Category Archives: quotes

Everything the Well-Dressed Private Detective Ought to Be

“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.”

—Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (1939)

All In

“I worked at Office Depot during the day and I was in the studio really late at night sometimes. Work was getting in the way of my focusing on what I needed to do as an artist. When they fired me, I had no excuse. I had to go all in on my career.”

Janelle Monáe

Spurn Set Routes

“I don’t like people who have their itineraries and ideas so clearly sorted out that they say, ‘Today I’ll make three visits, I’ll write four letters, and I’ll finish that book I started.’ My soul is so open to every kind of idea, taste and sentiment; it so avidly receives everything that presents itself!… And why would it turn down the pleasures that are scattered along life’s difficult path? They are so few and far between, so thin on the ground, that you’d need to be mad not to stop, and even turn away from your path, and pick up all of those that lie within reach. There’s no more attractive pleasure, in my view, than following one’s ideas wherever they lead, as the hunter pursues his game, without even trying to keep to any set route.”

—Xavier de Maistre, A Journey Around My Room (1794)

(Via Michael Leddy)

Buying Books Again

“I have decided that I will buy books again, that I will live in a house full of books again even if it means I cannot move as nimbly through the world. Because I love books. It’s as simple as that.”

—Rebecca Toh, “Buying Books Again”

(Via Patrick Rhone.)

Projection vs. Promise

“For every projection you make—I know it would be fruitless to ask you to forswear the projective temptation altogether—make a promise. Tell us not just what will happen but what you plan to do to bring about a better world, or a better university, or just a better neighborhood. Utter some words you will need to stand by. Because only then will you be answerable to the future that you so confidently predict.”

—Alan Jacobs, “Against Projection; For Promise”

Work First

“At Toni’s memorial service, Angela Davis was there, and we were talking about how Toni never thought anyone was guilty of a crime. Do you remember the Menendez brothers’ trial? Toni, who loved detective stories and trials and stuff like that, told me that the Menendez brothers were innocent. One of them had gone to Princeton for, like, five minutes, during which time Toni had met him. And Toni was a much nicer person than me. My meeting someone does not necessarily make me like them, but to Toni it does. The Menendez trial was one of the first televised trials, and Toni and I watched every single day on the telephone together. And the trial started at noon, because it was in L.A. I was supposed to be writing, of course, and I thought, I’m spending the whole day on the phone watching television, but it must be O.K., because so is Toni. And then I found out that Toni got up at five in the morning, and by twelve she had already done a full day’s work.”

Fran Lebowitz

Some Sort of Orientation

“You shouldn’t feel upset that I haven’t seen the Star Wars films; I hardly see any films. I read. I see two, three, maybe four films per year … Sometimes I see things that are completely against my cultural nature. I was raised with Latin and Ancient Greek and poetry from Greek antiquity, but sometimes, just to see the world I live in, I watch ‘WrestleMania’ … You have to know what a good amount of the population is watching. Do not underestimate the Kardashians. As vulgar as they may be, it doesn’t matter that much, but you have to find some sort of orientation. As I always say, the poet must not close his eyes, must not avert them.”

Werner Herzog, Variety, November 2019

Time Will Do the Rest

“Let the currents move beneath you. Powers will shift. Enemies can vanish. Do what you can do to stay alive. Time will do the rest.”

—Luke Evans’s character in Anna (2019), directed by Luc Besson, who is admittedly “problematic” (Outlaw Vern explains why in his review), but I liked it and this line

A More Natural Transition

“Read the tabloids before you read the Times. It’s a more natural transition from the dream state to full wakefulness.”

Glenn O’Brien

A Mark of Sanity

“Teach classes that are meaningful to you and that engage that portion of your students that are reachable. Ignore, in other words, the very idea of professional wisdom. Only write what you want to write. Once you have job security (which I know is a huge barrier) don’t write if you don’t want to. Write for media directed at non-historians, whether that be the local newspaper or fancy national magazines. Write for other academic disciplines. Explore other media than the printed word. Ignoring what the profession rewards might very well be a mark of sanity at the close of the 20th century.”

Ken Cmiel, “History Against Itself” (1994)