His situation, insofar as he was a machine, was complex, tragic, and laughable. But the sacred part of him, his awareness, remained an unwavering band of light. — Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
It really bothers me when people say they aren’t creative. Everyone is, in some fashion. I am just as guilty every time I say I am tone deaf or that I have two left feet and that no one could ever possibly teach me how to sing or dance. I wish, more than anything, that we would all learn how to let go of limiting beliefs, stop comparing ourselves to others, cease worrying about what others think, and just let ourselves go and be free to experiment and play.
Here’s just an excerpt from Le Guin’s speech at the National Book Awards, but you should really go read the whole thing–it’s short and completely inspiring:
“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.”
If you haven’t read any of Ursula K. Le Guin’s books, why not?
I recently came upon this bit of wisdom, from In the Woods by Tana French:
To my mind the defining characteristic of our era is spin, everything tailored to vanishing point by market research, brands and bands manufactured to precise specifications; we are so used to things transmuting into whatever we would like them to be that it comes as a profound outrage to encounter death, stubbornly unspinnable, only and immutably itself.
The marketing, packaging and branding of just about everything is one of the most insidious evils of modern life, I think. I get so tired of absolutely everything I encounter being something I have to purchase and consume. There seems no motivation to do anything anymore, not even make art, without coming up with a way to commodify it. We can’t even just be people anymore. Everyone has to have a personal brand these days, and a presence on Twitter to support it.
No wonder death outrages us. It’s the one thing we haven’t yet figured out how to sell.
PS If you click the link above, you can buy a copy of French’s book and send a few shekels my way. Yes, I appreciate the irony…
“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” — A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin
“Sleep is good,” he said. “And books are better.” — A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies …. The man who never reads lives only one.” — A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin
“It’s all that reading that does it, Dietrich. It takes a man out of the world and pushes him inside his own head, and there is nothing there but spooks.” — Eifelheim, Michael Flynn
“My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie.” — The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield
Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives. — American Gods, Neil Gaiman
“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” — The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
“Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.” — Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
“The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.” — 1984, George Orwell
A question on Quora asked: What are the most famous final passages from books or stories? Here are my votes for the top five. Feel free to add your favorite last lines in the comments.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” — The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
“and yes I said yes I will Yes.” — Ulysses, James Joyce
“He loved Big Brother.” — Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
“‘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.’”– A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
“‘After all, tomorrow is another day.’” — Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
And five other good ones I missed:
“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.” — Animal Farm, George Orwell
“Isn’t it pretty to think so?” — The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
“I been there before.” — Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
“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.” — Emma, Jane Austen
“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.” — Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (not a book I personally liked, but this is a great line)
I looked through my favorite books on LibraryThing and added a few more last lines that have significant meaning for me.
“Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?” — Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
“Within, its walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.” — The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
“I am legend.” — I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” — The Dark Tower, Stephen King
“He says that he will never die.” — Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
“And then I woke up.” — No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
“So this is what everybody’s always talking about! Diablo! If only I’d known. The beauty! The beauty!” — The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
“And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery.” — The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
“He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.” — To Kill a Mockingbird
“When I have one martini, I feel bigger, wiser, taller. When I have a second, I feel superlative. When I have more, there’s no holding me.” — William Faulkner
“Faulkner was a big drinker, went on wild binges, but he never wrote much while drunk. He and others drank to broaden their vision, their exaltation or despair, or to flee from the agony of the pure pain of creation.” — William Styron
“I’ve gone on the wagon, but my body doesn’t believe it. It’s waiting for the whiskey to get in there … to get me going. I never drink while I’m working, but after a few glasses, I get ideas that would never have occurred to me dead sober.” — Irwin Shaw
“Before I start to write, I always treat myself to a nice dry martini. Just one, to give me the courage to get started. After that, I am on my own.” — E.B. White
“After a few ounces, the old tunes wake up, the grandeur of jingling anguish, the lick and shimmer of language, the heartbreak at the core of things. … At a certain glow-level, my brilliancies assured me I was an angel writing in Paradise.” — Donald Newlove
“I can’t write without wine.” — Tennessee Williams