“For to sit in a room full of books, and remember the stories they told you, and to know precisely where each one is located and what was happening in your life at time or where you were when you first read it is the languid and distilled pleasure of the connoisseur.”
“The alley is a pitch for about twenty women leaning in doorways, chain-smoking. In their shiny open raincoats, short skirts, cheap boots, and high-heeled shoes they watch the street with hooded eyes, like spies in a B movie. Some are young and pretty, and some are older, and some of them are very old, with facial expressions ranging from sullen to wry. Most of the commerce is centred on the slightly older women, as if the majority of the clients prefer experience and worldliness. The younger, prettier girls seem to do the least business, apparent innocence being only a minority preference, much as it is for the aging crones in the alley who seem as if they’ve been standing there for a thousand years.
In the dingy foyer of the hotel is an old poster from La Comédie Française, sadly peeling from the all behind the desk. Cyrano de Bergerac, it proclaims, a play by Edmond Rostand. I will stand for a few moments to take in its fading gaiety. It is a laughing portrait of a man with an enormous nose and a plumed hat. He is a tragic clown whose misfortune is his honour. He is a man entrusted with a secret; an eloquent and dazzling wit who, having successfully wooed a beautiful woman on behalf of a friend cannot reveal himself as the true author when his friend dies. He is a man who loves but is not loved, and the woman he loves but cannot reach is called Roxanne.
That night I will go to my room and write a song about a girl. I will call her Roxanne. I will conjure her unpaid from the street below the hotel and cloak her in the romance and the sadness of Rostand’s play, and her creation will change my life.”
“...being in love is to be relieved of gravity.”
“Perhaps it is the scarcity of vocabulary that is the root of the problem. Love seems like such a deeply inadequate word for a concept with so many complex shades and shapes and degrees of intensity. If the Inuit have twenty words for the concept of snow, then perhaps it is because they live in a realm where the differences between each type of snow are of vital importance to them, and the minutiae of their specific vocabulary reflects that central importance. Yet we, who spend vast amounts of our time, energy, and ingenuity thinking about love, being loved, loving, longing for love, living for love, even dying for love, have no more than this paltry, troublesome word that is no more descriptive or effective than the word fuck is for expressing the wonderful and infinite varieties of sexual congress. It’s rather like a city dweller looking at the jungle and dumbly grunting the word trees for the manifold diversity that faces him. There are plants out there that can feed him, plants that can cure him, and plants that can kill him, and the sooner he identifies them and names them, the safer he will be.”
“I ask myself what making it really means. I know I want to make my living solely as a musician, but I also want to be recognized as someone unique, defined by my voice, by my abilities as a songwriter, to have the world know my songs and my melodies just as they had known and acknowledged the songs of the Beatles. I want to do this on my own terms, I want to be singular, and if that means being marginalized, then so be it. I will become stronger, and even if no one else knows who I am, I shall know myself.”
“The teaching practice is a success, largely because Mr. Sturridge seems to like me, so much so as to offer me a permanent job there in the autumn term. He tells me that the kids like me too. I’m very flattered and I thank him for the compliment, but ask for some time to consider the offer. That evening I climb up to the top of Clough Head. On the crest of the high ridge I turn back and I can see my life spread out like the valley below me: growing old like Mr. Sturridge, a village teacher, gray-headed and stooped, with worn leather patches on the elbows of my jacket, going home each night to a stone cottage on the hillside with an older Megan standing in the garden, roses in a trellis around the front door, a wood fire in the hearth, my books and my music, idealized, peaceful, devoid of complexity or worry or the vanity of ambition. Whatever is comforting about this image of a possible future, however different it is from the harsh industrial landscape of my childhood, it holds me for no more than a moment and then it is gone. I know the answer I shall give the headmaster, and as the evening draws in I make my way at a brisker pace down the mountain to my digs in the village.”
“In my quest to become unique, I’ve become a statistic.”
“I drive back into town with the two crinkly notes in my pocket and wonder if I could support a family this way, doomed to play dinner dances until I too have one foot in the grave. I shudder at the possibility, and think about poor Meg in her sickbed. What am I going to do? On the way back I pass a big roundabout at the end of the Coast Road. It is March, and the roundabout is covered in daffodils. I circle it twice, an idea forming in my head. I park in a nearby street. It is early morning and there is no one around. I check for police cars and head across the road to the roundabout. Half an hour later I let myself into Megan’s flat and slowly open her bedroom door. My arms are full of daffodils, maybe a hundred all told, their drooping yellow trumpets lighting up the entire room. Meg starts to cry, and so do I. The next morning our prayers are answered, but our relief is mixed with a subtle, unspoken regret.”
“Diary entry, summer 1973. It may be there in a distracted glance out of an open window or in the split second of an absent look when you speak to her, or in the guarded inflections of her voice as she replies, or in the subtle chemistry of touch or smell or the taste of her skin in your mouth, or in some unspecified sixth sense that you can’t name, but when love is over, its signals are louder than disclosure, if only you are willing and open enough to acknowledge them. But of course we shake off these feelings as if they were mere irritations, as if they were unimportant and uninvited guests at a feast. “Not now,” you say, fobbing them off with shallow excuses and feigning more urgent business elsewhere. But they linger long after the party, and skulk in a corner where they plot and fester and return to ask their impertinent questions in the still of night, when she’s sleeping and wearing her child’s face. When she looks so beautiful and vulnerable with her mouth slightly open, and her hair a mess on the pillow, but as you reach to touch her, she turns unconsciously away toward the window, and then the questions start again, and you can’t sleep….”
“Do you have any matches?"
"What for?" The suspicion is back in his voice. That's the Tobin I know and lo-
Well, that's the Tobin I know, anyway.”
“I am in control of myself in every way—at all times and in all situations. Each time I sit down to eat, I reaffirm my determination to achieve my goal. By eating right, and never giving in, I am reaching the weight I want. Whether eating in or eating out, I really enjoy eating less. I never feel the need to finish the food in front of me. I eat only what I should—and never one bite more. One way to weight-loss that’s easy and works, is less food on my plate, and less on my fork! By ordering less when I eat out, and by serving myself smaller portions at home, I keep myself aware of the importance of staying with my goal—each and every day. “Less on my plate means less on my waist.” When I sit down to eat, at no time do I allow anyone else to influence, tempt, or discourage me in any negative way. What I eat, and the goals I reach, is up to me. And I give no one the right to hinder or control my success. Although others may benefit from my success, I am achieving my weight-loss goals for my own personal reasons—for myself, my life, my future, and my own personal well-being. I am never, at any time, tempted to take one bite more than I should. I am strong, I am capable of reaching my goal, and I am doing it! Being in situations which put a lot of food in front of me is not a problem to me now. I simply say “No!” to the food and “Yes!” to my success. I enjoy sitting down to eat. Each time I do I conquer my past, and I create a trimmer, happier, more self-confident future in front of me. When I sit down to eat, I do not need someone else to remind me of my goal, or to keep me from eating something I should not. I take full responsibility for myself, and no one else has to do it for me. Controlling my weight, and my appetite, is easy for me now. I enjoy smaller portions, smaller bites, and a slower, healthier, more relaxed way of eating. I have set my goal and I am staying with it. I have turned mealtime into “achievement time.”
“Have you fallen in love, Will Henry?"
"What is? Love, or my question?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know? You've tried that trick once. What do you suppose it will work better the second time?"
"I don't love her. She bothers me."
"You have just defined the very thing you denied.”
“So promise me you'll let me be whatever you need. Whatever you need.”
“Yes, I am crying although I am a man. But has not a man eyes! Has not a man hands, limbs,
senses, thoughts, passions? Is he not fed with the wine food, hurt by the same weapons, warmed and cooled by the same summer and winter as a woman? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? And if you poison us, do we not die? Why shouldn't a man complain, a soldier weep? Because it is unmanly? Why is it unmanly?”
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