Sunday, December 2, 2012

100 Quotations From New York’s 100 Most Important Living Writers

Last week, Flavorwire published a list of New York's 100 most important living writers (Find article here: Being a self-admitted quotation junkie, I decided to make a list of 100 quotations that I personally like selected from the work of a few of these writers. I must site one of my favorite websites,, as the source of some of these quotations. Enjoy:)

1) “Everything becomes symbol and irony when you've been betrayed”
 -Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City

2) “It is not easy to be honest because it is impossible to be complete.”
-Ariana Reines

3) “One changes, as a writer, fairly quickly; what you wrote six months or a year ago might not sound right anymore.”
-Keith Gessen

4) “Everyone agreed that Edie was a tough woman to love, though she was worth loving.”
     -Jami Attenberg

5) “Love wasn't a thing you fell in, but rose to. It was what stopped you from falling.”
     -Darin Strauss, More Than It Hurts You

6) “If God made anything better than Coffee and Chocolate, he kept it to himself.”
     -Sapphire, The Kid

7) “You know what they say - sleep is the mother's drug of choice, but like heroin, only the very rich and the very poor can afford it.”
-Elissa Schappell, Blueprints for Building Better Girls: Fiction

8) “I was a late bloomer. But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky.”
-Sharon Olds

9) “Once you lose someone it is never exactly
    the same person who comes back.”
-Sharon Olds, Satan Says (Pitt Poetry Series)

10) “Dreams: the place most of us get what we need.”
 -Amy Hempel, The Collected Stories

11) “Sometimes you don't even know what you want until you find out you can't have it.”
-Meghan O'Rourke, The Long Goodbye: A Memoir

12) “Yet the story of Orpheus, it occurs to me, is not just about the desire of the living to resuscitate the dead but about the ways in which the dead drag us along into their shadowy realm because we cannot let them go. So we follow them into the Underworld, descending, descending, until one day we turn and make our way back.”
-Meghan O'Rourke

13) “And I do think that great fiction, even when it's comedic, has an urgency or an inevitability to it, a sense that the writer absolutely had to write this particular story in this way.”
-Karen Russell

14) “Love, I think, is a gateway to the world, not an escape from it.”
-Mark Doty

15) “There are those fortunate hours when the world consents to be made into a poem.”
-Mark Doty

16) “Find what causes a commotion in your heart. Find a way to write about that”
-Richard Ford

17) “Some idiotic things are well worth doing.”
-Richard Ford, Independence Day

18) “At the exact moment any decision seems to be being made, it's usually long after the real decision was actually made--like light we see emitted from stars.”
-Richard Ford, The Lay of The Land

19) “Things happen when people are not where they belong, and the world moves forward and back by that principle.”
-Richard Ford, Canada

20) “Just exactly what that good life was--the one I expected--I cannot tell you now exactly, though I wouldn't say it has not come to pass, only that much has come in between.”
-Richard Ford, The Sportswriter

21) “Uniqueness is wasted on youth. Like fine wine or a solid flossing habit, you'll be grateful for it when you're older.”
-Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake: Essays

22) “Suburbia is too close to the country to have anything real to do and too close to the city to admit you have nothing real to do.”
-Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake: Essays

23) “You told me once that a soul isn't something a person is born with but something that must be built, by effort and error, study and love. And you did that with more dedication than most, that work of building a soul-not for your own benefit but for the benefit of those that knew you.”
-Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding: A Novel

24) “Literature could turn you into an asshole: he’d learned that teaching grad-school seminars. It could teach you to treat real people the way you did characters, as instruments of your own intellectual pleasure, cadavers on which to practice your critical faculties.”
-Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding: A Novel

25) “True stories can't be told forward, only backward. We invent them from the vantage point of an ever-changing present and tell ourselves how they unfolded.”
-Siri Hustvedt

26) “I live for coincidences. They briefly give to me the illusion or the hope that there's a pattern to my life, and if there's a pattern, then maybe I'm moving toward some kind of destiny where it's all explained.”
 -Jonathan Ames

27) “There are two types of people in the world: those who prefer to be sad among others, and those who prefer to be sad alone.” -Nicole Krauss

28) “Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist, there are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination. From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges and absorbs the impact.”
 -Nicole Krauss

29) “Perhaps everyone has a story that could break your heart...” -Nick Flynn

30) “I am simply looking for a companion with whom to spend my days, a companion who will cherish as much as I the stupidity of living in the moment, and spend every dull, amazing second with me.”-Heidi Julavits

31) “I got my heart's desire, and there my troubles began.”-Lev Grossman

32) “That was the thing about the world: it wasn't that things were harder than you thought they were going to be, it was that they were hard in ways that you didn't expect.” -Lev Grossman

33) “Love, as the poet says, is like the spring. It grows on you and seduces you slowly and gently, but it holds tight like the roots of a tree. You don't know until you're ready to go that you can't move, that you would have to mutilate yourself in order to be free. That's the feeling. It doesn't last, at least it doesn't have to. But it holds on like a steel claw in your chest. Even if the tree dies, the roots cling to you. I've seen men and women give up everything for love that once was.”  -Walter Mosley

34) “Yet for all the depression no one ever quit. When someone quit, we couldn't believe it. 'I'm becoming a rafting instructor on the Colorado River,' they said. 'I'm touring college towns with my garage band.' We were dumbfounded. It was like they were from another planet. Where had they found the derring-do? What would they do about car payments? We got together for going away drinks on their final day and tried to hide our envy while reminding ourselves that we still had the freedom and luxury to shop indiscriminately.”
 -Joshua Ferris

35) “My mother always says that fear and pain are immediate, and that, when they're gone we're left with the concept, but not the true memory.”  -Téa Obreht

36) “You meet a new person, you go with him and suddenly you get a whole new go down new streets, you see houses you never saw before, pass places you didn't even know were there. Everything changes.”  -Samuel R. Delany

37) “But I realized something. About art. And psychiatry. They're both self-perpetuating systems. Like religion. All three of them promise you a sense of inner worth and meaning, and spend a lot of time telling you about the suffering you have to go through to achieve it. As soon as you get a problem in any one of them, the solution it gives is always to go deeper into the same system. They're all in rather uneasy truce with one another in what's actually a mortal battle. Like all self-reinforcing systems. At best, each is trying to encompass the other two and define them as sub-groups. You know: religion and art are both forms of madness and madness is the realm of psychiatry. Or, art is the study and praise of man and man's ideals, so therefore a religious experience just becomes a brutalized aesthetic response and psychiatry is just another tool for the artist to observe man and render his portraits more accurately. And the religious attitude I guess is that the other two are only useful as long as they promote the good life. At worst, they all try to destroy one another. Which is what my psychiatrist, whether he knew it or not, was trying, quite effectively, to do to my painting. I gave up psychiatry too, pretty soon. I just didn't want to get all wound up in any systems at all.”  -Samuel R. Delany

38) “There are 10,000 books in my library, and it will keep growing until I die. This has exasperated my daughters, amused my friends and baffled my accountant. If I had not picked up this habit in the library long ago, I would have more money in the bank today; I would not be richer.”  -Pete Hamill

39) “I don't ask for the meaning of the song of a bird or the rising of the sun on a misty morning. There they are, and they are beautiful.”  -Pete Hamill

40) “Human beings want to know too much abut each other, and that's why there are so many lies.”
-Pete Hamill

41) “The only way to fight nostalgia is to listen to somebody else's nostalgia”  -Pete Hamill

42) “The boy admonished himself for wanting everything to be a story. And now realized that some journeys were not stories. On some journeys, nothing really happened. You just kept taking steps.” -Pete Hamill

43) “A good novel begins with a small question and ends with a bigger one.”  -Paula Fox

44) “People see everything through the lens of their obsessions.” -Francine Prose

45) “To be ourselves we must have ourselves – possess, if need be re-possess, our life-stories. We must “recollect” ourselves, recollect the inner drama, the narrative, of ourselves. A man needs such a narrative, a continuous inner narrative, to maintain his identity, his self.”  -Oliver Sacks

46) “Why does tragedy exist? Because you are full of rage. Why are you full of rage? Because you are full of grief.”-Anne Carson

47) “When I desire you a part of me is gone...”-Anne Carson

48) “There's a part of me that thinks perhaps we go on existing in a place even after we've left it.”
 -Colum McCann

49) “Every one of Joel's important songs--including the happy ones--are ultimately about loneliness. And it's not 'clever lonely' (like Morrissey) or 'interesting lonely' (like Radiohead); it's 'lonely lonely,' like the way it feels when you're being hugged by someone and it somehow makes you sadder.” -Chuck Klosterman

50) “Emotion is contagious.”  -Malcolm Gladwell

51) “Our world requires that decisions be sourced and footnoted, and if we say how we feel, we must also be prepared to elaborate on why we feel that way...We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that - sometimes - we're better off that way.”
 -Malcolm Gladwell

52) “My earliest memories of my father are of seeing him work at his desk and realizing that he was happy. I did not know it then, but that was one of the most precious gifts a father can give his child.”
-Malcolm Gladwell

53) “Tangled in one another's arms and nine times out of ten the things you think about a person make it impossible to touch them.”  -Rick Moody

54) “A pool game mixes ritual with geometry.” -Mary Karr

55) “When people ask me how to find happiness in life I tell them, First learn how to cook.”
 -Charles Simic

56) “He who cannot howl will not find his pack.”  -Charles Simic

57) “Literature differs from life in that life is amorphously full of detail, and rarely directs us toward it, wheras literature teaches us to notice. Literature makes us better noticers of life; we get to practice on life itself; which in turn makes us better readers of detail in literature; which in turn makes us better readers of life.”
-James Wood

58) “Life, then will, always contain an inevitable surplus, a margin of the gratuitous, a realm in which there is always more than we need: more things, more impressions, more memories, more habits, more words, more happiness, more unhappiness.”  -James Wood

59) “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”  -Cynthia Ozick

60) “Most reckless things are beautiful in some way, and recklessness is what makes experimental art beautiful, just as religions are beautiful because of the strong possibilities that they are founded on nothing.”
-John Ashbery

61) “A writer should always feel like he's in over his head” -Michael Cunningham

62) “Why didn't I learn to treat everything like it was the last time. My greatest regret was how much I believed in the future.”  -Jonathan Safran Foer

63) “I hope that one day you will have the experience of doing something you do not understand for someone you love.”  -Jonathan Safran Foer

64) “It's the tragedy of loving, you can't love anything more than something you miss.”
 -Jonathan Safran Foer

65) “I like to see people reunited, I like to see people run to each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can't tell fast enough, the ears that aren't big enough, the eyes that can't take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone.”
-Jonathan Safran Foer

66) “You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
-Jonathan Safran Foer

67) “If you don’t write the book you have to write, everything breaks.”  -A.M. Homes

68) “Sometimes you can do things for others that you can't do for yourself.”  -A.M. Homes

69) “Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don't abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book."-Patti Smith

70) “The artist seeks contact with his intuitive sense of the gods, but in order to create his work, he cannot stay in this seductive and incorporeal realm. He must return to the material world in order to do his work. It's the artist's responsibility to balance mystical communication and the labor of creation.”  -Patti Smith

71) “Finally, by the sea, where God is everywhere, I gradually calmed.”  -Patti Smith

72) “Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.”  -Jhumpa Lahiri

73) “They were things for which it was impossible to prepare but which one spent a lifetime looking back at, trying to accept, interpret, comprehend."  -Jhumpa Lahiri

74) “Pack a pillow and blanket and see as much of the world as you can.You will not regret it.”
 -Jhumpa Lahiri

75) “Nothing more exhilarating ... than saving yourself by the simple act of waking.”
-Junot Díaz

76) “It's never the changes we want that change everything.” -Junot Díaz

77) “In order to write the book you want to write, in the end you have to become the person you need to become to write that book.”  -Junot Díaz

78) “If you didn't grow up like I did then you don't know, and if you don't know it's probably better you don't judge.”  -Junot Díaz

79) “Love was a rare thing, easily confused with a million other things, and if anybody knew this to be true it was him.”  -Junot Díaz

80) “This is what it is the business of the artist to do. Art is theft, art is armed robbery, art is not pleasing your mother.”  -Janet Malcolm

81) “One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”
 -Tom Wolfe

82) “You have a good heart and you think the good thing is to be guilty and kind but it's not always kind to be gentle and soft, there's a genuine violence softness and kindness visit on people. Sometimes self-interested is the most generous thing you can be.” -Tony Kushner

83) “In this world, there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we've left behind, and dreaming ahead.”  -Tony Kushner

84) “You'll find, my friend, that what you love will take you places you never dreamed you'd go.”
 -Tony Kushner

85) “I don't understand why I'm not dead. When your heart breaks, you should die”
 -Tony Kushner

86) "Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.” -Zadie Smith

87) “The greatest lie ever told about love is that it sets you free.”  -Zadie Smith

88) “Any woman who counts on her face is a fool.”  -Zadie Smith

89) “The very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life.”  -Zadie Smith

90) “You don't have favourites among your children, but you do have allies.”-Zadie Smith

91) “Nice people don't necessarily fall in love with nice people.”  -Jonathan Franzen

92) “How wrong to have been so negative, how wrong to have been so gloomy, how wrong to have run away from life, how wrong to have said no, again and again, instead of yes.”  -Jonathan Franzen

93) “But the first lesson reading teaches is how to be alone.”  -Jonathan Franzen

94) “You're either reading a book or you're not.”  -Jonathan Franzen

95) “I guess my life hasn’t always been happy, or easy, or exactly what I want. At a certain point, I just have to try not to think too much about certain things, or else they’ll break my heart.”  -Jonathan Franzen

96) “I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I'm gone which would not have happened if I had not come.”  -Salman Rushdie

97) “Let's enjoy the aimless days while we still can.”  -Don DeLillo

98) “Writing is a concentrated form of thinking...a young writer sees that with words he can place himself more clearly into the world. Words on a page, that's all it takes to help him separate himself from the forces around him, streets and people and pressures and feelings. He learns to think about these things, to ride his own sentences into new perceptions.”  -Don DeLillo

99) “If you reveal everything, bare every feeling, ask for understanding, you lose something crucial to your sense of yourself. You need to know things that others don't know. It's what no one knows about you that allows you to know yourself.”  -Don DeLillo

100) “Whenever someone who knows you disappears, you lose one version of yourself. Yourself as you were seen, as you were judged to be. Lover or enemy, mother or friend, those who know us construct us, and their several knowings slant the different facets of our characters like diamond-cutter's tools. Each such loss is a step leading to the grave, where all versions blend and end.”  -Salman Rushdie


  1. This is great. I posted some of my favorites here:

  2. The third quote, by Keith Gessen, is so true!

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Gold. Many such lists have padding and repetition but this is distilled to the essence - Mike_McG_ @Twitter thanks you for selecting his humble self for following.

  5. Simply: This is a great list.

  6. Great list, #24, oh yes! Thanks for posting this.

  7. Eileen from SyracuseMay 17, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    I am delighted by your post- thanks so , so much!!-from a 'wanna-be" poet, writer!!!

  8. Lovely, thank you. Coincidence rocks x

  9. Delightful quotes of wisdom. a reality check.

  10. “There are those fortunate hours when the world consents to be made into a poem.”
    -Mark Doty


    - R. F. Grant