Category Archives: quotes

Nothing Better to Do

“I’m so revolted by writers taking themselves seriously that, as a kind of protest, I’ve deprioritized the role of writing in my life. I do it when I’ve not got anything better to do – and even then I often do nothing instead.”

—Geoff Dyer, in an interview in The Paris Review

Badges

“America is thus a nation rapidly drifting towards a state of things in which no man
of science or letters will be accounted respectable unless some kind of badge or
diploma is stamped upon him”

—William James, “The PhD Octopus” (1903)

You Gotta Read

“‘The true artist,’ Wilde wrote, ‘is known by what he annexes, and he annexes everything.’ One of the most naturally gifted intellects of the 19th century, Wilde nevertheless had the modesty to know that without a commitment to literature his genius would always be an adolescent. If Melville depended upon the Western epics to augment his adventure and provide the language-stimulus for his own literature, Wilde, like Emily Dickinson, seems to have needed no adventure at all, only reading. Many novice old-timers get ensnared in that fallacy, confusing their having had a full life with their ability to write a fully functional novel, while whippersnappers of every ilk spend a summer in the Orient because they believe that being in an interesting place will make them interesting people. Think of all those dippy authors’ bios which proudly declare that X has held dozens of jobs, from the esoteric (circus clown and train conductor) to the painfully quotidian (bartender and construction worker), as if having worked at peculiar and menial labor — or, worse, as if simply living in Brooklyn — ipso facto deems him a skilled writer. It does not.”

William Giraldi

Drillers vs. Scanners

“I was at Penn State, and I was just aghast, because everyone was what I call drillers of deeper wells. These academics sit at the bottom of a deep well and they look up and see a sliver of the sky. They know everything about that little sliver of sky and nothing else. I scan all my horizons.”

Vaclav Smil

Faults

“If you hear that someone is speaking ill of you, instead of trying to defend yourself, you should say: ‘He obviously does not know me very well, since there are so many other faults he could have mentioned.’”

—Epictetus

Advice to Writers

“Be sure that you have a Plan B. But don’t quit. Cultivate a ‘Fuck You’ attitude as a survival tactic.”

Charles Baxter

(Via.)

Necessities

“Coffee has become recognized as a human necessity. It is no longer a luxury or an indulgence; it is a corollary of human energy and human efficiency.”

—William H. Ukers, All About Coffee (1922)

(Via “How to Make Perfect Coffee.”)

Just Glad to Be Working

“He came from a working-class background – his dad drives a truck for Coca-Cola, and he himself has had jobs like warehouseman and forklift driver. Because of all that, he possessed a psychological profile that made thriving in academia difficult: namely, he is self-possessed, confident and utterly lacking in the other-directed brown-nose-itutde that is the mark of the modern professional managerial class. When he realized that most critical theory wasn’t to his taste, he avoided it – except when he had to parrot it back to his professors to pass his field exams. He also didn’t frantically seek lines on his curriculum vitae, grinding the same research into half a dozen all-but-identical conference papers. He didn’t suck up. Instead, all he did was write a brilliant dissertation with a timely and politically relevant theme, in elegant, readable prose. All the while he feasted upon books about every subject under the sun. An insatiable auto-didact; his love of knowledge burns more brightly than that of just about anyone I’ve ever met, and outshines every professor I know. A natural-born teacher, he simultaneously and joyfully practiced the arts of citizenship just about every day of the week…. In a better world, academia would beat a path to this gentleman’s door. Instead, he knows tenured employment is almost unimaginable. So he’s applied to about a hundred jobs this summer, desperate to keep up with his mortgage – every kind of job, including one as an on-campus building manager. He finally ended up with a year-long contract at a private school teaching science to eighth graders. Though he has no particular interest in and no experience with science, he’s glad to be working at all.”

—Rick Perlstein, “On the Death of Democratic Higher Education

Time Keeps on Slipping

“Yesterday was my Birth Day. So completely has a whole year passed, with scarcely the fruits of a month. —O Sorrow and Shame … I have done nothing!”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge on his 32nd birthday

Mythology

“Celebrity is easy. Mythology, that takes a little more effort.”

Nicolas Winding Refn