The Literary Quotes Post

Greg Zimmerman

Staff Writer

Greg Zimmerman blogs about contemporary literary fiction at The New Dork Review of Books and holds down a full-time gig as a trade magazine editor. Follow him on Twitter: @NewDorkReview.

If you’re a person who uses a quote as your email signature, whose quotes section of your Facebook page is approximately as long as War and Peace, and who is always starting conversations with things like, “Well, you know what Jonathan Franzen said about baseball, right?”, well…this post is for you.

Like many readers, I often stop my reading to jot down quotes. Here’s a collection of a few favorites I’ve come across in the last year or so.

“The world can forgive practically anything except people who mind their own business.”  — Rhett Butler, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind

“In America, on the ordinate plane of faith versus reason, the x axis of faith intersects the y axis of reason at the zero point of ‘I don’t give a damn what you think.’”  — Sarah Vowell, Unfamiliar Fishes

“A story…is a symphony blooming in the sunlight, trying to draw you away from chaos.” — Ida Hattemer-Higgins, The History of History

“But it is hard for a discontented man not to reproach someone else, especially the very one who is closest to him, for his discontent.” — Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

“Narrative imagination – and therefore fiction –  was a basic evolutionary tool of survival. We processed the world by telling stories, produced human knowledge through our engagement with imagined selves.” — Aleksander Hemon, The Aquarium (New Yorker, 6/13/11)

“Literature could turn you into a real asshole. It could teach you to treat real people the way you did characters, as instruments of your own intellectual pleasure, cadavers on which to practice your critical faculties.”  — Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding

And just for posterity, here are some good ooey-gooey ones:

“This is love, isn’t it? When you notice someone’s absence and hate that absence more than anything? More, even, than you love her presence?” — Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated

 “Her kiss was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.” — Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

“We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love. — Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker

“Love is a curious mixture of opposites, a blend of extreme selfishness and total devotion. A paradox!” — from A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz (quoting his grandfather)

And, finally, a quote or two that made me giggle:

“Before curiosity kills it, the cat learns more of the world than a hundred uninquisitive dogs.” — Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates

“The secret to living in the rush of the world with a minimum of pain is to get as many people as possible to string along with your delusions.” — Philip Roth, The Human Stain

“I suppose that a country that teaches creationism in its schools may be forgiven for believing that baseball does not derive from cricket.” — Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections

Now you! What’s on your list of favorite literary quotes? Let’s make a nice little collection below.


Greg Zimmerman is a trade magazine editor and blogs about contemporary literary fiction at The New Dork Review of Books. Follow him on Twitter: @NewDorkReview.