American Book Review




Is it possible for anyone in Germany, nowadays, to raise his right hand, for whatever the reason, and not be flooded by the memory of a dream to end all dreams? —Walter Abish, How German Is It? (1980)

And then I thought that, one day, maybe, there’ld be a human society in a world which is beautiful, a society which wasn’t just disgust. —Kathy Acker, Empire of the Senseless (1988)

Dear mother, —Kathy Acker, Great Expectations (1982)

‘I closed my eyes, head drooping, like a person drunk for so long she no longer knows she’s drunk, and then, drunk, awoke to the world which lay before me.’ —Kathy Acker, Don Quixote (1986)

“Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this!” —Louisa May Alcott, Little Women (1868)

Then I lifted the hook and flung the window open….
Spring came in.
—Felipe Alfau, Locos (1936)

That was all long ago in some brief lost spring, in a place that is no more. In that hour that frogs begin and the scent off the mesquite comes strongest.Nelson Algren, A Walk on the Wild Side (1956)

If only we could start a band and change the world. wouldn’t that be fun? —Mark Amerika, The Kafka Chronicles (1993)

We’re away once more over the field. Odilo Unverdorben and his eager heart. And I within, who came at the wrong time—either too soon or after it was all too late. —Martin Amis, Time’s Arrow (1991)

Join me, please, as I look on the bright side. Russia is dying. And I’m glad. —Martin Amis, House of Meetings (2006)

He stayed that way for a long time and when he aroused himself and again looked out of the car window the town of Winesburg had disappeared and his life there had become but a background on which to paint the dreams of his manhood. —Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio (1919)

The lake is quiet, the trees surround me, asking and giving nothing. —Margaret Atwood, Surfacing (1972)

Are there any questions? —Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1986)

It’s old light, and there’s not much of it. But it’s enough to see by. —Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye (1988)

Between Barton and Delaford there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate; and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that, though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands. —Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility (1811)

With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate terms. Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union. —Jane Austen, Emma (1816)

She gloried in being a sailor’s wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues

than in its national importance. —Jane Austen, Persuasion (1817)

I came to the last page just as the train was pulling out. —Paul Auster, The Locked Room (1986)

We walked up the stairs together, and once we were inside, I handed him the pages of this book. —Paul Auster, Leviathan (1992)

B (back to top)

“There’ll always be an England,” he told them and ran, laughing, down the steps. —Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door (1994)


The aircraft rise from the runways of the airport, carrying the remnants of Vaughan’s semen to the instrument panels and radiator grilles of a thousand crashing cars, the stances of a million passengers. —J. G. Ballard, Crash (1973)


And by way of throwing down the glove to Society, Rastignac went to dine with Mme. de Nucingen. —Honoré de Balzac, Père Goriot (1834; trans. Ellen Marriage)


Go, my book, and help destroy the world as it is. —Russell Banks, Continental Drift (1985)

The story will be over. Except that I continue. —Russell Banks, Affliction (1989)

He ran this way and that, low down in his throat crying, and she grinning and crying with him; crying in shorter and shorter spaces, moving head to head, until she gave up, lying out, her hands beside her, her face turned and weeping; and the dog too gave up then, and lay down, his eyes bloodshot, his head flat along her knees. —Djuna Barnes, Nightwood (1936)

The colors seemed very bright against the mist, and through the air, so softly we could not be sure we heard it, came the sound of the men chanting to welcome in the night.—Andrea Barrett, The Forms of Water (1993)

“Terminal.” —John Barth, The End of the Road (1958)

Nonetheless I smiled, leaned on my stick, and, no troubleder than Mom, gimped in to meet the guards halfway. —John Barth, Giles Goat-Boy (1966)

The key to the treasure is the treasure. —John Barth, “Dunyazadiad” from Chimera (1972)

T-zero. —John Barth, On with the Story (1996)

—Donald Barthelme, Snow White (1967)


For a minute all I could think of was what we must look like from the sky, the black Lincoln, the two splintered headlights shooting into nothing, the two taillights glowing red tracers behind us, the big flat space everywhere and all this dust swelling around us like a land-sped record attempt. We rocketed across that desert sand. —Frederick Barthelme, Painted Desert (1995)

“I’m so glad to be at home again.” —L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

Then I went back into the house and wrote, It is midnight. The rain is beating on the windows. It was not midnight. It was not raining. —Samuel Beckett, Molloy (1951, trans. Patrick Bowles)

…you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on. —Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable (1953; trans. Samuel Beckett)

No symbols where none intended. —Samuel Beckett, Watt (1953)

Oh all to end. —Samuel Beckett, Stirrings Still (1989)

Long live regimentation! —Saul Bellow, Dangling Man (1944)

Columbus too thought he was a flop, probably, when they sent him back in chains. Which didn’t prove there was no America. —Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March (1953)

He heard it and sank deeper than sorrow, through torn sobs and cries toward the consummation of his heart’s ultimate need. —Saul Bellow, Seize the Day (1956)

I guess I felt it was my turn now to move, and so went running—leaping, leaping, pounding, and tingling over the pure white lining of the gray Arctic silence. —Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King (1959)

At this time he had no messages for anyone. Nothing. Not a single word. —Saul Bellow, Herzog (1964)

Winona was a notorious prig. Who would want any other kind of daughter? —Thomas Berger, Reinhart’s Women (1981)

But in these fair laps we must leave King Arthur, who was never historical, but everything he did was true. —Thomas Berger, Arthur Rex (1978)

The horizon is the straight bottom edge of a curtain arbitrarily and suddenly lowered upon a performance. —Jon Berger, G. (1972)

Then its pages dampened, took on the weight of the underlying depths, began to founder, and as I readied to return home, that plot which had diverted so many, was finally lost in darkness and distance. —R.M. Berry, Frank (2005)

You been dead all your life since you was born, he thought, except for maybe a little time between, nine months, and now you’re dead. —Alvah Bessie, Bread and Stone (1941)

“And then the storm of shit begins” —Roberto Bolaño, By Night in Chile (2000; trans. Chris Andrews)

At the edge of the Arab quarter the car, still loaded with people, made a wide U-turn and stopped; it was the end of the line. —Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky (1949)

The Martians were there—in the canal—reflected in the water. Timothy and Michael and Robert and Mom and Dad.
The Martians stared back up at them for a long, long silent time from the rippling water…. —Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles (1950)

Sorry I forgot to give you the mayonnaise.
—Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America (1967)

Then there are more and more endings: the sixth, the 53rd, the 131st, the 9,435th ending, endings going faster and faster, more and more endings, faster and faster until this book is having 186,000 endings per second. —Richard Brautigan, A Confederate General from Big Sur (1964)

And the earth’s heart is beating as it has always, will always, repeating the only word it knows, daughter, daughter, daughter. —Kate Braverman, Palm Latitudes (1988)

Or, rather, let me be quiet in her memory—and in memory of me—for a little while. —Harold Brodkey, The Runaway Soul (1991) 

I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth. —Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847)

“No glot…C’lom Fliday” —William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch (1959)

Yage may be the final fix. —William S. Burroughs, Junky (1953)

He laughed. He did not care what she called herself as long as she went on living. And she would do that. No matter where she went, she would live. She would not leave him. —Octavia E. Butler, Wild Seed (1980)

C (back to top)

Father McConnell says prayers help. If you’ve got this far, send up one for me, and Cora, and make it that we’re together, wherever it is. —James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934)

“Maybe I could grow me a bale to the acre, like Pa was always talking about doing.” —Erskine Caldwell, Tobacco Road (1932)

That mesh of leaves and twigs of fork and froth, minute and endless, with the sky glimpsed only in sudden specks and splinters, perhaps it was only there so that my brother could pass through it with his tomtit’s thread, was embroidered on nothing, like this thread of ink which I have let run on for page after page, swarming with cancellations, corrections, doodles, blots and gaps, bursting at times into clear big berries, coagulating at others into piles of tiny starry seeds, then twisting away, forking off , surrounding buds of phrases with frameworks of leaves and clouds, then interweaving again, and so running on and on and on until it splutters and bursts into a last senseless cluster of words, ideas, dreams, and so ends. —Italo Calvino, The Baron in the Trees (1959; trans. Archibald Colquhoun)

…seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, and make them endure, give them space. —Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (1972; trans. William Weaver)

And you say, “Just a moment, I’ve almost finished If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino.” —Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler (1979; trans. William Weaver)

For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate. —Albert Camus, The Stranger (1942; trans. Matthew Ward)


He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city. —Albert Camus, The Plague (1947; trans. Stuart Gilbert)


Begin again! It all must be done over! 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984
—Jay Cantor, The Death of Che Guevara (1983)


Then starting home, he walked toward the trees, and under them, leaving behind him the big sky, the whisper of wind voices in the wind-bent wheat. —Truman Capote, In Cold Blood (1965)


Shining fragments of aquarium glass fell like snow around him. And when the long-awaited white fingers of water tapped and lapped on Oscar’s lips, he welcomed them in as he always had, with a scream, like a small boy caught in the sheet-folds of a nightmare. — Peter Carey, Oscar and Lucinda (1988)


Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood; and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago; and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days. —Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)


So, into all the little settlements of quiet people, tidings of what their boys and girls are doing in the world bring refreshment; bring to the old, memories, and to the young, dreams. —Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)


Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past. —Willa Cather, My Ántonia (1918)

‘I shall feel proud and satisfied to have been the first author to enjoy the full fruit of his writings, as I desired, because my only desire has been to make men hate those false, absurd histories in books of chivalry, which thanks to the exploits of my real Don Quixote are even now tottering, and without any doubt will soon tumble to the ground. Farewell.’ —Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (1605, 1615; trans. John Rutherford)


When Rosa and Joe picked it up they saw that Sammy had taken a pen and, bearing down, crossed out the name of the never-more-than-theoretical family that was printed above the address, and in its place written, sealed in a neat black rectangle, knotted by the stout cord of an ampersand, the words KAVALIER & CLAY. —Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000)


Everyone is waiting for Father, who may, or may not, come home. —George Chambers, The Last Man Standing (1990)


What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or on a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now. Far more a part of it than Rusty Regan was. But the old man didn’t have to be. He could lie quiet on his canopied bed with his bloodless hands folded on the sheet waiting. His heart was a brief uncertain murmur. His thoughts were as gray as ashes. And in little while, he too, like Rusty Regan would be sleeping the big sleep.

On the way downtown I stopped at a bar and had a couple of double Scotches. They didn’t do me any good. All they did was make me think of Silver-Wig and I never saw her again. —Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (1939)


I never saw any of them again—except the cops. No way has yet been invented to say goodbye to them. —Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye (1953)


I will never come back, and if I do there will be nothing left, there will be nothing left but the headstones to record what has happened; there will really be nothing at all. —John Cheever, The Wapshot Scandal (1963)


Tony went back to school on Monday and Nailles—drugged—went off to work and everything was as wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful as it had been. —John Cheever, Bullet Park (1969)


But that is another tale, and as I said in the beginning, this is just a story meant to be read in bed in an old house on a rainy night. —John Cheever, Oh What a Paradise It Seems (1982)


There was the hum of bees, and the musky odor of pinks filled the air. —Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)


It was calling to itself every boat on the river, every one, the whole town, and the sky and the country and us, all of it being called away, and the Seine too, everything—let’s hear no more of all of this. —Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of the Night (1932, trans. Ralph Manheim)         


This is not the scene I dreamed of. Like much else nowadays I leave it feeling stupid, like a man who lost his way long ago but presses on along a road that may lead nowhere. —J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (1980)

“Stein has aged greatly of late. He feels it himself, and says often that he is ‘preparing to leave all this; preparing to leave…’ while he waves his hand sadly at his butterflies.” —Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim (1900)


The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky—seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness. —Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1902)


Let’s say the extremely smooth grass in cemeteries is fake grass, and there is no one and nothing underneath it. —Dennis Cooper, God Jr. (2005)


“My day has been too long. In the morning I saw the sons of Unamis happy and strong;
and yet, before the night has come, have I lived to see the last warrior of the wise race of the Mohicans.” —James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans (1826)

“May no wanton hand ever disturb his remains!” —James Fenimore Cooper, The Prairie (1827)

“Vaya con Dios, my darklin’, and remember: vote early and vote often, don’t take any wooden nickels, and”—by now I was rolling about helplessly on the spare-room floor, scrunched up around my throbbing pain and bawling like a baby—“always leave ’em laughin’ as you say good-bye!” —Robert Coover, The Public Burning (1977)

“Hang loose,” he says, and pulling down his mask, trots back behind home plate. —Robert Coover, The Universal Baseball Association, INC., J. Henry Waugh, PROP. (1968)


Over the river a golden ray of sun came through the hosts of leaden rain clouds. —Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895)


Maybe I will go to Paris. Who knows? But I’ll sure as hell never go back to Texas again. —James Crumley, The Final Country (2001)


The women tell me that after all these years I haven’t even found myself. Of course, I haven’t look all that hard, yet. —James Crumley, The Right Madness (2005)


“I’m straight outta Compton!” he yelled. —Ricardo Cortez Cruz, Straight Outta Compton (1992)


D (back to top)

Silence. —Evan Dara, The Lost Scrapbook (1995)


And since all along there had been too many ends to the story, and since they did not end anything, but only continued something, something not formed into any story, I needed an act of ceremony to end the story. —Lydia Davis, The End of the Story (1995)


My husband remained there some time after me to settle our affairs, and at first I had intended to go back to him, but at his desire I altered that resolution, and he is come over to England also, where we resolve to spend the remainder of our years in sincere penitence for the wicked lives we have lived. —Daniel DeFoe, Moll Flanders (1722)


In the end they had to carry me to the infirmary and feed me through plastic tubes. —Don DeLillo, End Zone (1972)


The most beguiling of the rumors has me living among beggars and syphilitics, performing good works, patron saint of all those men who hear the river-whistles sing the mysteries and who return to sleep in wine by the south wheel of the city. —Don DeLillo, Great Jones Street (1973)


It made no sound, or none that he could hear, laughing as he was, this noise resembling laughter, expressing vocally what appeared to be a compelling emotion, crying out as he was, gasping into the stillness, emitting as he was this series of involuntary shrieks, particles bouncing in the air around him, the reproductive dust of existence —Don DeLillo, Ratner’s Star (1976)


It was the nightmare of real things, the fallen wonder of the world. —Don DeLillo, The Names (1982)


Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead. —Don DeLillo, White Noise (1985)


Peace. —Don DeLillo, Underworld (1997)


Then he saw a shirt come down out of the sky. He walked and saw it fall, arms waving like nothing in this life. —Don DeLillo, Falling Man (2007)


And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One! —Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)


But I know that my dearest little pets are very pretty, and that my darling is very beautiful, and that my husband is very handsome, and that my guardian has the brightest and most benevolent face that ever was seen, and that they can very well do without much beauty in me—even supposing—. —Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)


O Agnes, O my soul, so may thy face be by me when I close my life indeed; so may I, when realities are melting from me like the shadows which I now dismiss, still find thee near me, pointing upward! —Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1849-50)


We shall sit with lighter bosoms on the hearth, to see the ashes of our fires turn grey and cold. —Charles Dickens, Hard Times (1854)


They went quietly down in the roaring streets, inseparable and blessed, and as they passed along in the sunshine and the shade, the noisy and the eager, and the arrogant and the forward and the vain, fretted and chafed, and made their usual uproar.

—Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit (1857)


‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’ —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)


I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so, the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her. —Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1860-61)


And Harry K. Thaw, having obtained his release from the insane asylum, marched annually at Newport in the Armistice Day parade. —E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime (1975)


There was some confusion after that, of course, we had to go out and buy bottles and diapers, he didn’t come with any instructions, and my mother was a little slow remembering some of the things that had to be done when he cried and waved his arms about, but we adjusted to him soon enough and what I think of now is how we used to like to go back to the East Bronx with him and walk him in his carriage on a sunny day along Bathgate Avenue, with all the peddlers calling out their prices and the stalls stacked with pyramids of oranges and grapes and peaches and melons, and the fresh bread in the windows of the bakeries with the electric fans in their transoms sending hot bread smells into the air, and the dairy with its tubs of butter and wood packs of farmer’s cheese, and the butcher wearing his thick sweater under his apron walking out of his ice room with a stack of chops on oiled paper, and the florist on the corner wetting down the vases of clustered cut flowers, and the children running past, and the gabbling old women carrying their shopping bags of greens and chickens, and the teenage girls holding white dresses on hangers to their shoulders, and the truckmen in their undershirts unloading their produce, and the horns honking and all the life of the city turning out to greet us just as in the old days of our happiness, before my father fled, when the family used to go walking in this market, this bazaar of life, Bathgate, in the age of Dutch Schultz. —E. L. Doctorow, Billy Bathgate (1989)


God’s mercy

On the wild

Ginger Man.

 —J. P. Donleavy, The Ginger Man (1958)


On John Andrews’s writing table the brisk wind rustled among the broad sheets of paper. First one sheet, then another, blew off the table, until the floor was littered with them. —John dos Passos, Three Soldiers (1921)


But that is the beginning of a new story—the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment (1866; trans. Constance Garnett)

But to us too it seems that this will be a good place to stop. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground (1864; trans. Michael R. Katz)

“Hurrah for Karamazov!” —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (1880; trans. Constance Garnett)

In your rocking-chair, by your window dreaming, shall you long, alone. In your rocking-chair, by your window, shall you dream such happiness as you may never feel. —Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)

The small company, minus Russell, entered the yellow, unprepossessing door and disappeared. —Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy (1925)

Fin. Fin? —Coleman Dowell, Mrs. October Was Here (1974)

And he hoped they would wake him in time to swing his legs over the bedside in the near- dark, to be sitting straight and ready as Jim’s alarm went off, and his bedsprings squeaked, and Leo heard his father, coming for him. —Andre Dubus III, Bluesman (1993)

And that pulsing behind her, close upon the twin orbs of her bountiful posterior, kneeled a great beaked figure—an enigmatic lôplôp…. —Rikki Ducornet, Phosphor in Dreamland (1995)

And say farewell, farewell to Alexandria leaving. —Lawrence Durrell, Justine (1957)

E (back to top)

We had the castle within us. We carried it away. —William Eastlake, The Castle (1965)

There was death—she was our captain’s bride. —William Eastlake, The Bamboo Bed (1969)

I leave this manuscript, I do not know for whom, I no longer know what it is about: stat rosa prinstina nomine, nomine nuda tenemus. —Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (1983)

But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs. —George Eliot, Middlemarch (1871—72)

“In their death they were not divided.” —George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860)

Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you? —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

Through the warm fog of his last breath, he watched the memories of a hundred ghosts drift skyward to finally and vainly burst. —Steve Erickson, Tours of the Black Clock (1989)

It didn’t matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn’t heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together. —Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides (1993)

He waited for someone to tell him who to be next. —Brian Evenson, The Open Curtain (2006)

And when again the vision comes, I find that, ready to do battle, I am running: obsessively running. —Frederick Exley, A Fan’s Notes (1968)

F (back to top)

The broken flower drooped over Ben’s fist and his eyes were empty and blue and serene again as cornice and façade flowed smoothly once more from left to right, post and tree, window and doorway and signboard each in its ordered place. —William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929)

I don’t hate ithe thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark; I don’t. I don’t! I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it! —William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (1936)

“Meet Mrs Bundren,” he says. —William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1930)

[So long everybody!] —Raymond Federman, Take It or Leave It (1976)

then it does not necessarily have to be NOODLES! —Raymond Federman, Double or Nothing (1971)

Good bye, my friend, take it easy, and as we say in America when starting a new life, wish me luck… —Raymond Federman, Aunt Rachel’s Fur (2001; trans. Raymond Federman and Patricia Privat-Standley)

It’s only a book, they would say. That’s all it is. A story. Just a story. —Timothy Findley, Headhunter (1993)

And such is their condescension, their indulgence, and their beneficence to those below them, that there is not a neighbor, a tenant, or a servant, who doth not most gratefully bless the day when Mr. Jones was married to his Sophia. —Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling (1749)

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. —F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)

He has just received the cross of the Legion of Honour. —Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1857; trans. Margaret Mauldon)

“Yes, dammit, I said ‘was’. The bitch is dead now.” —Ian Fleming, Casino Royale (1953)

I will walk without noise, and I will open the door in darkness, and I will
 —Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated (2002)

And in truth, of course, this may be the last time that you will ever feel this way again.
—Richard Ford, The Sportswriter (1986)

I wanted to say, “God bless you”, for I also am a sentimentalist. But I thought that perhaps that would not be quite English good form, so I trotted off with the telegram to

Leonora. She was quite pleased with it. —Ford Maddox Ford, The Good Soldier (1915)

The song died away; they heard the river, bearing down the snows of winter into the Mediterranean. —E.M. Forster, A Room with a View (1908)

But the horses didn’t want it—they swerved apart; the earth didn’t want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn’t want, they said in their hundred voices, “No, not yet,” and the sky said, “No, not there.” —E.M. Forster, A Passage to India (1924)

And out again, upon the unplumb’d, salt, estranging sea. —John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969)

They disappear among the poplars. The meadow is empty. The river, the meadow, the cliff and cloud.
The princess calls, but there is no one, now, to hear her.
—John Fowles, The Ebony Tower (1974)

What exists, though, is the memory of events known and imagined, and the use of words to continue the memory through centuries, despite or with the Gravity Star, to a future when today, our Now, will be known as our past has been known as Ancient Springtime, while we, who treasure the Memory Flower, are the housekeepers of Ancient Springtime. —Janet Frame, The Carpathians (1988)

What matters is that I have what I gave; nothing is completely taken; we meet in the common meeting place in the calm of stone, the frozen murmurs of life, squamata, sauria, serpentes; in the sanctuary. —Janet Frame, Daughter Buffalo (1972)

She was seventy-five and she was going to make some changes in her life. —Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections (2001)

I am looking now into a mirror, watching Father die. Behind me my son and daughter stand, also watching Father die. —B.H. Friedman, Watching Father Die, from Coming Close (1982)

She came over, and it occurred to him that he would like to try something a little theatrical, just kneel there quietly with his arms protectively draped around his wife and child. He tried it and wound up holding them a fraction longer than he’d intended. —Bruce J. Friedman, Stern (1962)

No one remembers the whole story. —Carlos Fuentes, Distant Relations (1980; trans. Margaret Sayers Peden)
From the sky a swift Angel descends, an Angel with a golden helmet and green spurs, a flaming sword in his hand, an Angel escaped from the Indo-Hispanic altars of opulent hunger, from need overcome by sleep, from the coupling of opposites: body and soul, wakefulness and death, living and sleeping, remembering and desiring, imagining: the happy boy who reaches the sad land carries all this on his lips, he bears the memory of death, white and extinguished, like the flame that went out in his mother’s belly: for a swift, marvelous instant, the boy being born knows that this light of memory, wisdom, and death was an Angel and that this other Angel who flies from the navel of heaven with the sword in his hand is the fraternal enemy of the first: he is the Baroque Angel, with a sword in his hand and quetzal wings, and a serpent doublet, and a golden helmet, the Angel strikes, strikes the lips of the boy being born on the beach: the burning and painful sword

strikes his lips and the boy forgets, he forgets everything forgets everything, f
—Carlos Fuentes, Christopher Unborn (1987; trans. Alfred MacAdam and Carlos Fuentes)

G (back to top)

He was the only person caught in the collapse, and afterward, most of his work was recovered too, and it is still spoken of, when it is noted, with high regard, though seldom played. —William H. Gaddis, The Recognitions (1955)

So I mean listen I got this neat idea hey, you listening? Hey? You listening…? —William Gaddis, J R (1975)

Stop I can’t, no stop tickling me I can’t breathe! I can’t, Lily! Lily come here quickly I can’t, Lily help me! —William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own (1994)

I’ve always been crazy about the back of your neck. —William Gaddis, Carpenter’s Gothic (1985)

It was as if a swan had sung! —John Galsworthy, Swan Song (1928)

“Poor Grendel’s had an accident,” I whisper. “So may you all.” —John Gardner, Grendel (1971)

He came lightly down the metal steps into balmy air and diesel fumes, and feeling in himself the potent allegiance of fate, he pushed open the door to the lobby, where unkempt sleepers slumped upright on the benches. —Leonard Gardner, Fat City (1969)

You have fallen into art—return to life—William H. Gass, Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife (1968)

Meanwhile carry on without complaining. No arm with armband raised on high. No more booming bands, no searchlit skies. Or shall I, like the rivers, rise? Ah. Well. Is rising wise? Revolver like the Führer near an ear. Or lay my mind down by sorrow’s side. —William Gass, The Tunnel (1999)

I left him there. —William Goldman, The Temple of Gold (1957)

He took possession of this earth, theirs; one of them. —Nadine Gordimer, The Conservationist (1974)

Here’s the black, wicked Witch.
Ha! ha! ha!
—Günter Grass, The Tin Drum (1959; trans. Ralph Manheim)

Over in England they were married and lived happily ever after. —Henry Green, Loving (1945)

On the whole he was well satisfied with his day. He fell asleep almost at once in the yellow woolen nightshirt. —Henry Green, Concluding (1948)

The next day they all went on very much the same. —Henry Green, Doting (1952)

She walked rapidly in the thin June sunlight towards the worst horror of all. —Graham Greene, Brighton Rock (1938)

Leave me alone forever. —Graham Greene, The End of the Affair (1951)

Everything had gone right with me since he had died, but how I wished there existed someone to whom I could say that I was sorry. —Graham Greene, The Quiet American (1956)

“There are three of us,” Wormwold said, and she realized the chief problem of their future—that he would never be quite mad enough. —Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana (1958)


And so John pulled the gospel quilt snug around his ear and fell into a dreamless winter sleep, curled up beneath the quaint, stiff calico figures of the world’s forgotten kings, and the strong, gentle shepherds of that fallen, ancient time who had guarded their small lambs against that night. —Davis Grubb, The Night of the Hunter (1953)

H (back to top)

“That may be,” Nora said, “but it’s all pretty unsatisfactory. —Dashiell Hammet,

 The Thin Man (1932)

His body jolted backward, jolted the floorboards, and Ella Mae Waterson screamed, but Robert Ford only looked at the ceiling, the light going out of his eyes before he could say the right words. —Ron Hansen, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robt. Ford (1984)

“But since ‘tis as ‘tis why, it might have been worse, and I feel my thanks accordingly.” —Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd (1874)


“She’s never found peace since she left his arms, and never will again till she’s as he is now!” —Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure (1895)

From here on in I rag nobody. —Mark Harris, Bang the Drum Slowly (1956)

Always alone, apart, somehow solitary, Tristan is buried up in Alberta. —Jim Harrison, Legends of the Fall (1979)

That’s it. The sun in the evening. The moon at dawn. The still voice. —John Hawkes, Second Skin (1964)

In Illyria there are no seasons. —John Hawkes, The Blood Oranges (1971)

Remember the ghosts of dead flowers. —John Hawkes, Virginie: Her Two Lives (1982)

It bore a device, a herald’s wording of which might serve for a motto and brief description of our now concluded legend; so sombre is it, and relieved only by one ever-glowing point of light gloomier than the shadow:—“On a field, sable, the letter A, gules.” —Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)

And wise Uncle Venner, passing slowly from the ruinous porch, seemed to hear a strain of music, and fancied that sweet Alice Pyncheon—after witnessing these deeds, this by-gone woe, and this present happiness, of her kindred mortals—had given one farewell touch of a spirit’s joy upon her harpsichord, as she floated heavenward from the House of the Seven Gables! —Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables (1851)

I—I myself—I was in love—with—Priscilla! —Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance (1852)

Within the cabin, nothing could be heard. Only, as the plane rose from the ground, a long hiss of air—like the intake of humanity’s breath when a work of ages shrivels in an instant; or the great gasp of hull and ocean as a ship goes down. —Shirley Hazzard, The Transit of Venus (1980)

The knife came down, missing him by inches, and he took off. —Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (1961)

Everyone seems pleased with the way I’ve taken command. —Joseph Heller, Something Happened (1974)

He was not surprised, and he began to think seriously of writing the book you’ve just read. —Joseph Heller, Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man (2000)

“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” —Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926)

After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain. —Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929)

He could feel his heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest. —Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)

The old man was dreaming about the lions. —Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (1952)

“More,” he said and when it was ready the huge machine now box-like tank-like blue and silver and gold rolling on three wheels and a sidecar the huge engine between his knees he rolled forth across the land, he would go from coast to coast city and farm exposing the lies the dreams, the demons of the country, he could hear her singing in the air, he could through all her darkest nights he could see the country, hear the country get it all at last and so the new god rolled speeding through the nights, the clouds darkening once over Kansas, the wind rising slowly he rolled speeding through the country and the waste, sometimes people awoke thinking they had heard a heartbeat in the night, and it did not stop the electronic bike until outside Kansas City on Route 22 when folks said a terrible noise went up a flash split across the sky like nothing they could remember. —Carol de Chellis Hill, Jeremiah 8:20 (1970)

And the question haunts me—will I, can I, after my knowledge of these things, still hear the sounds of song? —Carol de Chellis Hill, Henry James’ Midnight Song (1993)

I figured if I didn’t see, I’d start forgetting again. But it’s been taking me longer than I thought it would. —S.E. Hinton, Rumble Fish (1975)

Stil I wunt have no other track. —Russell Hoban, Ridley Walker (1980)

She turned on a lamp, checked her appointment book, sorted the magazines in the waiting room, refilled the Kleenex supply, plumped the pillows on her sofa, and then sat down in her chair, ready. —A.M. Homes, In a Country of Mothers (1993)

“I don’t know as I should always say it paid; but if I done it, and the thing was to do over again, right in the same way, I guess I should have to do it.” —William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885)

Looking at that gentle, happy throng of clean innocent faces and soft graceful limbs, listening to the ceaseless, artless babble of chatter rising, perhaps God could have picked out from among them which was Emily; but I am sure that I could not. —Richard Hughes, A High Wind in Jamaica (1929)

So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see. —Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west; then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the left. South-south-west, south, south-east, east…. —Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)


“Chapter one,” said Nelson Humboldt. “I am born.” —James Hynes, The Lecturer’s Tale (2001)


I (back to top)


But in the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases. —John Irving, The World According to Garp (1978)


J (back to top)


Newman instinctively turned to see if the little paper was in fact consumed; but there was nothing left of it. —Henry James, The American (1877)

We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped. —Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (1898)


“We shall never be again as we were!” —Henry James, The Wings of the Dove (1902)


“Then there we are!” said Strether. —Henry James, The Ambassadors (1903)


He saw the Jungle of his life and saw the lurking Beast; then, while he looked, perceived it, as by a stir of the air, rise, huge and hideous, for the leap that was to settle him. His eyes darkened—it was close; and, instinctively turning, in his hallucination, to avoid it, he flung himself, face down, on the tomb. —Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle (1903)


She walked him away with her, however, as if she had given him now the key to patience. —Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1908)


Isadora drifted toward rest, nestled snugly beside me, where she would remain all night while we, forgetful of ourselves, gently crossed the Flood, and countless seas of suffering. —Charles Johnson, Middle Passage (1990)


But that was just a story, something that people will tell themselves, something to pass the time it takes for the violence inside a man to wear him away, or to be consumed itself, depending on who is the candle and who is the light. —Denis Johnson, Angels (1983)


My love for my children makes me glad that I am what I am and keeps me from desiring to be otherwise; and yet, when I sometimes open a little box in which I still keep my fast yellowing manuscripts, the only tangible remnants of a vanished dream, a dead ambition, a sacrificed talent, I cannot repress the thought that, after all, I have chosen the lesser part, that I have sold my birthright for a mess of pottage. —James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man (1912)


One day one of their number would write a book about all this, but none of them would believe it, because none of them would remember it that way. —James Jones, The Thin Red Line (1962)


His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead. —James Joyce, “The Dead” in Dubliners (1914)


Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead. —James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

…I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. —James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)

A way a lone a last a loved a long the —James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)


K (back to top)


“Like a dog!” he said, it was as if the shame of it must outlive him. —Franz Kafka, The Trial (1925; trans. Willa and Edwin Muir)

I am the author of Peter Prince. —Steve Katz, The Exagggerations of Peter Prince (1968)

And with Footers beside him, and Martin trailing with an amused smile, Billy went out into the early freeze that was just settling on Broadway and made a right turn into the warmth of the stairs to Louie’s pool room, a place where even serious men sometimes go to seek the meaning of magical webs, mystical coin, golden birds, and other artifacts of the only cosmos in town. —William Kennedy, Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game (1978)

So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty. —Jack Kerouac, On the Road (1957)

By God. —Jack Kerouac, Dr. Sax (1959)

Something good will come out of all things yet—And it will be golden and eternal just like that—There’s no need to say another word. —Jack Kerouac, Big Sur (1962)

I been away a long time. —Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962)

Above the farm, a moon bright as butter silvers the night as Annie holds the door open for me. —W. P. Kinsella, Shoeless Joe (1982)

Darmolatov’s case was entered in all the latest pathology textbooks. A photograph of his scrotum, the size of the biggest collective farm pumpkin, is also reprinted in foreign medical books, wherever elephantiasis (elephantiasis nostras) is mentioned, and as a moral for writers that to write one must have more than big balls. —Danilo Kis, A Tomb for Boris Davidovich (1978; trans. Diska Mikic-Mitchell)

All of them, except Phineas, constructed at infinite cost to themselves these Maginot Lines against this enemy they thought they saw across the frontier, this enemy who never attacked that way—if he ever attacked at all; if he was indeed the enemy. —John Knowles, A Separate Peace (1959)

I spoke loudly and incessantly like the peasants and then like the city folk, as fast as I could, enraptured by the sounds that were heavy with meaning, as wet snow is heavy with water, confirming to myself again and again and again that speech was now mine and that it did not intend to escape through the door which opened onto the balcony. —Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird (1965)

Going along the sidewalk, dragging my tail. —William Kotzwinkle, Doctor Rat (1976)

“Well,” I said, “let me tell you,” and I told them a briefer, simpler version of the story I have just told you, and while I was telling it, my mother, Ella, who for one unforgettable summer ran Ella’s Lunch Launch, died. —Eric Kraft, Inflating a Dog: The Story of Ella’s Lunch Launch (2002)

The others listened with interest, their naked genitals staring dully, sadly, listlessly at the yellow sand. —Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979; trans. Michael Henry Heim)


L (back to top)


She saw in the rainbow the earth’s new architecture, the old, brittle corruption of houses and factories swept away, the world built up in a living fabric of Truth, fitting to the over-arching heaven. —D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow (1915)


John Thomas says good-night to lady Jane, a little droopingly, but with a hopeful heart. —D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928)


“You can’t have two kinds of love. Why should you!”
“It seems as if I can’t,” he said. “Yet I wanted it.”
“You can’t have it, because it’s false, impossible,” she said.

“I don’t believe that,” he answered.

—D.H. Lawrence, Women in Love (1920)


He walked towards the faintly humming, glowing town, quickly. —D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers (1913)


But not everything fails. Standing on the backstairs of the Museum, looking up and down the river, you can believe, like the ancient Greek, that everything flows. —Tom LeClair, The Liquidators (2006)


He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning. —Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)


And behold the Geomancer, whose name measures the Valley, who shaped the hills and helped me sink half California, who went on the Salt Journey, caught the Train, and walked every step with Grey Bull—Heya Heggaia, han es im! Amoud gewakwasur, yeshou gewakwasur. —Ursula K. Le Guin, Always Coming Home (1985)


Tell your story walking. —Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn (1999)


Side by side, not truly quiet but quiescent, two gnarls of human scribble, human cipher, human dream. —Jonathan Lethem, The Fortress of Solitude (2003)


“You can’t be deep without a surface.” —Jonathan Lethem, You Don’t Love Me Yet (2007)


He fell back into the net, which rocked imperceptibly above them, and he sang quietly to himself, as if that helped him negotiate his exhaustion. —Stacey Levine, Dra— (1997)


Arms about each other’s shoulders, the Babbitt men marched into the living-room and faced the swooping family. —Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (1922)


He was, indeed, so confidently happy that he completely forgot Fran and he did not again yearn over her, for almost two days. —Sinclair Lewis, Dodsworth (1929)


“Dear Lord, thy work is but begun! We shall yet make these United States a moral nation!” —Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry (1927)


He was in mid-sentence when they wrested away his final remaining possession—yes, his laptop!—and he di —Mark Leyner, Et Tu, Babe (1992)


I pop out of the little nuts like a little china doll, la-de-da, and I grow, la-de-da, she gives me her arm, we are once upon a time, we go in, we go in on the leg of a duck and come out, come out on the leg of a chicken, there we go, she and I, the Báçira, toward the impossible limitiferous, to the onceuponatimiferous, to the Reciferous, to the open dooriferous, to the suckling piggiferous, to the axis of the universiferous, to the point of no returniferous, to the ampliferous, to the sonofabitchiferous, to the immensiferous, to the iferous, to the Báçira-baciferous. —Osman Lins, The Queen of the Prisons of Greece (1976; trans. Adria Frizzi)


P.S. And now the time has come to lend an ear to—au revoir, pleasant dree yums, think of us when requesting your three yums—until the next time when possibly you may tune in again, keep the Old Maestro always in your schee yums, yowsah, yowsah, yowsah—au revoir—may good luck and happiness, success, good health, attend your schee yums, and don’t forget we’ll try to do our besta, yowsayh, yowsah, yowsah—au revoir, a fond cheerio, a bit of a tweet-tweet,

                                                 and good night and God bless you

                                                                                     and pleasant

                                                                                                 dree yums

—Gordon Lish, Dear Mr. Capote (1986)


When the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys, he may be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack. —Jack London, The Call of the Wild (1903)


And at the instant he knew, he ceased to know. —Jack London, Martin Eden (1909)


Somebody threw a dead dog after him down the ravine. —Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano (1947)


M (back to top)


So the blind will lead the blind, and the deaf shout warnings to one another until their voices are lost. —Norman Mailer, Barbary Shore (1951)

Then for a moment in that cold Irish soul of mine, a glimmer of the joy of the flesh came toward me, rare as the eye of the rarest tear of compassion, and we laughed together after all, because to have heard that sex was time and time the connection of new circuits was a part of the poor odd dialogues which give hope to us noble humans for more than one night. —Normal Mailer, The Deer Park (1955)

Vietnam, hot dam. —Norman Mailer, Why are We in Vietnam? (1967)

TO BE CONTINUED —Norman Mailer, Harlot’s Ghost (1991)

I just have to believe that this one ain’t much worse than the baddest we ever faced. —Clarence Major, Such was the Season (1987)

After Passover he became a Jew. —Bernard Malamud, The Assistant (1957)

Roger Foster waited in the shadow of a long-boughed two-trunked silver maple as Dubin ran up the moonlit road, holding his half-stiffened phallus in his hand, for his wife with love. —Bernard Malamud, Dubin’s Lives (1979)


Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

Being continued. —David Markson, Springer’s Progress (1977)

The old man who will not laugh is a fool.
Als ick kan.                
—David Markson, The Last Novel (2007)

Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger. —Yann Martel, Life of Pi (2001)

I put my left hand on his left hand and waved my other hand in front of him and realized that both his eyes were darkened now with his wonderful and perfect sight. —Carole Maso, The Art Lover (1990)

He is sitting there cross-legged in front of the wall, and slowly his face bursts into a smile like flames. —Bobbie Ann Mason, In Country (1985)

Cabs and omnibuses hurried to and fro, and crowds passed, hastening in every direction, and the sun was shining. —Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage (1915)

He’s w/Cleo 8/hrs a day & Sharon is w/her father 24 a day & Teri doesn’t have even the slightest twinge of guilt when she gets a new job as live-in-nanny for a retarded handicapped girl landing the job not on the basis of having been a long-time employee of a state ward for severely mentally & physically incapacitated children but on the basis of
1st of all her willingness to maintain the property’s landscaping & 2ndly her own personal experience of having had her own seriously handicapped—no call it disabled maybe impaired but hopefully not incurable—child. —Cris Maza, Disability (2005)

He told me what he was going to do when he won his money then I said it was time to go tracking in the mountains, so off we went, counting our footprints in the snow, him with his bony arse clicking and me with the tears streaming down my face. —Patrick McCabe,

The Butcher Boy(1992)

He never sleeps, the judge. He is dancing, dancing. He says that he will never die. —Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (1985)

Passed and paled into the darkening land, the world to come. —Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses (1992)

In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery. —Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2006)

As if, in that wide-ranging anthology of stories that was the lives of the saints—that was, as well, my father’s faith and Billy’s and some part of my own—what was actual, as opposed to what was imagined, as opposed to what was believed, made, when you got right down to it, any difference at all. —Alice McDermont, Charming Billy (1998)

Everyone was looking up at me and Sub, and I was not sure what I had seen but I knew what we had done. —Joseph McElroy, Lookout Cartridge (1974)

He thought he would stand here awhile. —Joseph McElroy, Women and Men (1987)

He fits himself around her, her silk pyjamas, her scent, her warmth, her beloved form, and draws closer to her. Blindly, he kisses her nape. There’s always this, is one of his remaining thoughts. And then: there’s only this. And at last, faintly, falling: this day’s over. —Ian McEwan, Saturday (2005)

Instead, he stood in cold and righteous silence in the summer’s dusk, watching her hurry along the shore, the sound of her difficult progress lost to the breaking of small waves, until she was a blurred, receding point against the immense straight road of shingle gleaming in the pallid light. —Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach (2007)


You will have to learn everything all over again. —Jay McInerney Bright Lights, Big City (1984)


“I had rather go see the rivers,” I said, but I don’t know if he heard me and if he did he wouldn’t have understood, he was too normal to understand, if my friends came and asked him why I had left he wouldn’t know, he had never stood in the river, I don’t think he swirled as I was swirling, he didn’t seem to yearn to flow, he didn’t much want to be undertaken, he didn’t remember Zapata and hadn’t even read the great Juan de la Cosa, and if they came, my friends, if Wu came, for some reason, or Godwin, or Jenny, they wouldn’t get it from him, he wouldn’t know why I loved the river, why I loved any of the people I loved, they wouldn’t get it from him and none of them could guess, only maybe Jill could, I knew only Jill could, if I had stayed, if she had stayed, I could tell her, she might guess, she had the clearest eyes, the straightest look, the most honest face, I missed it so—but ah no, no chance, better to just want rivers—Jill was gone. —Larry McMurtry, All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers (1972)

Churned in foam, that outer ocean lashed the clouds; and straight in my white wake, headlong dashed a shallop, three fixed specters leaning o’er its prow: three arrows poising.
And thus, pursuers and pursued flew on, over an endless sea.
—Herman Melville, Mardi (1849)


It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)


Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity! —Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener (1853)


The body was burned to ashes; but for many days, the head, that hive of subtlety, fixed on a pole in the Plaza, met, unabashed, the gaze of the whites; and across the Plaza looked toward St. Bartholomew’s church, in whose vaults slept then, as now, the recovered bones of Aranda; and across the Rimac bridge looked toward the monastery, on Mount Agonia without; where, three months after being dismissed by the court, Benito Cereno, borne on the bier, did, indeed, follow his leader. —Herman Melville, Benito Cereno (1855)


Something further may follow of this Masquerade. —Herman Melville, The Confidence Man (1857)


But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing. —A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner (1928)

“Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” —Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind (1936)

When she looks back at the car, what Melissa sees in Nona: Nona twisting around in the driver’s seat to look behind and, with one arm grasping the seat top beside her, backing out of the station at a speed that seems then and at all other moments, incredible. —Ted Mooney, Easy Travel to Other Planets (1981)


At least on the edge of my town, among the garbage and the sunflowers of my town, it’s much, much, much too late. —Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (1970)


It was a fine cry—loud and long—but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow. —Toni Morrison, Sula (1973)

For now she knew what Shalimar knew: If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it. —Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (1977)


By and by all trace is gone, and what is forgotten is not only the footprints but the water too and what is down there. The rest is weather. Not the breath of the disremembered and unaccounted for, but wind in the eaves or spring ice thawing too quickly. Just weather. Certainly no clamor for a kiss.


—Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)


Look where your hands are. Now. —Toni Morrison, Jazz (1992)


Now they will rest before shouldering the endless work they were created to do down here in Paradise. —Toni Morrison, Paradise (1998)


From the roof there fluttered eggs and roses. —Nicholas Mosley, Impossible Object (1968)


The hands shadow themselves against the wall, large, touch in huge shadows on the wall, merge, move as one huge hand toward death. —Willard Motley, Knock on Any Door (1947)


I am out the door and in the potholed and rutted driveway, scrambling ahead of Taylor, greedy with wants and reckless from hope. —Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine (1989)

I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. But it was not until much later that I was able to get any real sleep. In a place far away from anyone or anywhere, I drifted off for a moment. —Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994-95; trans. Jay Rubin)


Gripping the receiver, I raised my head and turned to see what lay beyond the telephone booth. Where was I now? I had no idea. No idea at all. Where was this place? All that flashed into my eyes were the countless shapes of people walking by to nowhere. Again and again, I called out for Midori from the dead center of this place that was no place. —Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood (1987; trans. Jay Rubin)

I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. But it was not until much later that I was able to get any real sleep. In a place far away from anyone or anywhere, I drifted off for a moment. —Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994/5; trans. Jay Rubin)


“You’d better get some sleep,” the boy names Crow says. “When you wake up, you’ll be part of a brand-new world.”
You finally fall asleep. And when you wake up, it’s true.
You are part of a brand-new world.
—Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore (2002; trans. J. Philip Gabriel)


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I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)


But whatever happens, wherever the scene is laid, somebody, somewhere, will quietly set out—somebody has already set out, somebody still rather far away is buying a ticket, is boarding a bus, a ship, a plane, has landed, is walking toward a million photographers, and presently he will ring at my door—a bigger, more respectable, more competent Gradus. —Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (1962)


In her mind’s eye, she could clearly see Luziana as she’d been then, when her baby lived inside her, when she still attended school, sitting in her melancholy pose, lifting the massive, overwhelming anthology, her skinny arm a mere flower stem, weak under the weight of all those sad stories. —Antonya Nelson, Nobody’s Girl (1998)


The men began singing, a grave slow song that drifted away into the night. Soon the road was empty. All that remained of the German regiment was a little cloud of dust. —Irène Némirovsky, Suite Francaise (2006; trans. Sandra Smith)


McTeague remained stupidly looking around him, now at the distant horizon, now at the ground, now at the half-dead canary chittering feebly in its little gilt prison. —Frank Norris, McTeague (1899)


O (back to top)

He took his sister’s hand and kissed it and said good-by, making an ironic, affectionate bow over her with his head; it was the Jules she had always loved, and now she loved him for going away, saying good-by, leaving her forever. —Joyce Carol Oates, Them (1969)

“Norma Jean, see?—that man is your father.” —Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde (2000)

Could the truth be so simple? So terrible? —Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods (1994)

She sat staring with her eyes shut, into his eyes, and felt as if she had finally got to the beginning of something she couldn’t begin, and she saw him moving farther and farther away, farther and farther into the darkness until he was the pin point of light. —Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood (1952)

The Reddingtons always went to a hotel where the women guests were not permitted to smoke. —John O’Hara, Butterfield 8 (1935)

How they say the camera catches you, but how in point of fact you will always be able to get away. —Lance Olsen, Girl Imagined by Chance (2002)

Milo Magnani glows with quiet pride, gives their thoughts back to these people, and, straightening his bowtie unnecessarily, rises to depart. Around him, throats clear, feet scrape, candy wrappers crinkle. The world grows brighter and brighter and brighter. Milo inhales and exhales. He waits. The film begins.—Lance Olsen, 10:01 (2005)

Time longer than rope. —Toby Olson, Write Letter to Billy (2000)

A dream can be the highest point of a life. —Ben Okri, The Famished Road (1991)

There are no prizes. —Michael Ondaatje, Coming Through Slaughter (1976)

But apart from seeing Jokey again, my life remained an uninflected one of stalking around unbothered, until finally one day a thought succeeded in forming itself: that what had been a lifelong irritant—that I walked around the world unseen, as if invisible—had now become a strange and beautiful blessing, freeing me to live my life all over again, as if the previous one had only been a rough draft, a vague outline to be crossed over, exceeded, to be transcended, as if that life was the earthly life and this one, the California one, with myself benumbed and calm and floating inside the bubble of mall after white mall—places that were like hospitals with their piped-in music and blanching light—as if this life, finally, was the heavenly one. —Han Ong, Fixer Chao (2001)

He loved Big Brother. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949)


The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which. —George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945)

Have I betrayed them all again by telling the story? Or is it the other way around: would I have betrayed them if I had not told it? —Amos Oz, Panther in the Basement (1995; trans. Nicholas de Lange)

And then, in the blue light of Stockholm among zebra fumes, he grieved. —Cynthia Ozick, The Messiah of Stockholm (1987)

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For the sake of a delightful and convincing story, there isn’t a lie Orhan wouldn’t deign to tell. —Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red (1998; trans. Erdag M. Goknar)

For it is the dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and bondage of fear, why, that is a secret. —Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country (1948)

 “Everybody’s gone, Mrs. Porter. Everything’s back to normal….” —DBC Pierre, Vernon God Little (2003)


I watch her walk toward St Charles, cape jasmine held against her cheek, until my brothers and sisters call out behind me. —Walker Percy, The Moviegoer (1961)

The plant barricade around Moseley’s desk rustled, and out of the crack in the foliage peeked the rare species in question: on all sides of Mays—here at hand, across town at The Trading Floor, even so far away as on a muddy road in a decade that would never again open except to the cheap and readily available silver halide print—lay that most elusive, universal, persistent quantity, always in need of foreign aid, the Other Fellow. —Richard Powers, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance (1985)


Tell me how free I am.—Richard Powers, Prisoner’s Dilemma (1988)

“Who said anything about lasting?” —Richard Powers, The Gold Bug Variations (1991)

“Marcel,” he said. Famous next-to-last-words. “Don’t stay away too long.” —Richard Powers, Galatea 2.2 (1995)

“Morning,” Milo said. Then they both looked up to the lifting sky—Lois followed their eyes—and found they were right. It was morning (clear, cloudless, the oldest gift), would be morning oh six hours yet. —Reynolds Price, A Generous Man (1966)

The room, though, is still. No one has breathed. —Reynolds Price, Love & Work (1968)

And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery. —E. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News (1993)

There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it. —E. Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain (1999).

If, at least, there were granted me time enough to complete my work, I would not fail to stamp it with the seal of that Time the understanding of which was this day so forcibly impressing itself upon me, and I would therein describe men—even should that give the semblance of monstrous creatures—as occupying in Time a place far more considerable than the so restricted one allotted them in space, a place, on the contrary, extending boundlessly since, giant-like, reaching far back into the years, they touch simultaneously epochs of their lives—with countless intervening days between—so widely separated from one another in Time. —Marcel Proust, Time Regained (1927; trans. Frederick A. Blossom)

They were only a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; the memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years. —Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way (1913; trans. C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin)

Oedipa settled back, to await the crying of lot 49. —Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1965)

Now everybody— —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

Madame Girard, however, though she never mentioned Malcolm—indeed she had no one to mention him to, since her new friends, such as the Italian biochemist, had never heard of him—Madame Girard continued to read with interest and surprise the 300 pages of manuscript which Malcolm had left behind him, in French and English, his “conversations” with his friends, and although they had been written at times in delirium, and always in high fever, they continually held her attention, and she regretted he had not lived to record all the conversations he had ever had with all whom he had ever met. —James Purdy, Malcolm (1959)

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R (back to top)

It isn’t fair! Why cant dogs go to Heaven? —John Rechy, City of Night (1963)

Thomas Jefferson was out of a job but that was O.K. too. —Ishmael Reed, Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down (1969)

ZOO ATTENDANT’S SKULL FRACTURED: BABOON CHARGED. —Ishmael Reed, The Last Days of Louisiana Red (1974)

Your most faithful and obedient servant, F.J. De la Tour. —Samuel Richardson, Clarissa (1748)

Let Amanda be your pine cone. —Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction (1971)

No one watching this woman smear her initials in the steam on her water glass with her first finger, or slip cellophane packets of oyster crackers into her handbag for the sea gulls, could know how her thoughts are thronged by our absence, or know how she does not watch, does not listen, does not wait, does not hope, and always for me and Sylvie. —Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (1980)


“Now vee may perhaps to begin. Yes?” —Phillip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint (1969)


And me! This me who is me being me and none other! —Phillip Roth, My Life as a Man (1974)


It was now an African Methodist Episcopal Church. —Phillip Roth, Zuckerman Unbound (1981)


To escape into what, Marietta? It may be as you say that this is no life, but use your enchanting, enrapturing brains: this life is as close to life as you, and I, and our child can hope to come.      —Philip Roth, The Counterlife (1988)

“Let your Jewish conscience be your guide.” —Phillip Roth, Operation Shylock: A Confession (1993)


And he couldn’t do it. He could not fucking die. How could he leave? How could he go? Everything he hated was here. —Philip Roth, Sabbath’s Theater (1995)


Yes, they will trample me underfoot, the numbers marching one two three, four hundred million five hundred six, reducing me to specks of voiceless dust, just as, in all good time, they will trample my son who is not my son, and his son who will not be his, and his who will not be his, until the thousand and first generation, until a thousand and one midnights have bestowed their terrible gifts and a thousand and one children have died, because it is the privilege and the curse of midnight’s children to be both masters and victims of their times, to forsake privacy and be sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes, and to be unable to live or die in peace. —Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children (1981)

S (back to top)

Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody. —J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

out walking by magnolia blossoms cups and entirely inside as there is no sense of there being anything in there. —Leslie Scalapino, Orion in The Return of Painting, the Pearl, and Orion: A Trilogy (1991)

Egon Schiele in his diary of May 8, 1912:“Auto-da-Fé! Savonarola! Inquisition! Middle Ages! Castration, hypocrisy!” —Joanna Scott, Arrogance (1990)

…in the Holland of his time it was customary, in a home where there had been a death, to drape black mourning ribbons over all the mirrors and all canvasses depicting landscapes or people or fruits of the field, so that the soul, as it left the body, would not be distracted on its final journey, either by a reflection of itself or by a last glimpse of the land now being lost for ever. —W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn (1995; trans. Michael Hulse)

Abraham slept. —Hubert Selby, Jr., Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964)

He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. —Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)

“It is written, ‘For ye shall go out with joy.’ That was what she wished.” —Frances Sherwood, The Book of Splendor (2002)


Well,” the editor finally sighed, “I suppose we could release it as a novel.” —Lee Siegel, Love and Other Games of Chance (2003)

Now let me say something. —Alan Singer, Dirtmouth (2004)

I can’t say that I forgive my father, but now I can imagine what he probably chose never to remember—the goad of an unthinkable urge, pricking him, pressing him, wrapping him in an impenetrable fog of self that must have seemed, when he wandered around the house late at night after working and drinking, like the very darkness. This is the gleaming obsidian shard I safeguard above all the others. —Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres (1991)


…and to all you other cats and chicks out there, sweet or otherwise, buried deep in wordy tombs, who never yet have walked from off the page, a shake and a hug and a kiss and a drink. Cheers! —Gilbert Sorrentino, Mulligan Stew (1979)

Ecstatic, he feels the world on the edge of obliteration. —Gilbert Sorrentino, Red the Fiend (1995)

He wants, even more than he wants to be alive again, to be dead with them, but he is dead with himself alone. —Gilbert Sorrentino, A Strange Commonplace (2006)

“GOOD GRIEF—IT’S DADDY!” —Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg, Candy (1958)

This is the difference between this and that. —Gertrude Stein, A Novel of Thank You (1958)

She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously. —John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

Madame de Rênal was faithful to her promise. She did not try in any way to shorten her life, but three days after Julien, she died while hugging her children. —Stendhal, The Red and the Black (1830; trans. Burton Raffel)

L--d! said my mother, what is all this story about?——
A COCK and a BULL, said Yorick——And one of the best of its kind I ever heard.
—Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (1759—1767)

Here then, as I lay down the pen and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end. —Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)

Oxen and wain-ropes would not bring me back again to that accursed island; and the worst dreams that ever I have are when I hear the surf booming about its coasts, or start upright in bed, with the sharp voice of Captain Flint still ringing in my ears: ‘Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!’ —Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island (1882)

“I’m gonna bust up the bar.” —Robert Stone, A Hall of Mirrors (1964)

Not by combining together, to protect injustice and cruelty, and making a common capital of sin, is this Union to be saved, —but by repentance, justice and mercy; for, not surer is the eternal law by which the millstone sinks in the ocean, than that stronger law, by which injustice and cruelty shall bring on nations the wrath of Almighty God! —Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)


This was not judgment day—only morning. Morning: excellent and fair. —William Styron, Sophie’s Choice (1979)

The light empties from the sky. —Ronald Sukenick, Up (1968)

this way this way this way this way this way this way this
way out this
way out
—Ronald Sukenick, Out (1973)

Another Failure. —Ronald Sukenick, 98.6 (1975)

like a warning the only escape from history into the dynamics of the pure present the ultimate coincidence where everything happens at once as I sit here reading dictation from the void —Ronald Sukenick, Last Fall (2005)

I dwell the longer upon this subject from the desire I have to make the society of an English YAHOO by any means not insupportable; and therefore I here entreat those who have any tincture of this absurd vice, that they will not presume to come in my sight. —Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (1726)

Then I throw the last handful and the seagulls come back on a second chance and I hold up the jar, shaking it, like I should chuck it out to sea too, a message in a bottle, Jack Arthur Dodds, save our souls, and the ash that I carried in my hands, which was the Jack who once walked around, is carried away by the wind, is whirled away by the wind till the ash becomes wind and the wind becomes Jack what we’re made of. —Graham Swift, Last Orders (1996)

T (back to top)

Yukiko’s diarrhoea persisted through the twenty-sixth, and was a problem on the train to Tokyo. —Junichiro Tanizaki, The Makioka Sisters (1943-48)

Come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out. —William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847—48)

“I shall go on in the same way, losing my temper with Ivan the coachman, falling into angry discussions, expressing my opinions tactlessly; there will be still the same wall between the holy of holies of my soul and other people, even my wife; I shall still go on scolding her for my own fright and being remorseful for it; I shall still be as unable to understand with my reason why I pray, and I shall still go on praying; but my life now, my whole life apart from anything that can happen to me, every minute of it is no more meaningless, as it was before, but it has the positive meaning of goodness, which I have the power to put into it.” —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877, trans. Constance Garnett)

Taking the pigtail in one of his paws, he pressed it warmly to his wet moustache. —John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces (1980)

The sun arises. Gold-glowing child, it steps into the sky and sends a birth-song slanting down gray dust streets and sleepy windows of the southern town. —Jean Toomer, Cane (1923)

The Author now leaves him in the hands of his readers; not as a hero, not as a man to be admired and talked of, not as a man who should be toasted at public dinners and spoken of with conventional absurdity as a perfect divine, but as a good man without guile, believing humbly in the religion which he strives to teach, and guided by the precepts which he has striven to learn. —Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers (1847)

But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before. —Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

As soon as the Governor understood the case, he pardoned Tom at once, and the creditors sold him down the river. —Mark Twain, Puddn’head Wilson (1894)

U (back to top)

We were doomed to die and we were no longer linked to life by any kind of responsibility. We could be as free as the pigs who ran in the field. Those were beautiful years, beautiful autumn days. —Mati Unit, Things in the Night (1990; trans. Eric Dickens)


Ah: runs. Runs. —John Updike, Rabbit, Run (1960)

Girls walk by me carrying their invisible bouquets from fields still steeped in grace, and I look up in the manner of one who follows with his eyes the passage of a hearse, and remembers what pierces him. —John Updike, Olinger Stories (1964)

The Hanemas live in Lexington, where, gradually, among people like themselves, they have been accepted, as another couple. —John Updike, Couples (1968)

He had made it, he was here, in Heaven. Now what? —John Updike, Bech: A Book (1970)

Obsolete at their own ceremony, Joan and Richard stepped back from the bench in unison and stood side by side, uncertain of how to turn, until Richard at last remembered what to do; he kissed her —John Updike, Too Far to Go (1979)

Another nail in his coffin. His. —John Updike, Rabbit is Rich (1981)

So the rumors of the days when they were solid among us, gorgeous and doing evil, have flavored the name of the town in the mouths of others, and for those of us who live here have left something oblong and invisible and exciting we do not understand. We meet it turning the corner where Hemlock meets Oak; it is there when we walk the beach in off-season and the Atlantic in its blackness mirrors the dense packed gray of the clouds: a scandal, life like smoke rising twisted into legend. —John Updike, The Witches of Eastwick (1984)

“Why would you do a ridiculous thing like that?”
“Oh—” She appraised me with her pale green eyes. Whatever emotions had washed through her had left an amused glint, a hint or seed. In her gorgeous rounded woman’s voice she pronounced smilingly, “To annoy you.” —John Updike, Roger’s Version (1986)

Rabbit thinks he should maybe say more, the kid looks wildly expectant, but enough. Maybe. Enough. —John Updike, Rabbit at Rest (1990)

The more I think about the Ford Administration, the more it seems I remember nothing. —John Updike, Memories of the Ford Administration (1992)

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Comfortably, Caroline, now entirely herself, one person at last, stared into the fire and thought of all the souls that she had known and if they were indeed abroad tonight, they would be all fire and air, light and shadow so fixed upon her memory that she might, if she chose, transfer them to strips of film that the whole world could then forever imagine until reel’s end. —Gore Vidal, Hollywood (1990)


But I knew that Catherine had kissed me because she trusted me, and that made me happy then but now I am sad because by the time my eyes close each night I suspect that as usual I have been fooling myself, that she, too, is in her grave. —William T. Vollmann, You Bright and Risen Angels (1987)


“All that is very well,” answered Candide, “but let us cultivate our garden.” —Voltaire, Candide (1759; trans. Robert M. Adams)


If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who. —Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle (1963)

One bird said to Billy Pilgrim, “Poo-tee-weet?” —Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

Here is what Kilgore Trout cried out to me in my father’s voice: “Make me young, make me young, make me young!” —Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions (1973)

W (back to top)

Matter of fact, I think this the youngest us ever felt. —Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)

“You can trust me, “ R.V. says, watching her hand. “I’m a man of my
—David Foster Wallace, The Broom of the System (1987)

And when he came back to, he was flat on his back on the beach in the freezing sand, and it was raining out of a low sky, and the tide was way out. —David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (1996)

We shall come back, no doubt, to walk down the Row and watch young people on the tennis courts by the clump of mimosas and walk down the beach by the bay, where the diving floats lift gently in the sun, and on out to the pine grove, where the needles thick on the ground will deaden the footfall so that we shall move among the trees as soundlessly as smoke. But that will be a long time from now, and soon now we shall go out of the house and go into the convulsion of the world, out of history into history and the awful responsibility of Time. —Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men (1946)

The gun inside the package exploded and Miss Lonelyhearts fell, dragging the cripple with him. They both rolled part of the way down the stairs. —Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts (1933)

For some reason this made him laugh and he began to imitate the siren as loud as he could. —Nathanael West, The Day of the Locust (1939)

All his dithers, his fumbles, his loving, wished away by a bold, heroic thumbprint from his last adieu, which he makes with his fist held aloft, the thumb upright. —Paul West, Rat Man of Paris (1986)

And then, as if heeding the first mesmeric hint of a direction given, he walks back alone, unsteady but tranquil, toward the bed he was conceived in, waiting, if not for doom to crack, at least for the undernourished scurry of its tiny bell. —Paul West, The Place in Flowers Where Pollen Rests (1988)

“And I say, if she’d ha’ died, Ethan might ha’ lived; and the way they are now, I don’t see’s there’s much difference between the Fromes up at the farm and the Fromes down in the graveyard; ‘cept that down there they’re all quiet, and the women have got to hold their tongues.” —Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome (1911)

He knelt by the bed and bent over her, draining their last moment to its lees; and in the silence there passed between them the word which made all clear. —Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905)

“Nothin’.” —Curtis White, Memories of my Father Watching TV (1998)

What doesn’t leave, though, is this beautiful little feeling about a dog, a boat, a sunset, and a superb sense of forgiveness. —Curtis White, Requiem (2001)

After all… —Curtis White, America’s Magic Mountain (2004)

It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both. —E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web (1952)

But the sky was bright, and he somehow felt he was headed in the right direction.
—E.B. White, Stuart Little (1934)

So that, in the end, there was no end. —Patrick White, The Tree of Man (1955)

It will come. She is never wrong. It’s her intuition. —Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist (1999)

Never again. Never again.He turns to face whatever it is rumbling over the stones of Independence Square. —John Edgar Wideman, Philadelphia Fire (1990)

He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was. —Oscar Wilde, Picture of Doran Gray (1890)

The brave, eternal angle of her hip as she stands, in a light dress, melts his heart and he holds out his arms to her. —Thomas Williams, The Hair of Harold Roux (1974)

The fingers loosened, and the book they had held moved slowly and then swiftly across the still body and fell into the silence of the room. —John Williams, Stoner (1988)

“Bones,” Broadstreet says. —Eric Miles Williamson, Two-Up (2006)

The river runs from one country to another without stopping. And even the most solid of things and the most real, the best-loved and the well-known, are only hand-shadows on the wall. Empty space and points of light. —Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry (1989)

Yolanda says to say hello. —William S. Wilson, Birthplace (1982)

“—Whereon the pillars of this earth are founded, toward which the conscience of the world is tending—a wind is rising, and the rivers flow.” —Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again (1940)

“I will come,” said Peter,” but he sat on for a moment. What is this terror? What is this ecstasy? he thought to himself. What is it that fills me with this extraordinary excitement?
It is Clarissa, he said.
For there she was.
—Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision. —Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (1927)

He heard the ring of steel against steel as a far door clanged shut. —Richard Wright, Native Son (1940)

She rubbed at her hard belly with a mystic’s innocent faith, utterly certain after all that even as the planet tilted into darkness there was ripening beneath the caresses of her gypsy fingers a globe of skin swimming with colors of astonishing beauty never quite seen before in these particular combinations, colors the future would need to fill in between the lines, whether on this world or on out to the stars. —Stephen Wright, M31: A Family Romance (1988)

There was only the Viewer, slumped forever in his sour seat, the bald shells of his eyes boiling in pictures, a biblical flood of them, all saturated tones and deep focus, not one life-size, and the hands applauding, always applauding, palms abraded to an open fretwork of gristle and bone, the ruined teeth fixed in a yellowy smile that will not diminish, that will not fade, he’s happy, he’s being entertained. —Stephen Wright, Going Native (1994)

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