Old Man

Shouldering the duffel bag with the Marine Corps bulldog, Old Man knocked Jan’s photo off the bed table. He turned to stone staring down at the photo. His face then splintered into hurt. Tears seeped into his eyes. He grappled for the nearest bedpost and slumped forward on extended arms. His shoulders jerked and head sagged a little while his heart broke. Old Man cried the mute cry of men of his generation.

Ed Lynskey, The Blue Cheer

The Private Detective

The private detective of fiction is a fantastic creation who acts and speaks like a real man. He can be completely realistic in every sense but one, that one sense being that in life as we know it such a man would not be a private detective.

Raymond Chandler

If you leave me here

“If you leave me here,” the guy on the floor said, “he’ll kill me tomorrow morning.”

Parker looked at him.

“So you’ve still got tonight,” he said.

Richard Stark, Dirty Money

In short

In short, everything about his life was different for him at the bottom of that well.
— Raymond Carver

The Unicorn

The saintly hermit, midway through his prayers
stopped suddenly, and raised his eyes to witness
the unbelievable: for there before him stood
the legendary creature, startling white, that
had approached, soundlessly, pleading with his eyes.

The legs, so delicately shaped, balanced a
body wrought of finest ivory. And as
he moved, his coat shone like reflected moonlight.
High on his forehead rose the magic horn, the sign
of his uniqueness: a tower held upright
by his alert, yet gentle, timid gait.

The mouth of softest tints of rose and grey, when
opened slightly, revealed his gleaming teeth,
whiter than snow. The nostrils quivered faintly:
he sought to quench his thirst, to rest and find repose.
His eyes looked far beyond the saint’s enclosure,
reflecting vistas and events long vanished,
and closed the circle of this ancient mystic legend.

Rainer Maria Rilke

In the end, I am quite normal

In the end, I am quite normal. I don’t have odd habits. I don’t dramatize. Above all, I do not romanticize the act of writing. I don’t talk about the anguish I suffer in creating. I do not have a fear of the blank page, writer’s block, all those things that we hear about writers. I don’t have any of those problems, but I do have problems just like any other person doing any other type of work. Sometimes things do not come out as I want them to, or they don’t come out at all. When things do not come out as well as I would have liked, I have to resign myself to accepting them as they are.

José Saramago

Most of the machinery of modern language

Most of the machinery of modern language is labour-saving machinery; and it saves mental labour very much more than it ought. Scientific phrases are used like scientific wheels and piston-rods to make swifter and smoother yet the path of the comfortable. Long words go rattling by us like long railway trains. We know they are carrying thousands who are too tired or too indolent to walk and think for themselves. It is a good exercise to try for once in a way to express any opinion one holds in words of one syllable. If you say “The social utility of the indeterminate sentence is recognized by all criminologists as a part of our sociological evolution towards a more humane and scientific view of punishment,” you can go on talking like that for hours with hardly a movement of the gray matter inside your skull. But if you begin “I wish Jones to go to gaol and Brown to say when Jones shall come out,” you will discover, with a thrill of horror, that you are obliged to think. The long words are not the hard words, it is the short words that are hard. There is much more metaphysical subtlety in the word “damn” than in the word “degeneration.”

G.K. Chesterton

Fiction is lies

Fiction is lies; we’re writing about people who never existed and events that never happened when we write fiction, whether its science fiction or fantasy or western mystery stories or so-called literary stories. All those things are essentially untrue. But it has to have a truth at the core of it.

George R. R. Martin

The righting of historic wrongs

The righting of historic wrongs has chimed with something fundamental in me since I was a young reader. I love the forensic skills, the psychological insights, and the sheer bloody-mindedness of various detectives – professional or accidental – inching toward the truth of a long-buried secret.

Fiona Barton

The greatest threat to freedom

The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism.

Wole Soyinka (the first African writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature)

War

War does not determine who is right. It only determines who is left.

“The Daily Starbeams” Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, August 1831

(Also attributed to a bunch of other people, but PG wanted to plug Saskatoon)

If we’re lucky

If we’re lucky, writer and reader alike, we’ll finish the last line or two of a short story and then just sit for a minute, quietly. Ideally, we’ll ponder what we’ve just written or read; maybe our hearts or intellects will have been moved off the peg just a little from where they were before. Our body temperature will have gone up, or down, by a degree. Then, breathing evenly and steadily once more, we’ll collect ourselves, writers and readers alike, get up, “created of warm blood and nerves” as a Chekhov character puts it, and go on to the next thing: Life. Always life.
— Raymond Carver

There was a time when I thought I loved my first wife

There was a time when I thought I loved my first wife more than life itself. But now I hate her guts. I do. How do you explain that? What happened to that love? What happened to it, is what I’d like to know. I wish someone could tell me.
— Raymond Carver

Dreams

Dreams, you know, are what you wake up from.
— Raymond Carver

It’s possible

It’s possible, in a poem or short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things—a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring—with immense, even startling power.”
— Raymond Carver

I could hear my heart beating

I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.
— Raymond Carver

As long-time visitors to TPV know, from time to time, PG goes on a quote binge with quotes from a single author.

Most of his prior binges have been with Raymond Chandler quotes, but he recently discovered another Raymond.

Carter, Raymond Carter, has a unique voice that isn’t Chandler, but carries some of the cynical and exhausted tones that PG enjoys from many of Raymond Chandler quotes.

For the record, PG isn’t cynical and exhausted himself (although he does look forward to the end of this year’s interminable and noirish-Covid presidential election season), but he enjoys a little noir now and then.

Do not expect

Do not expect more from the truth than it actually contains.

Russian Proverb

The truth is

The truth is, everyone likes to look down on someone. If your favorites are all avant-garde writers who throw in Sanskrit and German, you can look down on everyone. If your favorites are all Oprah Book Club books, you can at least look down on mystery readers. Mystery readers have sci-fi readers. Sci-fi can look down on fantasy. And yes, fantasy readers have their own snobbishness.

I’ll bet this, though: in a hundred years, people will be writing a lot more dissertations on Harry Potter than on John Updike. Look, Charles Dickens wrote popular fiction. Shakespeare wrote popular fiction—until he wrote his sonnets, desperate to show the literati of his day that he was real artist. Edgar Allan Poe tied himself in knots because no one realized he was a genius.

The core of the problem is how we want to define “literature”. The Latin root simply means “letters”. Those letters are either delivered—they connect with an audience—or they don’t. For some, that audience is a few thousand college professors and some critics. For others, its twenty million women desperate for romance in their lives.

Those connections happen because the books successfully communicate something real about the human experience. Sure, there are trashy books that do really well, but that’s because there are trashy facets of humanity. What people value in their books—and thus what they count as literature—really tells you more about them than it does about the book.

Brent Weeks

For reasons of high aesthetic principle

For reasons of high aesthetic principle, I do not write on a computer. Writing on a computer makes saving what’s been written too easy. Pretentious lead sentences are kept, not tossed. Instead of sitting surrounded by crumpled paper, the computerized writer has his mistakes neatly stored in digital memory.

P.J. O’Rourke

Writer’s Block

There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.

Terry Pratchett

Max stepped into his private boat

Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him—and it was still hot.

Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

But wherever they go

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.

The House At Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne

In other words

In other words, they belong to types that could fall in love, but couldn’t live together.

E.M. Forster, Howards End

She was limp and pathetic

She was limp and pathetic and woozy and I loved her, I realised, even more because I knew how completely it was doomed.

Olivia Sudjic, Sympathy

Dear Matthew

Dear Matthew-
There’s one more thing I didn’t get to tell you that night in my bedroom. Here it is: I love you. I’m in love with you. I have been for a long time. This might seem like a strange thing for me to say given the fact we aren’t speaking to each other. But I’ve decided that it’s possible to love someone for entirely selfless reasons, for all of their flaws and weaknesses, and still not succeed in having them love you back. It’s sad perhaps, but not tragic, unless you dwell forever in the pursuit of their elusive affections.

― Cammie McGovern, Say What You Will

Bad Writing

A day of bad writing is always better than a day of no writing.

Don Roff

A Voice Actor

When a voice actor shifts their focus on to the listener and off of themselves, their instrument (voice and body) has freedom from their mind to fully express itself.

Rosemary Chase

Before you voice a piece, ask yourself, “What do I bring to this that nobody else does?”

Nancy Wilson

Marketing

The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.

Peter Drucker

Listen to your customers, not your competitors.

Joel Spolsky

Provincialism

In the last analysis, provincialism is your belief in yourself, in your neighborhood, in your reality. It is patriotism without belligerence. Convincing cases have been made to show that all great art is provincial in the sense of reflecting a place, a time, and a Zeitgeist.

Richard M. Weaver

The Desert

The desert surrounds your every step and you walk forever a thirsty man.

Christopher Pike

In the desert, the line between life and death is sharp and quick.

Brian Herbert

Here she is mending her dress; mending her dress as usual

Here she is mending her dress; mending her dress as usual, he thought; here she’s been sitting all the time I’ve been in India; mending her dress; playing about; going to parties; running to the House and back and all that, he thought, growing more and more irritated, more and more agitated, for there’s nothing in the world so bad for some women as marriage, he thought; and politics; and having a Conservative husband, like the admirable Richard. So it is, so it is, he thought, shutting his knife with a snap.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Coal

Coal is a portable climate.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ideas

Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.

Joseph Stalin (perhaps)

There are two kinds of truth

There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart. The first of these is science, and the second is art. Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other. Without art, science would be as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber. Without science, art would become a crude mess of folklore and emotional quackery. The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.

Raymond Chandler

I was never the Pretty Girl

It is clear I was never the Pretty Girl. I had my two front teeth knocked out when I was 10 and didn’t fix them until I was 19. I have a crooked smile and a nose that looks like it’s been broken 12 times but never has been. My nose was always red, so people called me Rudolph. My whole face is off-center.

Ellen Barkin

Spies for Money

There are some who become spies for money, or out of vanity and megalomania, or out of ambition, or out of a desire for thrills. But the malady of our time is of those who become spies out of idealism.

Max Lerner

Only Idiots

Only idiots refuse to change their minds.

Brigitte Bardot

Poetry

Poetry was the maiden I loved, but politics was the harridan I married.

Joseph Howe