The past is never forgotten; it’s never even past
  • Nicknames are vulgar. Only common people use them.
  • It’s terrible to be young. It’s terrible. Terrible
  • Now she hates me. I have taught her that, at least.
  • . . . Like giving caviar to an elephant.
  • All of us failed to match our dreams of perfection.
  • I feel like a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth.
  • Be scared. You can’t help that. But don’t be afraid.
  • We shall not kill and maybe next time we even won’t.
  • We have to start teaching ourselves not to be afraid.
  • She clung to that which had robbed her, as people do.
  • The best fiction is far more true than any journalism.
  • Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do.
  • Henry James was one of the nicest old ladies I ever met.
  • Believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail.
  • I say money has no value; it’s just the way you spend it.
  • Well, it’s like this. I ain’t got to but I can’t help it.
  • Life is a process of preparing to be dead for a long time.
  • Curiosity is a mistress whose slaves decline no sacrifice.
  • In every writer there is a certain amount of the scavenger.
  • I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail.
  • Don Quixote — I read that every year, as some do the Bible.
  • Memory believes before knowing remembers. [Light in August]
  • Dear God, let me be damned a little longer, a little while.
  • Purity is a negative state and therefore contrary to nature.
  • Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other.
  • When ideas come, I write them; when they don’t come, I don’t.
  • War and drink are the two things man is never too poor to buy.
  • It’s always the idle habits you acquire which you will regret.
  • When my horse is running good, I don’t stop to give him sugar.
  • The most beautiful description of a woman is by understatement
  • True poetry is not of earth, ‘T is more of Heaven by its birth.
  • Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error.
  • A man never gets anywhere if facts and his ledgers don’t square.
  • Unless you’re ashamed of yourself now and then, you’re not honest
  • Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words.
  • Marriage is long enough to have plenty of room for time behind it.
  • …the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time.
  • In my opinion it’s a shame that there is so much work in the world.
  • The scattered tea goes with the leaves and every day a sunset dies.
  • Knowing not grieving remembers a thousand savage and lonely streets.
  • That’s a very good way to learn the craft of writing – from reading.
  • It is the writer’s privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.
  • Why that’s a hundred miles away. That’s a long way to go just to eat.
  • Your illusions are a part of you like your bones and flesh and memory.
  • …It seems hard that a man in his need could be so flouted by a road.
  • The writer has three sources: imagination, observation, and experience
  • I’m inclined to think that a military background wouldn’t hurt anyone.
  • Writing a first draft is like trying to build a house in a strong wind.
  • How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.
  • I’ve got to feel the pencil and see the words at the end of the pencil,
  • Love in the young requires as little of hope as of desire to feed upon.
  • I draw no petty social lines. A man to me is a man, wherever I find him.
  • The work of the artist is to lift up peoples hearts and help them endure
  • What a writer’s obituary should read – he wrote the books, then he died.
  • We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.
  • Riches is nothing in the face of the Lord, for He can see into the heart.
  • …how false the most profound book turns out to be when applied to life.
  • He is thinking quietly: I should not have got out of the habit of prayer.
  • Hemingway shot himself. I don’t like a man that takes the short way home.
  • And sure enough, even waiting will end…if you can just wait long enough.
  • A writer must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid.
  • I am trying to say it all in one sentence, between one cap and one period.
  • You must always know the past, for there is no real Was, there is only Is.
  • . . . You cant understand it. You would have to be born there.
  • Don’t bother just to be better than others. Try to be better than yourself.
  • No battle is ever won … victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.
  • Just when do men that have different blood in them stop hating one another?
  • To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi.
  • The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.
  • The Swiss are not a people so much as a neat, clean, quite solvent business.
  • Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency to get the book written.
  • The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself
  • We must just stay awake and see evil done for a little while it’s not always.
  • We have all heard what we wanted to hear! Truth that sounds right to our ears!
  • It feels almost soft, like something to be caressed. Only gold feels that way.
  • I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.
  • Most men are a little better than their circumstances give them a chance to be.
  • Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique.
  • People need trouble – a little frustration to sharpen the spirit on, toughen it.
  • She loved him not only in spite of but because he himself was incapable of love.
  • The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means.
  • Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.
  • The end of wisdom is to dream high enough to lose the dream in the seeking of it.
  • He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.
  • People to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too.
  • The writer doesn’t need economic freedom. All he needs is a pencil and some paper.
  • Fear is the most damnable, damaging thing to human personality in the whole world.
  • You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.
  • I know now that what makes a fool is an inability to take even his own good advice.
  • Had Passion and Purity never encountered, Tenderness had never come into the world.
  • Let the past abolish the past when — and if — it can substitute something better.
  • Everyone in the South has no time for reading because they are all too busy writing.
  • Hollywood is a place where a man can get stabbed in the back while climbing a ladder.
  • Success is feminine and like a woman, if you cringe before her, she will override you
  • I took out my watch and listened to it clicking away, not knowing it couldn’t even lie
  • You don’t love because: you love despite; not for the virtues, but despite the faults.
  • You don’t love because: you love despite; not for the virtues, but despite the faults.
  • I knew that nobody but a luckless man could ever need a doctor in the face of a cyclone.
  • No man can cause more grief than that one clinging blindly to the vices of his ancestors.
  • Perhaps they were right putting love into books. Perhaps it could not live anywhere else.
  • Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything good.
  • There is no such thing as was—only is. If was existed, there would be no grief or sorrow.
  • It’s all now you see: tomorrow began yesterday and yesterday won’t be over until tomorrow.
  • Men have been pacifists for every reason under the sun except to avoid danger and fighting.
  • There is no such thing as was – only is. If was existed, there would be no grief or sorrow.
  • The artists who want to be writers, read the reviews; the artists who want to write, don’t.
  • There is no such thing as a bad whisky. Some whiskies just happen to be better than others.
  • …no man can cause more grief than the one clinging blindly to the vices of his ancesters.
  • If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us.
  • To the man grown the long crowded mile of his boyhood becomes less than the throw of a stone.
  • It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That’s how the world is going to end.
  • Even sound seemed to fail in this air, like the air was worn out with carrying sounds so long.
  • Who is he who will affirm that there must be a web of flesh and bone to hold the shape of love?
  • The reason you will not say it is, when you say it, even to yourself, you will know it is true.
  • People … have tried to evoke God or devil to justify them in what their glands insisted upon.
  • Tomorrow night is nothing but one long sleepless wrestle with yesterday’s omissions and regrets.
  • A gentleman accepts the responsibility of his actions and bears the burden of their consequences.
  • A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth and that is why we call what he writes fiction.
  • This does not matter. This is not anything yet. It all depends on what you do with it, afterward.
  • Perhaps they were right in putting love into books, . . . Perhaps it could not live anywhere else.
  • A mule will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once.
  • This is a free country. Folks have a right to send me letters, and I have a right not to read them.
  • I’m bad and I’m going to hell, and I don’t care. I’d rather be in hell than anywhere where you are.
  • Mississippi begins in a lobby of a Memphis, Tennessee hotel and extends south to the Gulf of Mexico
  • In Europe, being an artist is a form of behavior. In America, it’s an excuse for a form of behavior.
  • It seems impossible for a man to learn the value of money without first having to learn to waste it.
  • Ever since then I have believed that God is not only a gentleman and a sport; he is a Kentuckian too.
  • I only write when I feel the inspiration. Fortunately, inspiration strikes at 10:00 o’clock every day.
  • The necessity of the idea creates its own style. The material itself dictates how it should be written.
  • Landlord of a bordello! The company’s good and the mornings are quiet, which is the best time to write.
  • I do not rewrite unless I am absolutely sure that I can express the material better if I do rewrite it.
  • Maybe the only thing worse than having to give gratitude constantlyall the time, is having to accept it.
  • You can’t beat women anyhow and that if you are wise or dislike trouble and uproar you don’t even try to.
  • It is my ambition to be, as a private individual, abolished and voided from history, leaving it markless.
  • Necessity has a way of obliterating from our conduct various delicate scruples regarding honor and pride.
  • Though children can accept adults as adults, adults can never accept children as anything but adults too.
  • A writer is trying to create believable people in credible moving situations in the most moving way he can.
  • Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.
  • And even a liar can be scared into telling the truth, same as honest man can be tortured into telling a lie.
  • My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whisky.
  • …only the peak feels so sound and stable that the beginning of the falling is hidden for a little while…
  • There is that might-have-been which is the single rock we cling to above the maelstrom of unbearable reality.
  • Our most treasured family heirloom are our sweet family memories. The past is never dead, it is not even past.
  • A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station….
  • You should approach Joyce’s Ulysses as the illiterate Baptist preacher approaches the Old Testament: with faith.
  • Everything in Los Angeles is too large, too loud and usually banal in concept… The plastic asshole of the world.
  • And when I think about that, I think that if nothing but being married will help a man, he’s durn nigh hopeless.
  • A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.
  • Well, between Scotch and nothin’, I suppose I’d take Scotch. It’s the nearest thing to good moonshine I can find.
  • If you could just ravel out into time. That would be nice. It would be nice if you could just ravel out into time
  • Well, between Scotch and nothin’, I suppose I’d take Scotch. It’s the nearest thing to good moonshine I can find.
  • There are some things for which three words are three too many, and three thousand words that many words too less.
  • A writer strives to express a universal truth in the way that rings the most bells in the shortest amount of time.
  • A man’s moral conscience is the curse he had to accept from the gods in order to gain from them the right to dream.
  • Tell about the South. What’s it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all.
  • A man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you’d think misfortune would get tired but then time is your misfortune
  • An artist is a creature driven by demons. He don’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why.
  • any live man is better than any dead man but no live or dead man is very much better than any other live or dead man
  • The books I read are the ones I knew and loved when I was a young man and to which I return as you do to old friends.
  • My ideal job? Landlord of a bordello! The company’s good and the mornings are quiet, which is the best time to write.
  • Whatever its symbol – cross or crescent or whatever – that symbol is man’s reminder of his duty inside the human race.
  • The poets are almost always wrong about the facts. That’s because they’re not interested in the facts, only the truth.
  • An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why.
  • Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.
  • He was looking at her from behind the smiling that wasn’t smiling but was something you were not supposed to see beyond.
  • Man performs and engenders so much more than he can or should have to bear. That’s how he finds that he can bear anything.
  • An artist is completely amoral in that he will rob, beg, borrow, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done.
  • All of us failed to match our dreams of perfection. So I rate us on the base of our splendid failure to do the impossible.
  • I don’t know anything about inspiration because I don’t know what inspiration is; I’ve heard about it, but I never saw it.
  • The saddest thing about love, Joe, is that not only the love cannot last forever, but even the heartbreak is soon forgotten.
  • The poets are almost always wrong about the facts… That’s because they are not really interested in facts: only in truth…
  • The quality an artist must have is objectivity in judging his work, plus the honesty and courage not to kid himself about it.
  • The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
  • It is assumed that anyone who makes a million dollars has a unique gift, though he might have made it off some useless gadget.
  • I dont hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark; I dont. I dont! I dont hate it! I dont hate it!
  • We could live like counts. … If all that money is out there, I might as well hack a little on the side and put the novel off.
  • Women … to them any wedding is better than no wedding and a big wedding with a villain preferable to a small one with a saint.
  • Like a fellow running from or toward a gun ain’t got time to worry whether the word for what he is doing is courage or cowardice.
  • War is an episode, a crisis, a fever the purpose of which is to rid the body of fever. So the purpose of a war is to end the war.
  • Man the sum of what have you. A problem in impure properties carried tediously to an unvarying nil: stalemate of dust and desire.
  • I believe man will not merely endure, he will prevail…because he has a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.
  • Maybe times are never strange to women: it is just one continuous monotonous thing full of the repeated follies of their menfolks.
  • The writer in America isn’t part of the culture of this country. He’s like a fine dog. People like him around, but he’s of no use.
  • A fellow gets to thinking. About all the sorrow and afflictions in this world; how it’s liable to strike anywhere, like lightning.
  • It wasn’t until the Nobel Prize that they really thawed out. They couldn’t understand my books, but they could understand $30,000.
  • The most important thing is insight, that is to be – curious – to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does.
  • Menfolks listens to somebody because of what he says. Women don’t. They don’t care what he said. They listens because of what he is.
  • The only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost.
  • It’s not when you realise that nothing can help you – religion, pride, anything – it’s when you realise that you don’t need any aid.
  • To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow.
  • All men are just accumulations dolls stuffed with sawdust swept up from the trash heaps where all previous dolls had been thrown away.
  • Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.
  • You like orchids?… Nasty things. Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men, their perfume has the rotten sweetness of corruption.
  • It’s not when you realize that nothing can help you ‚ religion, pride, anything ‚ it’s when you realize that you don’t need any aid.
  • Some days in late August at home are like this, the air thin and eager like this, with something in it sad and nostalgic and familiar…
  • When I have one martini, I feel bigger, wiser, taller. When I have a second, I feel superlative. When I have more, there’s no holding me.
  • You don’t dare think whole even to yourself the entirety of a dear hope or wish let alone a desperate one else you yourself have doomed it.
  • I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.
  • Surely heaven must have something of the color and shape of whatever village or hill or cottage of which the believer says, This is my own.
  • Women do have an affinity for evil, for believing that no woman is to be trusted, but that some men are too innocent to protect themselves.
  • I suppose that people, using themselves and each other so much by words, are at least consistent in attributing wisdom to a still tongue…
  • …surely there is something in madness, even the demoniac, which Satan flees, aghast at his own handiwork, and which God looks on in pity..
  • So long as the deceit ran along quiet and monotonous, all of us let ourselves be deceived, abetting it unawares or maybe through cowardice…
  • Time is a fluid condition which has no existence except in the momentary avatars of individual people. There is no such thing as was – only is.
  • ingenuity was apparently given man in order that he may supply himself in crisis with shapes and sounds with which to guard himself from truth.
  • The best job that was ever offered to me was to become a landlord in a brothel. In my opinion it’s the perfect milieu for an artist to work in.
  • Every man has a different idea of what’s beautiful, and it’s best to take the gesture, the shadow of the branch, and let the mind create the tree.
  • To me, all human behavior is unpredictable and, considering man’s frailty… and… the ramshackle universe he functions in, it’s… all irrational.
  • A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.
  • She is like all the rest of them. Whether they are seventeen or fortyseven, when they finally come to surrender completely, it’s going to be in words.
  • So vast, so limitless in capacity is man’s imagination to disperse and burn away the rubble-dross of fact and probability, leaving only truth and dream.
  • The last sound on the worthless earth will be two human beings trying to launch a homemade spaceship and already quarreling about where they are going next.
  • One of the saddest things is that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat … nor make love for eight hours.
  • Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich.
  • There were many things I could do for two or three days and earn enough money to live on for the rest of the month. By temperament I’m a vagabond and a tramp.
  • There is something about jumping a horse over a fence, something that makes you feel good. Perhaps it’s the risk, the gamble. In any event it’s a thing I need.
  • Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.
  • She forced herself once more to think of nothing, to keep her consciousness immersed, as a little dog that one keeps under water until he has stopped struggling
  • Sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words
  • the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat
  • Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.
  • One of the saddest things is that the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat…nor make love for eight hours…
  • The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him.
  • Gough never pretended to perfection or to sainthood – well, hardly ever. Although when he set off the metal detector at airport security, he would blame his aura.
  • That’s sad too, people cannot do anything that dreadful they cannot do anything very dreadful at all they cannot even remember tomorrow what seemed dreadful today
  • It is not proof that I sought. I, of all men, know that proof is but a fallacy invented by man to justify to himself and his fellows his own crass lust and folly.
  • I love Virginians because Virginians are all snobs and I like snobs. A snob has to spend so much time being a snob that he has little time left to meddle with you.
  • When I was little there was a picture in one of our books, a dark place into which a single weak ray of light came slanting upon two faces lifted out of the shadow.
  • Caddy got the box and set it on the floor and opened it. It was full of stars. When I was still, they were still. When I moved, they glinted and sparkled. I hushed.
  • …thinking as he had thought before and would think again and as every other man has thought: how false the most profound book turns out to be when applied to life.
  • For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863.
  • The writer’s only responsibility is to his art…If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is worth any number of old ladies.
  • For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863…
  • The artist doesn’t have time to listen to the critics. The ones who want to be writers read the reviews, the ones who want to write don’t have the time to read reviews.
  • …and you don t have to sleep alone you don t even have to sleep at all and so all you have to do is show the stick to the dog now and then and say Thank God for nothing.
  • Life was created in the valleys. It blew up onto the hills on the old terrors, the old lusts, the old despairs. That’s why you must walk up the hills so you can ride down.
  • Even at sixty-two, I can still go harder and further and longer than some of the others. That is, I seem to have reached the point where all I have to risk is just my bones.
  • Setting an example for your children takes all the fun out of middle age Conditions are never just right. People who delay action until all factors are favorable do nothing.
  • Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.
  • If I were reincarnated, I’d want to come back a buzzard. Nothing hates him or envies him or wants him or needs him. He is never bothered or in danger, and he can eat anything.
  • The next time you try to seduce anyone, don’t do it with talk, with words. Women know more about words than men ever will. And they know how little they can ever possibly mean.
  • The clock tick-tocked, solemn and profound. It might have been the dry pulse of the decaying house itself, after a while it whirred and cleared its throat and struck six times.
  • Thank God you can flee, can escape from that massy five-foot-thick maggot-cheesy solidarity which overlays the earth, in which men and women in couples are ranked like ninepins.
  • Well, Bud,” he said, looking at me, “I’ll be damned if you don’t go to a lot of trouble to have your fun. Kidnapping, then fighting. What do you do on your holidays? Burn houses?
  • I would say that music is the easiest means in which to express, but since words are my talent, I must try to express clumsily in words what the pure music would have done better.
  • Man knows so little about his fellows. In his eyes all men or women act upon what he believes would motivate him if we were mad enough to do what that other man or woman is doing.
  • It’s the most satisfying occupation man has discovered yet, because you never can quite do it as well as you want to, so there’s always something to wake up tomorrow morning to do.
  • There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others. But a man shouldn’t fool with booze until he’s fifty; then he’s a damn fool if he doesn’t.
  • I’d have wasted a lot of time and trouble before I learned that the best way to take all people, black or white, is to take them for what they think they are, then leave them alone.
  • I would say that music is the easiest means in which to express . . . but since words are my talent, I must try to express clumsily in words what the pure must would have done better.
  • When I was a boy I first learned how much better water tastes when it has set a while in a cedar bucket. Warmish-cool, with a faint taste like the hot July wind in Cedar trees smells.
  • Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.
  • Then Ben wailed again, hopeless and prolonged. It was nothing. Just sound. It might have been all time and injustice and sorrow become vocal for an instant by a conjunction of planets.
  • By artist I mean of course everyone who has tried to create something which was not here before him, with no other tools and material than the uncommer-ciable ones of the human spirit.
  • It’s always the idle habits you acquire which you will regret. Father said that. That Christ was not crucified: he was worn away by a minute clicking of little wheels. That had no sister.
  • The whiskey died away in time and was renewed and died again, but the street ran on. From that night the thousand streets ran as one street, with imperceptible corners and changes of scene.
  • The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.
  • What’s wrong with this world is, it’s not finished yet. It is not completed to that point where man can put his final signature to the job and say, “It is finished. We made it, and it works.
  • The artist is still a little like the old court jester. He’s supposed to speak his vicious paradoxes with some sense in them, but he isn’t part of whatever the fabric is that makes a nation.
  • And I will look down and see my murmuring bones and the deep water like wind, like a roof of wind, and after a long time they cannot distinguish even bones upon the lonely and inviolate sand.
  • The whiskey died away in time and was renewed and died again, but the street ran on. From that night the thousand streets ran as one street, with imperceptible corners and changes of scene …
  • The phenomenon of war is its hermaphroditism: the principles of victory and of defeat inhabit the same body and the necessary opponent, enemy, is merely the bed they self-exhaust each other on.
  • We cannot choose freedom established on a hierarchy of degrees of freedom, on a caste system of equality like military rank. We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.
  • With me, a story usually begins with a single idea or mental picture. The writing of the story is simply a matter of working up to that moment, to explain why it happened or what caused it to follow.
  • …if there was anything at all in the Book, anything of hope and peace for His blind and bewildered spawn which He had chosen above all others to offer immortality, THOU SHALT NOT KILL must be it…
  • Truth; that long clean clear simple undeniable unchallengeable straight and shining line, on one side of which black is black and on the other white is white, has now become an angle, a point of view.
  • A hack writer who would have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tried out a few of the old proven ‘sure-fire’ literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.
  • That which is destroying the Church is not the outward groping of those within it nor the inward groping of those without, but the professionals who control it and who have removed the bells from its steeples.
  • That’s the one trouble with this country: everything, weather, all, hangs on too long. Like our rivers, our land: opaque, slow, violent; shaping and creating the life of man in its implacable and brooding image.
  • A hack writer who would not have been considered a fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven “sure-fire” literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.
  • How do our lives ravel out into the no-wind, no-sound, the weary gestures wearily recapitulant: echoes of old compulsions with no-hand on no-string: in sunset we fall into furious attitudes, dead gestures of dolls.
  • One day I was talking to Cora. She prayed for me because she believed I was blind to sin, wanting me to kneel and pray too, because people to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too.
  • They all talked at once, their voices insistent and contradictory and impatient, making of unreality a possibility, then a probability, then an incontrovertible fact, as people will when their desires become words.
  • It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.
  • People need trouble – a little frustration to sharpen the spirit on, toughen it. Artists do; I don’t mean you need to live in a rat hole or gutter, but you have to learn fortitude, endurance. Only vegetables are happy.
  • A dream is not a very safe thing to be near… I know; I had one once. It’s like a loaded pistol with a hair trigger: if it stays alive long enough, somebody is going to be hurt. But if it’s a good dream, it’s worth it.
  • I have found that the greatest help in meeting any problem with decency and selfrespect and whatever courage is demanded, is to know where you yourself stand. That is, to have in words what you believe and are acting from.
  • I never promise a woman anything nor let her know what I’m going to give her. That’s the only way to manage them. Always keep them guessing. If you cant think of any other way to surprise them, give them a bust in the jaw.
  • They say that it is the practiced liar who can deceive. But so often the practiced and chronic liar deceives only himself; it is the man who all his life has been selfconvicted of veracity whose lies find quickest credence.
  • I have found that the greatest help in meeting any problem with decency and self-respect and whatever courage is demanded, is to know where you yourself stand. That is, to have in words what you believe and are acting from.
  • I’m a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can’t and then tries the short story which is the most demanding form after poetry. And failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing.
  • I learned little save that most of the deeds, good and bad both, incurring opprobrium or plaudits or reward either, within the scope of man’s abilities, had already been performed and were to be learned about only from books.
  • It’s a shame that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work. He can’t eat for eight hours; he can’t drink for eight hours; he can’t make love for eight hours. The only thing a man can do for eight hours is work.
  • I’m a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry Ô¨Årst, Ô¨Ånds he can’t, and then tries the short story, which is the most demanding form after poetry. And, failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing.
  • She was bored. She loved, had capacity to love, for love, to give and accept love. Only she tried twice and failed twice to find somebody not just strong enough to deserve it, earn it, match it, but even brave enough to accept it.
  • It used to be I thought of death as a man something like Grandfather a friend of his a kind of private and particular friend like we used to think of Grandfather’s desk not to touch it not even to talk loud in the room where it was.
  • An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn’t know why they chose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done.
  • I don’t care much for facts, am not much interested in them, you can’t stand a fact up, you’ve got to prop it up, and when you move to one side a little and look at it from that angle, it’s not thick enough to cast a shadow in that direction.
  • The air brightened, the running shadow patches were now the obverse, and it seemed to him that the fact that the day was clearing was another cunning stroke on the part of the foe, the fresh battle toward which he was carrying ancient wounds.
  • The only rule I have is to quit while it’s still hot. Never write yourself out. Always quit when it’s going good. Then it’s easier to take it up again. If you exhaust yourself, then you’ll get into a dead spell and you’ll have trouble with it.
  • You’re looking, sir, at a very dull survivor of a very gaudy life. Crippled, paralyzed in both legs. Very little I can eat, and my sleep is so near waking that it’s hardly worth the name. I seem to exist largely on heat, like a newborn spider.
  • Living is one constant and perpetual instant when the arras-veil before what-is-to-be hangs docile and even glad to the lightest naked thrust if we had dared, were brave enough (not wise enough: no wisdom needed here) to make the rending gash.
  • It was like something you have dreaded and feared and dodged for years until it seemed like all your life, then despite everything it happened to you and all it was was just pain, all it did was hurt and so it was all over, all finished, all right.
  • It’s because I’m alone.. If I could just feel it, it would be different, because I would not be alone. But if I were not alone, everybody would know it. And he could do so much for me, and then I would not be alone. Then I could be all right alone.
  • Be scared. You can’t help that. But don’t be afraid. Ain’t nothing in the woods going to hurt you unless you corner it, or it smells that you are afraid. A bear or a deer, too, has got to be scared of a coward the same as a brave man has got to be.
  • Nothing can injure a man’s writing if he’s a first-rate writer. If a man is not a first-rate writer, there’s not anything can help it much. The problem does not apply if he is not first rate because he has already sold his soul for a swimming pool.
  • I could smell the curves of the river beyond the dusk and I saw the last light supine and tranquil upon tideflats like pieces of broken mirror, then beyond them lights began in the pale clear air, trembling a little like butterflies hovering a long way off.
  • I don’t suppose anybody ever deliberately listens to a watch or a clock. You don’t have to. You can be oblivious to the sound for a long while, then in a second of ticking it can create in the mind unbroken the long diminishing parade of time you didn’t hear.
  • I think that no one individual can look at truth. It blinds you. You look at it and you see one phase of it. Someone else looks at it and sees a slightly awry phase of it. But taken all together, the truth is in what they saw though nobody saw the truth intact.
  • I think the serious things really are the things that make for happiness–people and things that are compatible, love…. So many people are content just to sit around and talk about them instead of getting out and attaining them. As if life were a joke of some kind.
  • Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.
  • Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.
  • You could do so much for me if you just would. If you just knew. I am I and you are you and I know it and you don’t know it and you could do so much for me if you just would and if you just would then I could tell you and then nobody would have to know it except you and me.
  • And we’d sit in the dry leaves that whispered a little with the slow respiration of our waiting and with the slow breathing of the earth and the windless october, the rank smell of the lantern fouling the brittle air, listening to the dog and the echo of louis’ voice dying away
  • Really the writer doesn’t want success. . . . He knows he has a short span of life, that the day will come when he must pass through the wall of oblivion, and he wants to leave a scratch on that wall – Kilroy was here – that somebody a hundred, or a thousand years later will see.
  • A man. All men. He will pass up a hundred chances to do good for one chance to meddle where meddling is not wanted. He will overlook and fail to see chances, opportunities, for riches and fame and welldoing, and even sometimes for evil. But he won’t fail to see a chance to meddle.
  • As long as I live under the capitalistic system I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp. This, sir, is my resignation.
  • When the switch fell I could feel it upon my flesh; when it welted and ridged it was my blood that ran, and I would think with each blow of the switch: Now you are aware of me! Now I am something in your secret and selfish life, who have marked your blood with my own for ever and ever.
  • The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important, since there is nothing new to be said. Shakespeare, Balzac, Homer have all written about the same things, and if they had lived one thousand or two thousand years longer, the publishers wouldn’t have needed anyone since.
  • The reason I don’t like interviews is that I seem to react violently to personal questions. If the questions are about the work, I try to answer them. When they are about me, I may answer or I may not, but even if I do, if the same question is asked tomorrow, the answer may be different.
  • A pair of jaybirds came up from nowhere, whirled up on the blast like gaudy scraps of cloth or paper and lodged in the mulberries, where they swung in raucous tilt and recover, screaming into the wind that ripped their harsh cries onward and away like scraps of paper or of cloth in turn.
  • It is as though the space between us were time: an irrevocable quality. It is as though time, no longer running straight before us in a diminishing line, now runs parallel between us like a looping string, the distance being the doubling accretion of the thread an not the interval between.
  • She wouldn’t say what we both knew. ‘The reason you will not say it is, when you say it, even to yourself, you will know it is true: is that it? But you know it is true now. I can almost tell you the day when you knew it is true. Why won’t you say it, even to yourself?’ She will not say it.
  • I had learned a little about writing from Soldier’s Pay – how to approach language, words: not with seriousness so much as an essayist does, but with a kind of alert respect, as you approach dynamite; even with joy, as you approach women: perhaps with the same secretly unscrupulous intentions.
  • I imagine as long as people will continue to read novels, people will continue to write them, or vice versa; unless of course the pictorial magazines and comic strips finally atrophy man’s capacity to read, and literature really is on its way back to the picture writing in the Neanderthal cave.
  • The poets are wrong of course […] But then poets are almost always wrong about facts. That’s because they are not really interested in facts: only in truth: which is why the truth they speak is so true that even those who hate poets by simple and natural instinct are exalted and terrified by it.
  • I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work — a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust.
  • Our freedom must be buttressed by a homogeny equally and unchallengeably free, no matter what color they are, so that all the other inimical forces everywhere — systems political or religious or racial or national — will not just respect us because we practice freedom, they will fear us because we do.
  • I think that-that anyone, the painter, the musician, the writer works in a-a kind of an-an insane fury. He’s demon-driven. He can get up feeling rotten, with a hangover, or with-with actual pain, and-and if he gets to work, the first thing he knows, he don’t remember that pain, that hangover-he’s too busy.
  • In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep you are not. And when you are filled with sleep, you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not.
  • Some things you must always be unable to bear. Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have got. Not for kudos and not for cash: your picture in the paper nor money in the back either. Just refuse to bear them.
  • It always takes a man that never made much at any thing to tell you how to run your business, though. Like these college professors without a whole pair of socks to his name, telling you how to make a million in ten years, and a woman that couldn’t even get a husband can always tell you how to raise a family.
  • People everywhere are about the same, but … it did seem that in a small town, where evil is harder to accomplish, where opportunities for privacy are scarcer, that people can invent more of it in other people’s names. Because that was all it required: that idea, that single idle word blown from mind to mind.
  • A man or a race either if he’s any good can survive his past without even needing to escape from it and not because of the high quite often only too rhetorical rhetoric of humanity but for the simple indubitable practical reason of his future: that capacity to survive and absorb and endure and still be steadfast.
  • They will endure. They are better than we are. Stronger than we are. Their vices are vices aped from white men or that white men and bondage have taught them: improvidence and intemperance and evasion-not laziness: evasion: of what white men had set them to, not for their aggrandizement or even comfort but his own.
  • It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.
  • Sometimes I aint so sho who’s got ere a right to say when a man is crazy and when he aint. Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that-a-way. It’s like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it’s the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it.
  • One of the saddest things is that the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours –all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy.
  • When something is new and hard and bright, there ought to be something a little better for it than just being safe, since the safe things are just the things that folks have been doing so long they have worn the edges off and there’s nothing to the doing of them that leaves a man to say, That was not done before and it cannot be done again.
  • I can remember how when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind — and that of the minds who suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say it is the end; the fundamentalists, the beginning; when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town.
  • Where the shadow of the bridge fell I could see down for a long way, but not as far as the bottom. When you leave a leaf in water a long time after awhile the tissue will be gone and the delicate fibres waving slow as the motion of sleep. They don’t touch one another, no matter how knotted up they once were, no matter how close they lay once to the bones.
  • I don’t think anybody can teach anybody anything. I think that you learn it, but the young writer that is as I say demon-driven and wants to learn and has got to write, he don’t know why, he will learn from almost any source that he finds. He will learn from older people who are not writers, he will learn from writers, but he learns it — you can’t teach it.
  • No one is without Christianity, if we agree on what we mean by that word. It is every individual’s individual code of behavior by means of which he makes himself a better human being than his nature wants to be, if he followed his nature only. Whatever its symbol – cross or crescent or whatever – that symbol is man’s reminder of his duty inside the human race.
  • So the only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost. All the wrong environment will do is run his blood pressure up; he will spend more time being frustrated or outraged. My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey.
  • ‘I never feel the need to discuss my work with anyone. No, I am too busy writing it. It has got to please me and if it does I don’t need to talk about it. If it doesn’t please me, talking about it won’t improve it, since the only thing to improve it is to work on it some more. I am not a literary man but only a writer. I don’t get any pleasure from talking shop.
  • He [the writer] must, teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and compassion and sacrifice. See Poets & Writers
  • All of us have failed to match our dream of perfection. I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. If I could write all my work again, I’m convinced I could do it better. This is the healthiest condition for an artist. That’s why he keeps working, trying again: he believes each time that this time he will do it, bring it off. Of course he won’t.
  • I, the dreamer clinging yet to the dream as the patient clings to the last thin unbearable ecstatic instant of agony in order to sharpen the savor of the pain’s surcease, waking into the reality, the more than reality, not to the unchanged and unaltered old time but into a time altered to fit the dream which, conjunctive with the dreamer, becomes immolated and apotheosized
  • a fellow is more afraid of the trouble he might have than he ever is of the trouble he’s already got. He’ll cling to trouble he’s used to before he’ll risk a change. Yes. A man will talk about how he’d like to escape from living folks. But it’s the dead folks that do him the damage. It’s the dead ones that lay quiet in one place and dont try to hold him, that he cant escape from.
  • So, never be afraid. Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion, against injustice and lying and greed. If you, not just you in this room tonight, but in all the thousands of other rooms like this one about the world today and tomorrow and next week, will do this, not as a class or classes, but as individuals, men and women, you will change the earth.
  • When grown people speak of the innocence of children, they don’t really know what they mean. Pressed, they will go a step further and say, Well, ignorance then. The child is neither. There is no crime which a boy of eleven had not envisaged long ago. His only innocence is, he may not yet be old enough to desire the fruits of it … his ignorance is, he does not know how to commit it.
  • …I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire…I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.
  • The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
  • …I seemed to be lying neither asleep nor awake looking down a long corridor of gray half light where all stable things had become shadowy paradoxical all I had done shadows all I had felt suffered taking visible form antic and perverse mocking without relevance inherent themselves with the denial of the significance they should have affirmed thinking I was I was not who was not was not who.
  • That was when I learned that words are no good; that words dont ever fit even what they are trying to say at. When he was born I knew that motherhood was invented by someone who had to have a word for it because the ones that had the children didn’t care whether there was a word for it or not. I knew that fear was invented by someone that had never had the fear; pride, who never had the pride.
  • You get born and you try this and you don’t know why, only you keep on trying it and you are born at the same time with a lot of other people, all mixed up with them, like trying to, having to, move your arms and legs with strings, only the same strings are hitched to all the other arms and legs and the others all trying and they don’t know why either except that the strings are all in one another’s way.
  • The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is worth any number of old ladies.
  • …I would think how words go straight up in a thin line, quick and harmless, and how terribly doing goes along the earth, clinging to it, so that after a while the two lines are too far apart for the same person to straddle from one to the other; and that sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words.
  • Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him.
  • If we Americans are to survive it will have to be because we choose and elect and defend to be first of all Americans; to present to the world one homogeneous and unbroken front, whether of white Americans or black ones or purple or blue or green. If we in America have reached that point in our desperate culture when we must murder children, no matter for what reason or what color, we don’t deserve to survive, and probably won t.
  • Women are like that they don’t acquire knowledge of people we are for that they are just born with a practical fertility of suspicion that makes a crop every so often and usually right they have an affinity for evil for supplying whatever the evil lacks in itself for drawing it about them instinctively as you do bed-clothing in slumber fertilizing the mind for it until the evil has served its purpose whether it ever existed or no.
  • If we Americans are to survive it will have to be because we choose and elect and defend to be first of all Americans; to present to the world one homogeneous and unbroken front, whether of white Americans or black ones or purple or blue or green… If we in America have reached that point in our desperate culture when we must murder children, no matter for what reason or what color, we don’t deserve to survive, and probably won’t.
  • God created man and He created the world for him to live in and I reckon He created the kind of world He would have wanted to live in if He had been a man–the ground to walk on, the big woods, the trees and the water, and the game to live in it. And maybe He didn’t put the desire to hunt and kill game in man but I reckon He knew it was going to be there, that man was going to teach it to himself, since he wasn’t quite God himself yet.
  • Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. An artist is a creature driven by demons. He don’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done. The writer’s only responsibility is to his art.
  • Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done. The writer’s only responsibility is to his art.
  • The ideal woman which is in every man’s mind is evoked by a word or phrase or the shape of her wrist, her hand. The most beautiful description of a woman is by understatement. Remember, all Tolstoy ever said to describe Anna Karenina was that she was beautiful and could see in the dark like a cat. Every man has a different idea of what’s beautiful, and it’s best to take the gesture, the shadow of the branch, and let the mind create the tree.
  • Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again.
  • The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, It moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immotality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artists way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.
  • The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.
  • He thought that it was loneliness which he was trying to escape and not himself. But the street ran on: catlike, one place was the same as another to him. But in none of them could he be quiet. But the street ran on in its moods and phases, always empty: he might have seen himself as in numberless avatars, in silence, doomed with motion, driven by the courage of flagged and spurred despair; by the despair of courage whose opportunities had to be flagged and spurred.
  • He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn’t need a word for that any more than for pride or fear….One day I was talking to Cora. She prayed for me because she believed I was blind to sin, wanting me to kneel and pray too, because people to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too.
  • Yes sir. You can be more careless, you can put more trash in [a novel] and be excused for it. In a short story that’s next to the poem, almost every word has got to be almost exactly right. In the novel you can be careless but in the short story you can’t. I mean by that the good short stories like Chekhov wrote. That’s why I rate that second – it’s because it demands a nearer absolute exactitude. You have less room to be slovenly and careless. There’s less room in it for trash.
  • People between twenty and forty are not sympathetic. The child has the capacity to do but it can’t know. It only knows when it is no longer able to do -after forty. Between twenty and forty the will of the child to do gets stronger, more dangerous, but it has not begun to learn to know yet. Since his capacity to do is forced into channels of evil through environment and pressures, man is strong before he is moral. The world’s anguish is caused by people between twenty and forty.
  • It is just dawn, daylight: that gray and lonely suspension filled with the peaceful and tentative waking of birds. The air, inbreathed, is like spring water. He breathes deep and slow, feeling with each breath himself diffuse in the natural grayness, becoming one with loneliness and quiet that has never known fury or despair. “That was all I wanted,” he thinks, in a quiet and slow amazement. “That was all, for thirty years. That didn’t seem to be a whole lot to ask in thirty years.
  • They say love dies between two people. That’s wrong. It doesn’t die. It just leaves you, goes away, if you aren’t good enough, worthy enough. It doesn’t die; you’re the the one that dies. It’s like the ocean: if you’re no good, if you begin to make a bad smell in it, it just spews you up somewhere to die. You die anyway, but I had rather drown in the ocean than be urped up onto a strip of dead beach and be dried away by the sun into a little foul smear with no name to it, just this was for an epitaph
  • In the South you are ashamed of being a virgin. Boys. Men. They lie about it. Because it means less to women, Father said. He said it was men invented virginity not women. Father said it’s like death: only a state in which the others are left and I said, But to believe it doesn’t matter and he said, That’s what’s so sad about anything: not only virginity and I said, Why couldn’t it have been me and not her who is unvirgin and he said, That’s why that’s sad too; nothing is even worth the changing of it…
  • The past is never dead. It’s not even past. All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born, webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity. Haunted by wrong turns and roads not taken, we pursue images perceived as new but whose providence dates to the dim dramas of childhood, which are themselves but ripples of consequence echoing down the generations. The quotidian demands of life distract from this resonance of images and events, but some of us feel it always.
  • We will have to choose not between color nor race nor religion nor between East and West either, but simply between being slaves and being free. And we will have to choose completely and for good; the time is already past now when we can choose a little of each, a little of both. We can choose a state of slavedom, and if we are powerful enough to be among the top two or three or ten, we can have a certain amount of license – until someone more powerful rises and has us machine-gunned against a cellar wall.
  • . . .in August in Mississippi there’s a few days somewhere about the middle of the month when suddenly there’s a foretaste of fall, it’s cool, there’s a lambence, a soft, a luminous quality to the light, as though it came not from just today but from back in the old classic times. It might have fauns and satyrs and the gods and—from Greece, from Olympus in it somewhere. It lasts just for a day or two, then it’s gone. . .the title reminded me of that time, of a luminosity older than our Christian civilization.
  • He made the earth first and peopled it with dumb creatures, and then He created man to be His overseer on the earth and to hold suzerainty over the earth and the animals on it in His name, not to hold for himself and his descendants inviolable title forever, generation after generation, to the oblongs and squares of the earth, but to hold the earth mutual and intact in the communal anonymity of brotherhood, and all the fee He asked was pity and humility and sufferance and endurance and the sweat of has face for bread.
  • Because there is something in the touch of flesh with flesh which abrogates, cuts sharp and straight across the devious intricate channels of decorous ordering, which enemies as well as lovers know because it makes them both:—touch and touch of that which is the citadel of the central I-Am’s private own: not spirit, soul; the liquorish and ungirdled mind is anyone’s to take in any any darkened hallway of this earthly tenement. But let flesh touch with flesh, and watch the fall of all the eggshell shibboleth of caste and color too.
  • Good art can come out of thieves, bootleggers, or horse swipes. People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand. They are afraid to find out how tough they are. Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich. Success is feminine and like a woman; if you cringe before her, she will override you. So the way to treat her is to show her the back of your hand. Then maybe she will do the crawling.
  • I notice how it takes a lazy man, a man that hates moving, to get set on moving once he does get started off, the same as when he was set on staying still, like it aint the moving he hates so much as the starting and the stopping. And like he would be kind of proud of whatever come up to make the moving or the setting still look hard. He set there on the wagon hunched up, blinking, listening to us tell about how quick the bridge went and how high the water was, and I be durn if he didn’t act like he was proud of it, like he had made the river rise himself.
  • It has always seemed to me that the only painless death must be that which takes the intelligence by violent surprise and from the rear so to speak since if death be anything at all beyond a brief and peculiar emotional state of the bereaved it must be a brief and likewise peculiar state of the subject as well and if aught can be more painful to any intelligence above that of a child or an idiot than a slow and gradual confronting with that which over a long period of bewilderment and dread it has been taught to regard as an irrevocable and unplumbable finality, I do not know it.
  • At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that the young man must possess or teach himself, training himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance-that is to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is to be-curiosity-to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does, and if you have that, then I don’t think the talent makes much difference, whether you’ve got it or not.
  • And that’s how the book grew. That is, I wrote that same story four times. None of them were right, but I had anguished so much that I could not throw any of it away and start over, so I printed it in the four sections. That was not a deliberate tour de force at all, the book just grew that way. That I was still trying to tell one story which moved me very much and each time I failed, but I had put so much anguish into it that I couldn’t throw it away, like the mother that had four bad children, that she would have been better off if they all had been eliminated, But she couldn’t relinquish any of them. And that’s the reason I have the most tenderness for that book, because it failed four times.