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Archive for the 'Wicked Quotes' Category

September 19th, 2014 • Posted in Wicked Quotes

Jean Cocteau on Critics

“Listen carefully to first criticisms of your work. Note just what it is about your work that the critics don’t like – then cultivate it. That’s the part of your work that’s individual and worth keeping.”

November 2nd, 2012 • Posted in Wicked Quotes

Wicked Quotes: Jack McClelland on Canadian book publishing

Image from here.

In honour of the barely audible squeak of protest heard after it was announced that McClelland and Stewart was now officially a wholly owned American/German company, I read James King’s Jack: A Life with Writers, The story of Jack McClelland.”

Here are some wicked quotes from it:

Despite it being a money losing proposition, Jack McClelland’s policy on Canadian poetry was to publish it “first and foremost because we are Canadian publishers and we still consider poetry one of the most important forms through which the creative writer may express himself.”

Jack “paid a great deal of attention to the Indian File books, which brought prestige to M&S in the form of three governor General’s Awards, and, later, in 1960, for example, he published the sumptuous River Among Rocks by Ralph Gustafson with elaborate illustrations and type face designs by Frank Newfeld. To do this book and several other volumes of verse that followed, Jack appealed to the patriotic instincts of his paper suppliers and printers in exchange for reduced production costs: he undertook to give them further monies from any profits realized by these publications, but he told them how important it was to establish a poetic tradition in Canada that found expression in beautiful books.”

“Part of Jack’s bond with Pierre Berton and Farley Mowat derives from their common memories of fighting in the Second World War for Canada, as though that event created an invisible link between them. All three men knew first-hand the sordidness and destructiveness of war.”

“ I urge you to read books because I know that a book can do for people. I can say to you with all the sincerity and conviction at my command that almost always where I have found a truly successful man or woman, I have found a reader of books.”

“Like Knopf, Jack had decided ideas about quality; like [New Yorker editor William] Shawn, the author came first; like [publisher Bennett] Cerf, Jack had a knack for publicity; like [poet, and New Directions owner James]Laughlin, he welcomed the opportunity of taking on writers whose work was difficult to sell.”

Re: his instinct for talent: “This was what publishing was all about for Jack: the thrill of the chase, the joy of discovery.”

“His kind of promotion took the long-haired solemnity away from the book world.”

“He challenged the individual’s tendency to think what was done outside the borders of this country more significant that what was accomplished here. He worked to sever the colonial ties that bound our country’s culture Britain and to distinguish Canadian literature from American. No single person has done more to raise the profile of Canadian culture to Canadians. “

“Jack, it can be reasonably claimed, did more to unite Canada than any politician.”

“[His] commitment to publishing constitutes the most sustained attempt by a single person to define and enhance Canadian cultural identity. He is our Prospero, the man who shared his love of books with his fellow countrymen. His legacy is enormous. We remain in his debt.”  

September 12th, 2012 • Posted in Wicked Quotes

Greetings from Cervantes

Cervantes greets us at the National Library of Spain, in Madrid. Here’s some of what he had to say:

Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.
It is one thing to praise discipline, and another to submit to it.
One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars; and the world will be better for this.
Those who’ll play with cats must expect to be scratched.
He had a face like a blessing.
A proverb is a short sentence based on long experience.
That’s the nature of women, not to love when we love them, and to love when we love them not.
Liberty, as well as honor, man ought to preserve at the hazard of his life, for without it life is insupportable.
The gratification of wealth is not found in mere possession or in lavish expenditure, but in its wise application.
Never stand begging for that which you have the power to earn.
The knowledge of yourself will preserve you from vanity.
In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd.
Delay always breeds danger; and to protract a great design is often to ruin it.
Fair and softly goes far.
He preaches well that lives well.
Time ripens all things; no man is born wise.
When thou art at Rome, do as they do at Rome.
Good actions ennoble us, and we are the sons of our deeds.
No padlocks, bolts, or bars can secure a maiden better than her own reserve.
There’s no taking trout with dry breeches.
There is no greater folly in the world than for a man to despair.
Our greatest foes, and whom we must chiefly combat, are within.
The eyes those silent tongues of love.

March 28th, 2012 • Posted in Wicked Quotes

Good, Bad and Ugly in the latest issue of CNQ magazine

I like CNQ magazine.  Each issue is filled with lots of good Canadian literary grist to sift through, as well as a bit of chaff.

Kerry Clare’s fractious, picayne and largely (save for one oddly isolated line of praise) wrong-headed review of David Gilmour’s The Perfect Order of Things, for example.

I won’t waste time engaging with it, rather, I’ll follow Martin Amis’s dictum –  ”You proceed by quotation.  Quotation is the reviewer’s only hard evidence. Without it, in any case, criticism is a shop-queue monologue ” Here is but a smattering of the ample proof available, which supports the contention that David Gilmour’s  novel is, contrary to Clare‘s baseless pronouncements,  a spectacularly worthwhile read:

“The two of us puttered home under the stars, the lake motionless and warm as soup.”
“He had an enormous, uncircumcised unit; it looked like a giant worm and I had an uncomfortable sensation that he found his own nakedness arousing.”

“I started down the driveway just as I used to after a summer dance, the moon sinister between the tree branches.”

“I was seventeen, I thought of nothing for very long, except what I wanted.”

“Moving beyond the city limits, we gathered speed and rushed along a brown, wet highway. Flat fields on either side. The sun sulking in the clouds.”

“The best thing about being successful,” a friend once told me, “is that you get to tell everybody to fuck off”

“Your body remembers failures more easily than success. I don’t know why that is, but it does. And when you put it – your body – back in the same physical places where it once wilted, where it once suffered blows to the heart and blows to the vanity, sometimes, most of the time actually, your body forgets all the things that have happened in the interim and thinks the bad old days are still here.”

On inheritance: “It allowed me – or so I thought- to not do the one thing that would have made me happy. To work. To get my head out of my rear end and do something. But I didn’t know that then and I blamed my unhappiness on other things: the search for love, unpublished poetry, the silence of God, cigarettes, cruelty to animals, ugly people, the way my street looked when the sun went behind a cloud.”

“It’s a cruel observation, but if you can’t do something for people, they don’t have much time for you.”

“When I turned off the light at night I was aware of something lying on top of me. Failure. “

“Like the young Andre Gide, I was furious that the world would not credit me for the work I assumed I would eventually produce. “

“It was a non-place, and you could only be on the outside of it.”

And this is just a light cull from the first fifty-odd pages of what is clearly – evidently you might say – one of the funniest, most elegantly crafted, thought-provoking, eminently readable novels to come out of Canada ‘in a long time’.

January 29th, 2012 • Posted in Wicked Quotes

Wicked Quotes: W.H. Auden

"…a wedding cake left out in the rain."

I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing on the street.


He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.


And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky


A poet’s hope: to be,
like some valley cheese,
local, but prize elsewhere.


It is a sad fact about our culture that a poet can earn
much more money writing or talking about his art than
he can by practicing it


Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are
undeservedly remembered.


When I find myself in the company of
scientists, I feel like a shabby curate who has strayed by
mistake into a drawing room full of dukes.


Look, stranger, at this island now
The leaping light for your delight discovers,
Stand stable here
And silent be,
That through the channels of the ear
May wander like a river
The swaying sound of the sea.


Geniuses are the luckiest of mortals because what they
must do is the same as what they most want to do.


The gradient’s against her, but she’s no time.


Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,

Silently and very fast.


White as an orchid she rode quite naked

in an oyster shell on top of the sea


No opera plot can be sensible, for in sensible situations
people do not sing. An opera plot must be, in both
senses of the word, a melodrama.


Art is born of humiliation.


Several years ago I visited Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples. I wrote about it here. Hung out at one of Auden’s local watering holes, the Maria Cafe.


July 23rd, 2011 • Posted in Wicked Quotes

Wicked Quotes on Books, Authors, Writing


Quotes on books, authors, writing, found in Books by Gerald Donaldson.

"For  several days after my first book was published I carried it about in my pocket, and took surreptitious peeps at it to make sure that the ink had not faded." James Barrie

"Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written." Thoreau

"Tis the good reader that make the good book." Emerson

"There are books of which the backs are covered are far the best parts." Charles Dickens

"How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book" Thoreau

" Man builds no structure which outlives a book." Eugene Fitch Ware

"The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes." Agatha Christie

" It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give up because by that time I was too famous"  Robert Benchley

"Authors in general are not good listeners." William Hazlitt

"Sir, he hath never fed of the dainties that are bred in a book." Shakespeare

"When I am dead, I hope it may be said: His sins were scarlet, but his books were read." Hilaire Belloc

"I’ve had it with these cheap sons of bitches who claim they love poetry but never buy a book." Kenneth Rexroth

"As for you, little envious Prigs, snarling, bastard, puny Criticks, you’ll soon have railed you last: Go hang yourselves" Rabelais

"The life of writing men has always been…a bitter business. It is notoriously accompanied, for those who write well, by poverty an dcontempt’ or by fatuity and wealth for those who write ill." Hilaire Belloc

" I see no point in reading." Louis XlV

" I hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about."  Rousseau

" Come, and take a choice of all my library; And so beguile thy sorrow." Shakespeare.

" Books are hindrances to persisting stupidity." Spanish Proverb

"This never be a civilized country until we expend more money for books than we do for chewing gum." Elbert Hubbard

"If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all." Oscar Wilde.

"Never read anything until not to have read it has bothered you for some time." Samuel Butler.



January 10th, 2011 • Posted in Wicked Quotes

Seven Wicked Quotes from Albert Einstein


Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.


A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.


We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.


A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?


Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex…


It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.


All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.


It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.

August 24th, 2010 • Posted in Wicked Quotes

Wicked Quotes from Hitch 22

Some wicked quotes from Hitch-22:

"…the bogus refulgences of Kahilil Gibran and the sickly tautologies of The Prophet."

"Alcohol for me has been an aspect of my optimism: the mood caught by Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited when he discourses on aspects of the Bacchic and the Dionysian and claims that he at least chooses to drink " in the love of the moment, and the wish to prolong and enhance it."

"I was able to see my father in his last repose before the screwing-on of the lid, and later to do for him what he had once done for me, and carry him on my shoulders."

"…when told by the headmaster that only ‘the cream’ attended the school, [he said] yes, I know what you mean – thick and rich"

"’…the sheer perfect relief of being shot at by someone who has missed you’, Winston Churchill."

"The true essence of dictatorship is in fact not its regularity but its unpredictability and caprice; those who live under it must never be able to relax, must never be quite sure if they have followed the rules correctly or not. (The rule of thumb was: whatever is not compulsory is forbidden.)"

"…religion is an excellent reinforcement of shaky temporal authority."

"I learned that to be amusing was not to be frivolous and that language – always the language – was the magic key as much to prose as to poetry."

On JFK: " I felt no particular sense of loss at the passing of such a high-risk narcissist. If I registered any distinct emotion, it was that of mild relief."

"His name was Guy, and I still sometimes twitch a little when I run into someone else who’s called that – even in America, where in a way it is every boy’s name."

"…we had a whey-faced interview."

"I always take it for granted that sexual moralizing by public figures in a sign of hypocracy or worse, and most usually a desire to perform the very act that is most being condemned."

"I hope never to lose the access to outrage that I felt then."

Clive James describes Martin Amis as "a stubby Jagger."

"…the burgeoning refulgence of our love…"

Carwash: enjoying two young ladies at the same time


August 18th, 2010 • Posted in Wicked Quotes

The shameful ignorance of thinking that we know what we do not know

“To fear death, my friends, is only to think ourselves wise, without being wise: for it is to think that we know what we do not know. For anything that men can tell, death may be the greatest good that can happen to them: but they fear it as if they knew quite well that it was the greatest of evils. And what is this but that shameful ignorance of thinking that we know what we do not know?” Socrates.

Ironic isn’t it that organized religion capitalizes on this fear, peddling its various brands of known unknowns, and, in so doing, causes untold numbers of deaths.

July 27th, 2010 • Posted in Wicked Quotes

“Now the worst thing you’ve done is often the first thing everyone knows about you.”

"It’s often said that we live in a permissive era, one with infinite second chances. But the truth is that for a great many people, the permanent memory bank of the Web increasingly means there are no second chances — no opportunities to escape a scarlet letter in your digital past. Now the worst thing you’ve done is often the first thing everyone knows about you."

Jeffrey Rosen, NYT magazine.