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29+ quotes from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson

Quotes from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer

Neal Stephenson ·  499 pages

Rating: (70K votes)


“The difference between stupid and intelligent people – and this is true whether or not they are well-educated – is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. ”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“Nell," the Constable continued, indicating through his tone of voice that the lesson was concluding, "the difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between stupid and intelligent people—and this is true whether or not they are well-educated—is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations—in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“That we occasionally violate our own stated moral code does not imply that we are insincere in espousing that code.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“The difference between stupid and intelligent people -- and this is true whether or not they are well-educated -- is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambigous or even contradictory situations -- in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“We ignore the blackness of outer space and pay attention to the stars, especially if they seem to order themselves into constellations. “Common as the air” meant something worthless, but Hackworth knew that every breath of air that Fiona drew, lying in her little bed at night, just a silver flow in the moonlight, was used by her body to make skin and hair and bones. The air became Fiona, and deserving—no, demanding—of love. Ordering matter was the sole endeavor of Life, whether it was a jumble of self-replicating molecules in the primordial ocean, or a steam-powered English mill turning weeds into clothing, or Fiona lying in her bed turning air into Fiona.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“Which path do you intend to take, Nell?' said the Constable, sounding very interested. 'Conformity or rebellion?'
Neither one. Both ways are simple-minded - they are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“He had some measure of the infuriating trait that causes a young man to be a nonconformist for its own sake and found that the surest way to shock most people, in those days, was to believe that some kinds of behavior were bad and others good, and that it was reasonable to live one's life accordingly.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“Sorry,” she said, “I got out as fast as I could, but I had to stay and socialize. Protocol, you know.”
“Explain protocol,” Nell said. This was how she always talked to the Primer.
“At the place we’re going, you need to watch your manners. Don’t say ‘explain this’ or ‘explain that.’”
“Would it impose on your time unduly to provide me with a concise explanation of the term protocol?” Nell said.
Again Rita made that nervous laugh and looked at Nell with an expression that looked like poorly concealed alarm.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“They wanted to carry her, but she jumped to the stones of the plaza and strode away from the building, toward her ranks, which parted to make way for her. The streets of Pudong were filled with hungry and terrified refugees, and through them, in simple peasant clothes streaked with the blood of herself and of others, broken shackles dangling from her wrists, followed by her generals and ministers, walked the barbarian Princess with her book and her sword.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“The hour of noon has passed,' said Judge Fang. 'Let us go and get some Kentucky Fried Chicken.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“What are letters?”
“Kinda like mediaglyphics except they’re all black, and they’re tiny, they don’t move, they’re old and boring and really hard to read. But you can use ’em to make short words for long words.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“The House of the Venerable and Inscrutable Colonel was what they called it when they were speaking Chinese. Venerable because of his goatee, white as the dogwood blossom, a badge of unimpeachable credibility in Confucian eyes. Inscrutable because he had gone to his grave without divulging the Secret of the Eleven Herbs and Spices.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“But what you learn, as you get older, is that there are a few billion other people in the world all trying to be clever at the same time, and whatever you do with your life will certainly be lost—swallowed up in the ocean—unless you are doing it along with like-minded people who will remember your contributions and carry them forward.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“Her skirts, sleeves, collar, and hat saw to it that none of the young ruffians of the Leased Territories would have the opportunity to invade her body space with their eyes, and lest her distinctive face prove too much of a temptation, she wore a veil too...

The veil offered Nell protection from unwanted scrutiny. Many New Atlantis career women also used the veil as a way of meeting the world on their own terms, ensuring that they were judged on their own merits and not on their appearance. It served a protective function as well, bouncing back the harmful rays of the sun...”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“Virtually all political discourse in the days of my youth was devoted to the ferreting out of hypocrisy... Because they were hypocrites, the Victorians were despised in the late twentieth century. Many of the persons who held such opinions were, of course, guilty of the most nefarious conduct themselves, and yet saw no paradox in holding such views because they were not hypocrites themselves-they took no moral stances and lived by none.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“If the item of stolen property had been anything other than a book, it would have been confiscated. But a book is different—it is not just a material possession but the pathway to an enlightened mind, and thence to a well-ordered society,”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“Put 'em on and be yourself, mister alienated loner steppenwolf bemused distant meta-izing technocrat rationalist fucking shithead.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“I have devoted much effort, during the last decade or so, to the systematic encouragement of subversiveness.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“The universe was a disorderly mess, the only interesting bits being the organised anomalies. Hackworth had once taken his family out rowing on the pond in the park, and the ends of the yellow oars spun off compact vortices, and Fiona, who had taught herself the physics of liquids through numerous experimental beverage spills and in the bathtub, demanded an explanation for these holes in water. She leaned over the gunwale, Gwendolyn holding the sash of her dress, and felt those vortices with her hands, wanting to understand them. The rest of the pond, simply water in no particular order, was uninteresting.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“There are only two industries. This has always been true....There is the industry of things, and the industry of entertainment....After people have the things they need to live, everything else is entertainment. Everything.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“One of the insights of the Victorian Revival was that it was not necessarily a good thing for everyone to read a completely different newspaper in the morning; so the higher one rose in the society, the more similar one's Times became to one's peers'.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“Constable Moore had reached the age when men can subject their bodies to the worst irritations - whiskey, cigars, woolen clothes, bagpipes - without feeling a thing or, at least, without letting on.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“Princess Nell had to reconstruct them, learning the language, which was extremely pithy and made heavy use of parentheses.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“Bud's relationship with the female sex was governed by a gallimaufry of primal impulses, dim suppositions, deranged theories, overheard scraps of conversation, half-remembered pieces of bad advice, and fragments of no-doubt exaggerated anecdotes that amounted to rank superstition.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“...he liked his transcendence out in plain sight where he could keep an eye on it -- say, in a nice stained-glass window -- not woven through the fabric of life like gold threads through a brocade.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“The difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between stupid and intelligent people—and this is true whether or not they are well-educated—is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations—in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“Yong is the outer manifestation of something. Ti is the underlying essence. Technology is a yong associated with a particular ti that is ... Western, and completely alien to us [the Chinese]. For centuries, since the time of the Opium Wars, we have struggled to absorb the yong of technology without importing the Western ti. But it has been impossible. Just as our ancestors could not open our ports to the West without accepting the poison of opium, we could not open our lives to Western technology without taking in the Western ideas, which have been as a plague on our society. The result has been centuries of chaos.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“The old guard believe in that code because they came to it the hard way. They raise their children to believe in that code—but their children believe it for entirely different reasons."
"They believe it," the Constable said, "because they have been indoctrinated to believe it."
"Yes. Some of them never challenge it—they grow up to be small minded people, who can tell you what they believe but not why they believe it. Others become disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the society and rebel—as did Elizabeth Finkle-McGraw."
"Which path do you intend to take, Nell?" said the Constable, sounding very interested. "Conformity or rebellion?"
"Neither one. Both ways are simple-minded—they are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


“If the manifest of ingredients on the bottle had been legible, it would have read something like this: Water, blackstrap molasses, imported habanero peppers, salt, garlic, ginger, tomato puree, axle grease, real hickory smoke, snuff, butts of clove cigarettes, Guinness Stout fermentation dregs, uranium mill tailings, muffler cores, monosodium glutamate, nitrates, nitrites, nitrotes and nitrutes, nutrites, natrotes, powdered pork nose hairs, dynamite, activated charcoal, match-heads, used pipe cleaners, tar, nicotine, single-malt whiskey, smoked beef lymph nodes, autumn leaves, red fuming nitric acid, bituminous coal, fallout, printer's ink, laundry starch, drain cleaner, blue chrysotile asbestos, carrageenan, BHA, BHT, and natural flavorings.”
― Neal Stephenson, quote from The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer


About the author

Neal Stephenson
Born place: in Fort Meade, MD, The United States
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