“Being in love, you know... it's not like having a canary, in a cage. When you lose one sweetheart, you can't just go out and get another to replace her.”
“When I see her,” I said, “it’s like - I don’t know what it’s like. It’s like I never saw anything at all before. It’s like I am filling up, like a wine-glass when it’s filled with wine. I watch the acts before her and they are like nothing - they’re like dust. Then she walks on the stage and - she is so pretty; and her suit is so nice; and her voice is so sweet… She makes me want to smile and weep, at once. She makes me sore, here.” I placed a hand upon my chest, upon the breast-bone. “I never saw a girl like her before. I never knew that there were girls like her…” My voice became a trembling whisper then, and I found that I could say no more. There was another silence. I opened my eyes and looked at Alice - and knew at once that I shouldn’t have spoken; that I should have been as dumb and as cunning with her as with the rest of them. There was a look on her face - it was not ambiguous at all now - a look of mingled shock, and nervousness, and embarrassment or shame. I had said too much. I felt as if my admiration for Kitty Butler had lit a beacon inside me, and opening my unguarded mouth had sent a shaft of light into the darkened room, illuminating all. I had said too much - but it was that, or say nothing.”
“It was heavy, and I staggered when I lifted it; but it was strangely satifying to have a real burden upon my shoulders – a kind of counterweight to my terrible heaviness of heart.”
“We fitted together like the two halves of an oyster-shell. I was Narcissus, embracing the pond in which I was about to drown. However much we had to hide our love, however guarded we had to be about our pleasure, I could not long be miserable about a thing so very sweet. Nor, in my gladness, could I quite believe that anybody would be anything but happy for me if only they knew.”
“With every step I took away from her, the movement at my heart and between my legs grew more defined: I felt like a ventriloquist, locking his protesting dolls in to a trunk.”
“She scissored the curls away, and - toms, grow easily sentimental over their haircuts, but I remember this sensation very vividly - it was not like she was cutting hair, it was as if I had a pair of wings beneath my shoulder-blades, that the flesh had all grown over, and she was slicing free...”
“clad not exactly as a boy but, rather confusingly, as the boy I would have been, had I been more of a girl”
“You smell,' she began, slowly and wonderingly, 'like -'
'Like a herring!'I said bitterly. My cheeks were hot now and very red; there were tears, almost, in my eyes. I think she saw my confusion and was sorry for it.
'Not at all like a herring,' she said gently.'But perhaps, maybe, like a mermaid...”
“She sang that night like - I cannot say like an angel, for her songs were all of champagne suppers and strolling in the Burlington Arcade; perhaps, then, like a fallen angel - or yet again like a falling one: she sang like a falling angel might sing with the bounds of heaven fresh burst behind him, and hell still distant and unguessed. And as she did so, I sang with her - not loudly and carelessly like the rest of the crowd, but softly, almost secretly, as if she might hear me the better if I whispered rather than bawled.”
“Oh, for shame! Nancy, have you never seen Florrie's face in a chrysanthemum, or a rose?'
'Never.' I said. 'Though there was a flounder for sale on a fishmonger's barrow, in Whitechapel yesterday, and the likeness was quite uncanny. I very nearly brought it home...”
“But he was not like Walter, who might take his pleasure where he chose it. His pleasure had turned, at the last, to a kind of grief; and his love was a love so fierce and so secret it must be satisfied, with a stranger, in a reeking court like this. I knew about that kind of love. I knew how it was to bare your palpitating heart, and be fearful as you did so that the beats should come too loudly, and betray you.”
“I have been being careful since the first minute I saw you. I am the Queen of Carefulness. I shall go on being careful for ever, if you like - so long as I might be a bit reckless, sometimes, when we are quite alone”
“I knew that Kitty and I felt just the same- only, of course, about different things. I should have remembered this, later.”
“Now she has turned up, saying all the things I dreamed she'd say.”
“There were about thirty of them, I think - all women; all seated at tables, bearing drinks and books and papers. You might have passed any one of them upon the street, and thought nothing; but the effect of their appearance all combined was rather queer. They were dressed, not strangely, but somehow distinctly. They wore skirts - but the kind of skirts a tailor might design if he were set, for a dare, to sew a bustle for a gent. Many seemed clad in walking-suits or riding-habits. Many wore pince-nez, or carried monocles on ribbons. There were one or two rather startling coiffures; and there were more neckties than I had ever seen brought together at any exclusively female ensemble.”
“Kitty’s gone, Flo. Like Lilian. Believe me, there’s more chance of her coming back!’ I began to smile. ‘And if she does, you can go to her, and I won’t say a word. And if Kitty comes for me, you can do similar. And then, I suppose, we shall have our paradises - and will be able to wave to one another from our separate clouds. But till then - till then, Flo, can’t we go on kissing, and just be glad?”
“I might be weary or stupid; I might be nauseous with drink; I might be sore, at the hips, with the ache of my monthlies, but the opening of this box, as I have said, never ceased to stir me - I was like a dog twitching and slavering to hear his mistress call out Bone!”
“Mr Bliss looked grave. 'Your brother was very sensible to warn you, Miss Astley - but sadly misinformed. There are no trams in Trafalgur Square - only buses and hansoms, and broughams like our own. Trams are for common people; you should have to go quite as far as Kilburn, I'm afraid, or Camden Town, in order to by struck by a tram”
“I’m taking you out, to meet my friends. I’m taking you,’ she put a hand to my cheek, ‘to my club.”
“Her friend - and her partner on the stage. You will not believe me, but making love to Kitty - a thing done in passion, but always, too, in shadow and silence, and with an ear half-cocked for the sound of footsteps on the stairs - making love to Kitty and posing at her side in a shaft of limelight, before a thousand pairs of eyes, to a script I knew by heart, in an attitude I had laboured for hours to perfect - these things were not so very different. A double act is always twice the act that the audience thinks it; beyond our songs, our steps, our bits of business with coins and canes and flowers, there was a private language, in which we held an endless, delicate exchange of which the crowd knew nothing. This was a language not of the tongue but of the body, its vocabulary the pressure of a finger or a palm, the nudging of a hip, the holding or breaking of a gaze, that said, You are too slow - you got too fast - not there but here - that's good - that's better! It was as if we walked before the crimson curtain, lay down upon the boards and kissed and fondled - and were clapped, and cheered, and paid for it!”
“Tricky was a plain-faced man with a very handsome voice - a voice like the sound of a clarinet, at once liquid and penetrating, and lovely to listen to.”
“Now, from the crown of my head to the curve of my toe-nails, there was an unguent for every part of me - oil for my eyebrows and cream for my lashes; a jar of tooth-powder, a box of blanc-de-perle; polish for my fingernails and a scarlet stick to redden my mouth; tweezers for drawing the hairs from my nipples, and a stone to take the hard flesh from my heels.”
“There was, of course, the dildo that I have described (though the device, or the instrument, was what I learned, following Diana, to call it: I think the unnecessary euphemism, with its particular odour of the surgery or house of correction, appealed to her; only when really heated would she call the thing by its proper name - and even then she was as likely to ask for Monsieur Dildo, or simply Monsieur). Besides this there was an album of photographs of big-buttocked girls with hairless parts, bearing feathers; also a collection of erotic pamphlets and novels, all hymning the delights of what I would call tommistry but what they, like Diana, called Sapphic Passion.”
“She wore a boiled shirt and a bow-tie, and her hair, though long and bound, was sleek with oil. She was about two- or three-and-thirty, and her waist was thick; but her upper lip, at least, was dark as a boy’s. They would have called her terribly handsome, I guessed, in about 1880.”
“El suelo está lleno de baches, pero no te dejaré caer.”
“And we are not mountaintop sages who can live by consuming mist.”
“I let the music drill through my teeth and drip out my hair and pound through my eyeballs. I taste it, like grit and sweat.”
“Dead flesh and sharpened scalpels didn't bother me. I was my father's daughter, after all. My nightmares were made of darker things.”
“This seemed to be how dads taught their boys to be men, but there had to be a point, maybe early on, when they were able to hold their hands. One tiny one engulfed by one big one.”
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