As a result, I grew up with little knowledge of how the body worked; my grasp of sexual matters had all the vivid imbalance of a sisterless autodidact at a boys-only school; and though the calibrated academic progress I made through school and university was thanks to my brain, I hadn’t the slightest idea how this organ worked.

Julian Barnes
Nothing to be Frightened of
p. 36

The only advice I can offer, should you wake up vertiginously in a strange flat, with a thoroughly installed hangover, without any of your clothing, without any recollection of how you got there, with the police sledgehammering down the door to the accompaniment of excited dogs, while you are surrounded by bales of lavishly-produced magazines featuring children in adult acts, the only advice I can offer is to try to be good-humored and polite.

Tibor Fischer
The Thought Gang
p. 1

She sketched a short biography, enough to show me that she wasn’t as bright or pretty or stylish or interesting as she had seemed sitting at the bar. But then, no one ever is, which is why it’s always worth having shares in whiskey and cosmetics.

Stephen Fry
The Hippopotamus
p. 17

If Columbine hardens the American majority against the NRA’s gun psychos, those kids were sacrificed in a cause more worthy than any war I remember.

Hal Crowther
The Independent
May 12, 1999

I was a bad journalist. I was lazy and enjoyed it. Since I made up what I wrote I reasoned that the paper gained integrity every time I didn’t do a story, which was usually.

Richard Rayner
The Elephant
p. 140

“Love must not entreat,” she added, “or demand. Love must have the strength to become certain within itself. Then it ceases merely to be attracted and begins to attract.”

Hermann Hesse
Demian (tr. Roloff and Lebeck)
p. 126

My proviso was clear and upright, ordained by hell’s legitimate zeal. Love is forbidden you insofar as it warms. Your life shall be cold—hence you shall love no human.

Thomas Mann
Doctor Faustus (tr. Woods)
p. 264

Bound by the self-imposed constraint of order, which means free.

Thomas Mann
Doctor Faustus (tr. Woods)
p. 207

…Of course, there is no way to separate sensuality and love. One best acquits love of the charge of sensuality by reversing things and proving there is an element of love in sensuality. Lust for another person’s flesh means one has to overcome the resistance already blocking it, which is based in the strangeness of the I and the you, of the self and the other. The flesh—to retain the Christian term—is normally repulsed by everything except itself. It wants nothing to do with strange flesh. But when another person suddenly becomes the object of lust and desire, the relation between the I and the you is so drastically changed that it makes ‘sensuality’ an empty word. One cannot do without the concept of love, even when ostensibly nothing spiritual is involved. Every sensual act implies tenderness, after all, is an act of giving even as lust is taking, is happiness in making another happy, a demonstration of love. Lovers have never been ‘one flesh,’ and such an injunction only wants to drive love from marriage along with lust.

Thomas Mann
Doctor Faustus (tr. Woods)
p. 201

Love weakens as much as it strengthens, and often that’s very good for you.

The operable part of that aphorism is that vulnerability is a good and enlarging thing. When you fall in love, you start to need. For people whose self-sufficiency or fears of life have made them encysted creatures, love opens them.

For instance, the other day Lori and I were talking about what a prick I am when someone tries to chop me conversationally. Being a “fast gun” in a verbal encounter has always been a stance I believed to be extremely pro-survival. There aren’t too many people who have as vicious and insulting a manner as I can manifest when I’m annoyed. That’s because in some ways I’m conversationally suicidal: I’ll say anything. There are no bounds to how deeply I’ll cut to win. That’s simultaneously one of my strengths and one of my weaknesses. I won’t go into how it got started, it goes ‘way back. I’ll just say that it makes me a very enclosed individual a lot of the time. I’m constantly on the alert for the attack.

So Lori put forth the proposition that I was stronger than she in such situations, and I said, “No, we’re evenly matched.” And then she said, with considerable disbelief, “But you could cut me up in a minute and we both know it.”

Which led me to think about it and I responded, “Then why don’t I?”

“Because you love me,” she said.

“Right,” I said.

Then she grinned and made the perfect point. “You’re handicapped.”


Willingly, gladly, joyously handicapped. A mercurial sprinter happily tying a bag of cement to his left leg so he can race with fairness to the competition, because he loves the race, not the winning.

Love can do that. It can make you dull those savage aspects of your nature so you become more nakedly ready to accept goodness from your love-partner. It is even more pro-survival, if one accepts the theory that life is a string of boredoms, getting-alongs, sadnesses and just plain nothing-happening times, broken up by gleaming pearls of happiness that get us through the crummy stretches on that string.

Weakness becomes strength.

Harlan Ellison
introduction to Love Ain’t Nothing But Sex Misspelled
pp. xxiii-xxiv

Rednecks have a strange, easily offended sense of honor. Sure, ignorant cracker bastards lost the Civil War, and then the civil rights movement, but by God, that’s it, they’ll take no more!

Dan Neil
“Rumble Seat”
The Independent
January 21, 1998

When we look at someone [an angel] from a position of unrequited love and imagine the pleasures that being in heaven with them might bring us, we are prone to overlook one important danger: how soon their attractions might pale if they began to love us back. We fall in love because we long to escape from ourselves with someone as beautiful, intelligent, and witty as we are ugly, stupid, and dull. But what if such a perfect being should one day turn around and decide they will love us back? We can only be somewhat shocked—how can they be as wonderful as we had hoped when they have the bad taste to approve of someone like us? If, in order to love, we just believe that the beloved surpasses us in some way, does not a cruel paradox emerge when they return that love? We are led to ask, “If s/he really is so wonderful, how is it possible that s/he could love someone like me?”

Alain de Botton
On Love
p. 53

I feel sorry for novelists when they have to mention women’s eyes; there’s so little choice, and whatever colouring is decided upon inevitably carries banal implications. Her eyes are blue: innocence and honesty. Her eyes are black: passion and depth. Her eyes are green: wildness and jealousy. Her eyes are brown: reliability and common sense. Her eyes are violet: the novel is by Raymond Chandler.

Julian Barnes
Flaubert’s Parrot
p. 78

The hospitals of central London exist to serve health requirements of awesome severity. Whether it be diseases occasioned by poverty… or those engendered by wealth… the hospital’s problems remain the same, to make an immovable object—the determination of the electorate to compel their parliamentary representatives to place a curb on fiscal apportionment —bow to an unstoppable force, the determination of that same electorate to have adequate, free provision of palliatives for whatever ails them, whenever it ails them.

Will Self
Great Apes
p. 93

When the Fates met on the occasion of the birth of a son to a king of ancient Greece, the first prayer wafted to Olympus was, “Save this infant from ever having to deal with the Irish Building Trades.”

Richard Condon
And Then We Moved to Rossenarra
p. 27

I am no longer twelve and have grown brittle. I do not ride, nor do I hunt—an insanity that involves balancing oneself upon a horse while it leaps over stone walls. Beyond the film business, I have not greeted either end of a horse for about forty-five years.

Richard Condon
And Then We Moved to Rossenarra
pp. 23-24

It is not without reason that, in North Carolina, the sweating pastors direct their chief barbs at Chapel Hill, for at Chapel Hill is the State university, and it has done more to civilize the State than any other agency, or than all other agencies taken together. Quite naturally, the clergy hate it. The Baptists never hold a convention or the Methodists a conference without hearing and applauding extravagant denunciations of it. But the more it is denounced, the more it seems to prosper.

H. L. Mencken
“Civil War in the Confederacy”
July 30, 1928

I returned to the house, dropped the bag of groceries on the table, and shouted, “Ma, you done fucked up and moved to the ‘hood!”

Paul Beatty
The White Boy Shuffle
p. 41

He did tell me about old girlfriends…. But while he was remarkably candid about these affairs, chronicling their highs and lows in great detail, he spoke of them as if they were the comic stuff of another person’s biography, and I began to sense that these stories, no doubt true, were nevertheless a means of evasion. They were too smooth, too complete, and I found myself asking, Where are the holes?

Siri Hustvedt
The Blindfold
p. 44

My love does not, cannot make her happy. My love can only release in her the capacity to be happy.

Julian Barnes
A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters
p. 230

There is an intermittent debate, in these last dying millenia of puritanism, about the connection between sexual orthodoxy and the exercise of power. If a President can’t keep his pants on, does he lose the right to rule us? If a public servant cheats on his wife does this make him more likely to cheat on the electorate? For myself, I’d rather be ruled by an adulterer, by some sexual rogue, than by a prim celibate or a zipped-up spouse. As criminals tend to specialize in certain crimes, so corrupt politicians normally specialize in their corruption: the sexual blackguards stick to fucking, the bribe-takers to graft. In which case it would make more sense to elect proven adulterers instead of discouraging them from public life. I don’t say we should pardon them—on the contrary, we need to fan their guilt. But by harnessing this useful emotion we restrict their sinning to the erotic sphere, and produce a countervailing integrity in their governing. That’s my theory, anyway.

Julian Barnes
A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters
p. 241

Call me Smitty. That’s what everybody else called me—the ballplayers, the bankers, the bareback riders, the baritones, the bartenders, the bastards, the best-selling writers (excepting Hem, who dubbed me Frederico), the bicyclists, the big game hunters (Hem the exception again), the billiards champs, the bishops, the blacklisted (myself included), the black marketeers, the blonds, the bloodsuckers, the bluebloods, the bookies, the Bolsheviks (some of my best friends, Mr. Chairman—what of it!), the bombardiers, the bootblacks, the bootlicks, the bosses, the boxers, the Brahmins, the brass hats, the British (Sir Smitty as of ‘36), the broads, the broadcasters, the broncobusters, the brunettes, the black bucks down in Barbados (Meestah Smitty), the Buddhist monks in Burma, one Bulkington, the bullfighters, the bullthrowers, the burlesque comics and the burlesque stars, the bushmen, the bums, and the butlers. And that’s only the letter B, fans, only one of the Big Twenty-Six!

Philip Roth
The Great American Novel
p. 1