Drawing on thousands of sparkling, moving, entrancing quotations amassed over decades of slow-savoured reading, to refresh the mind and spirit, invigorate tired thought and flaccid prose, and improve the world’s Powerpoint presentations beyond belief. Dive in!

News then, and now?

John Steinbeck's analysis of the nature of news at the height of the Cold War resonates still, drawing attention to the air-time and column inches given to punditry over reporting.

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Steinbeck on Capa

John Steinbeck was a good friend of the photographer Robert Capa, with whom he spent a month travelling in the Soviet Union, producing a vivid work of written and photographic...

The dog who understood

This mongrel, scooped up off the streets, in Vasily Grossman's imagined story of the real creature who was the first dog in space, has a Christ-like capacity for love and...

Church bells and cannon fodder

If swords can be beaten into ploughshares, the reverse is also true, and church bells can be melted down as iron fodder for cannon.  Here, a historical novel concerned with...

System in everything

A curious exchange between Anna Sergeyevna and Bazarov in Turgenev's Fathers and Sons. Somehow, Anna's crisp response chills the romance of walking and seeing and even naming flowers.

Last weekend...

Of ardent persistence

One of my favourite literary dogs is Ottimo Massimo, who belongs to the tree-dwelling protagonist of one of Calvino's best stories. A small dachshund who goes a-courting dogs several times...

A Greek showed up

Listening time: under 5 minutes.  From Steinbeck's masterful and lively account of travelling in the Soviet Union with Robert Capa. Chmarsky is their hapless interpreter who is pursued...

One foot in, one foot out

A wry response to the observation by his future brother-in-law regarding Mr. Casaubon's suitability for marriage.  The old dry-as-dust scholar-curmudgeon having one foot in the grave, seems to view marriage...

On being attentive and polite

If Dorothea, the heroine of George Eliot's Middlemarch, doesn't win you over with her profound and subtle range of human qualities, surely her respectful empathy towards canine feelings is a...

The claptrap of monarchy

According to the photographer Robert Capa, museums were the churches of the Soviet Union, where he spent a month in 1946 with John Steinbeck. Here they traipse around the royal...

Making up

The friendship of John Steinbeck and Robert Capa was strong, despite some funny frictions during their month-long trip to the Soviet Union.  Idiosyncratic characters both, and both no doubt exasperating...

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

 

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