Sharing thousands of sparkling, moving, entrancing quotations amassed over decades of slow-savoured reading, to refresh the mind and spirit and invigorate flagging thought and flaccid prose. Dive in!

A quotation is not an excerpt.  A quotation is a cicada.  It is part of its nature never to quiet down.  Once having got hold of the air, it does not release it. 

Source: Osip Mandelstam, ‘Conversation about Dante’ (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011), p. 108

I have discovered that, with the passing of the years, my ignorance in countless areas… has become increasingly perfected while, at the same time, a lifelong practice of haphazard readings has left me with a sort of commonplace book in whose pages I find my own thoughts put into the words of others.   

Source: Alberto Manguel, The City of Words, CBC Massey Lecture Series (Toronto: Anansi Press, 2007), p. 3

Sound medical advice

Sound medical advice

I love a doctor's advice to the apathetic aristocrat Oblomov, suggesting he minimize stress by avoiding the awkward and exhausting business of thinking. Would that it were so easy...'Avoid worry and vexation --''It's all very well for you to talk,' said Oblomov. 'You...

Indolence on legs

Indolence on legs

Oblomov, protagonist of an eponymous 19th century novel by Goncharov, is a study, at least for the first third of the book, in apathy and all round laziness.  While he is occasionally annoying, at the same time, Goncharov's account of his idleness is engaging partly...

Why limit yourself?

Why limit yourself?

Andrey, whom we've already met as a perky boy seeing off a young man's bullying, took his child's breezy confidence into adulthood.  Here his father is sending him out into the world and lays out the options available to him.  I liked Andrey's exuberant response,...

Feisty boy fights back

Feisty boy fights back

Goncharov's description of Andrey as a little boy brings to life a robust, cheery, fearless little character.   Here he meets Michel, one of two visiting princes who behaves like a school yard bully picking on someone half his size.  This would sicken me if it weren't...

On writing letters

The wryness of Kenneth Grahame’s Dream Days is captured here in describing the cultural activity of choice for his younger brother.

Harold wraps his arm around his paper to protect...

Unpitying consequences

This moving and powerful novel is all about the dire consequences of flighty and initially apparently inconsequential decisions, snow-balling into terrible choices.

I often wonder about the random effects of...

Sheer from the sea

In 1916, in the middle of the First World War, Louis Golding sailed passed Ithaca.  Minds were on other things than Homer and Odysseus, but this evocative statement about the...

Time as landscape

How many of us live day to day doling out time fretfully!  I liked this alternative, easy, generous, striding engagement with time, allowing you to traverse other vastnesses confidently.

'If...

A page per year

Taleb is an erudite and provocative writer, sometimes coming across as intellectually arrogant, though always interesting. Here he shows a healthy sign of self-deprecation which I found entertaining. He's published a...

Dumb as …

Thoreau doesn't seem to have had a particularly harmonious relationship with formal religion, and he makes some side-swiping comments about the church and its representatives, while also being an immensely...

My kind of typewriter

This extraordinary piece of engineering allowing a polyglot to spin between four languages and keyboards.  Manual typewriters, mind, not bits of software.

‘Zarian possesses an extraordinary typewriter which enables him,...

Plus ça change…

There’s something reassuring in seeing that what appears an ‘issue’ today appeared equally so to people long ago. It puts the issue in perspective and makes it seem an eternal, pointless fuss....

Steady as she goes

Sometimes the world - at least our human version of it - feels wobbly, so I found this affirmation of its steadiness and solid foundations in some sense reassuring.

But...

Wine and time

Having written an entire essay, if not a thesis, on this vital and universal issue, I am always in search of other people showing appreciation for the element of time...

The thoughts of a pig

A wonderfully involved tail of a pig's escape and eventual recapture.

Firstly, a protracted endeavour to find him, eventually discovered resting in a barn, engaged in 'thinking unutterable things'. 

Secondly,...

Being certain vs being correct

Know the sort? Enough confidence and you can get yourself obeyed even if you are ordering people in the wrong direction. This quality often passes for 'leadership', regardless of whether...

All about revolutions

Fine understatement given how many billions of human hours have been lost obliging people to listen to revolutionary speeches.

‘That is slightly the problem with revolutions. There are an awful lot of...

My kind of uncle

Wouldn't you love an uncle who could walk up and down both sides of a straight ladder, especially the part about walking down the other side facing away from the...

My kinda cat – III

This is one memorable cat.  Patrick Leigh Fermor had chance to observe the same big tom-cat every night in Athens after the war, performing what was clearly a regular feline...

The three ‘S’s of happinesss

A dulcet and sibilant summary of the source of felicity.  Wishing you thrice times blessings of slumber, sunshine and sweets.  I wonder if the three things also begin with 'S'...

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