I have a file on my computer called "Quotations" that I started in early 2010. It's currently over sixty pages, and I'm sure it'll continue to grow. It's filled with quotes that I want to remember. I've found them in magazines, books, conversations with friends, all over the place, really. Today I'll share five, picked pretty much at random.
1. “If a secret history of books could be written, and the author’s thoughts and meanings noted down alongside his story, how many insipid volumes would become interesting, and dull tales excite the reader!”
-William Makepeace Thackeray
Sometimes I get out a notebook, sit down, and imagine what it is like to come up with stories and characters that will still be fantastic hundreds of years later. I don't understand how it's done. Every author invests time, emotion, and thought into their book, even if no one else ever reads it again.
2. She now smiled at him in a special way; it was a cheerful, reassuring smile which meant more than the society smile which was always there adorning her face. Pierre knew that everyone was just waiting for him to say the word, cross the line, and he knew he would cross it sooner or later, but he was inexplicably horrified whenever he thought of taking this dreadful step.
-War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
If you haven't read War and Peace, you need to. It's full of quotes like this that make me want to run up to Tolstoy and go, "Where in the world did you learn to understand and write about people so well?"
3. “Over the course of the [fourteenth century], more than ten million people live and die in England. Many die in infancy. Many die young. Some die twitching on the end of a rope. Some die screaming in smoke-filled rooms. Some perish in battle, many in pain and terror. Some die fighting so furiously that, in their moment of glory, they want to die heroically. Many more die alone, shivering, scared, and feverish with plague. Whatever the manner of their deaths, at some point in their lives there is also some joy, be it the childhood treat of a spoonful of jam or the thrill of an illicit kiss, or seeing a grandchild. At the end of the day-- at the end of the century-- this is what history is. History is not just about the analysis of evidence, unrolling vellum documents or answering exam papers. It is not about judging the dead. It is about understanding the meaning of the past- to realize the whole evolving human story over centuries, not just our own lifetimes.”
Every time I try to think about how every person who ever lived has had emotions as powerful and complicated as mine and a story just as real, even though it has been long since forgotten, I get overwhelmed.
4. “I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad-- as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?”
-Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
This speech was my favorite part of Jane Eyre. Rules aren't made to be ignored in hard times, they are specifically *for* hard times.
5. “Winter isn’t sad. You’ve had happy times in winter. And sad ones in summer. Life goes by year-round. People get married in sleet storms. People get cancer on soft summer evenings, sitting by the radio, looking up words in a dictionary. The wonderful world falls apart around the clock…And there’s nothing necessarily sad about anything. Or happy.”
-The Flu Season (Will Eno)
Although perfect days do happen, they are few and far between. But so are the absolutely one hundred percent dreadful ones.
I really enjoyed going through my quotes file to write this, and I think I'll do a Part Two some other week.