But there comes a point, when we move from consumers to producers, that we start to pay in heightened currency for our ignorance; the currency of confidence and self-respect. We see our early failures as proof of conclusive ineptness rather than as the inevitable stages on the path to mastery… We have not seen enough of the rough drafts of those we admire, and therefore we cannot forgive ourselves the horror of our own early attempts.

On Confidence, 52


Driving back to the apartment, I wondered if it was the anxiolytics that had padded my longing with enough cotton wool to allow for a bit of glancing human contact without injury or fever, or if letting go a bit of the truth is what had helped me to reach that clearing.

Adam Haslett, Imagine Me Gone.

Was there any point at all in a porcelain Chinese pillow shaped like a cat, bought in an antique shop in Charlottesville, Virginia? Someone long dead had dreamed on it. Every trace of their thought, their breath and memory had disappeared. Only the human mattered, and the human was quickly gone.

– Brenda Walker, Reading By Moonlight, p. 14.

This is the story of the right book, or books. We each have one life, one share of action and vision and money; a single life for all our speech and thought, our decent gestures and the decisions that might undo us, our welcome or unwanted love, our parties that may or may not come off. One life to satisfy our vast and human sense of voyaging. With the right books we find out what imaginary strangers have done with their share of this amazing thing, life.

– Brenda Walker, Reading By Moonlight, 4.

Ruins in an advanced state of ruination represent, or better they literally embody, the dissolution of meaning into matter. By revealing what human building ultimately is up against – natural or geological time – ruins have a way of recalling us to the very ground of our human worlds, namely the earth, whose foundations are so solid and reliable that they presumably will outlast any edifices that we build on them.

– Robert Pogue Harrison, The dominion of the dead, p. 3

We shared the same passion for obscure and forgotten books, but whereas I tended to be crazily enthusiastic and scattered about these works, Zimmer was thorough and systematic, penetrating to a degree that often astonished me.

– Paul Auster, Moon Palace, 88

A divorce is like an amputation; you survive, but there’s less of you.

– Margaret Atwood, Time Magazine; quoted in Oxford Dictionary of quotations p. 280