Quotenik
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language

“In a real sense, we are what we quote—and what can any of us hope to be but a tiny component of that hubbub of voices distilled by books of quotations and epigrams? I have always found such volumes the most irresistible reading. They make it possible to channel-surf millenniums of cultural history, moving forward or backward at will, and plucking out whatever perfectly formed fragment turns out to be precisely what you were looking for. The endlessness of it all is enough to make your head spin, but that dizziness is arrested by the steadying compactness and solidity of the ideal quote—the one that stands there bare and isolated and unencumbered, tiny enough to be grasped all at once, yet unfathomably wide and deep.”

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source: “We Are What We Quote,” Opinionator, New York Times, March 2, 2013.

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medium: Op-Ed

“At around age six, perhaps, I was standing by myself in our front yard waiting for supper, just at that hour in a late summer day when the sun is already below the horizon and the risen full moon in the visible sky stops being chalky and begins to take on light. There comes the moment, and I saw it then, when the moon goes from flat to round. For the first time it met my eyes as a globe. The word ‘moon’ came into my mouth as though fed to me out of a silver spoon. Held in my mouth the moon became a word. It had the roundness of a Concord grape Grandpa took off his vine and gave me to suck out of its skin and swallow whole, in Ohio.”

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source: Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), 10.

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medium: Memoir

“Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words, and they backhand them over the net. They love words that give them a hard time, provided they are in a context that absorbs their attention. I’m lucky again—my own vocabulary is small, compared to most writers, and I tend to use the short words. So it’s no problem for me to write for children. We have a lot in common.”

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source: The Paris Review Interviews, vol. IV (New York: Picador, 2009), 147.

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medium: Interview

“The etymology of fiction is from fingere (participle fictum), meaning ‘to shape, fashion, form, or mold.’ Any verbal account is a fashioning and shaping of events.”

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source: Reality Hunger (New York: Random House, 2010), 10.

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medium: Literary criticism

“The greatest step forward was made on the day that conventional signs appeared.”

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source: Cahiers/Notebooks, Volume 4 (Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Peter Lang, 2010), 75.

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medium: Notebook

“I’ve recently done a lot of experiments with scrapbooks. I’ll read in the newspaper something that reminds me of or has relation to something I’ve written. I’ll cut out the picture or article and paste it in a scrapbook beside the words from my book. Or, I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll suddenly see a scene from my book and I’ll photograph it and put it in a scrapbook…In other words, I’ve been interested in precisely how word and image get around on very, very complex association lines.”

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source: “The Art of Fiction No. 36,” The Paris Review, interviewed by Conrad Knickerbocker, Fall 1965.

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medium: Interview

“I make drawings to suppress the unspeakable. The unspeakable is not a problem for me. It’s even the beginning of the work. It’s the reason for the work; the motivation of the work is to destroy the unspeakable.”

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source: The Drawing Book edited by Tania Kovats (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2007), 240.

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medium: art survey

via: Karin Schaefer

“Word by word a poem is built. The choice of one over another implies an attitude and reflects the writer’s beliefs, insights, and character. Think of forestry bosses calling the killing of trees ‘harvesting,’ or of Dick Cheney calling water boarding ‘robust interrogation.’ Albert Camus went so far as to say, ‘Naming an object inaccurately means adding to the unhappiness of the world.'”

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source: “Holding Feathers in Your Teeth,” introduction to The Best Canadian Poetry in English (Toronto: Tightrope Books, 2010), xi.

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medium: Introduction

“Canard. That’s a good word. It’s hard to use, though, without being awkward. I’ve not found too many sentences I can put it in.”

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source: “Governor Brown Redux: The Iceman Melteth,” by Maureen Down, The New York Times, March 5, 2011.

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medium: Op-Ed

“A poem, as a manifestation of language and thus essentially dialogue, can be a message in a bottle, sent out in the—not always greatly hopeful—belief that somewhere and sometime it could wash up on land, on heartland perhaps. Poems in this sense too are under way: they are making toward something.”

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source: quoted in Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew by Josh Felstiner (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), 115.

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medium: biography

“I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don’t have to do it with bombast.”

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source: response to the shootings in Tucson, Arizona on January 8, 2011 and our country’s tense political climate, in “Exclusive: Roger Ailes & Russell Simmons: Both Sides Are Wrong,” Global Grind, January 10, 2011.

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medium: Interview

“One of the best neologisms to bubble up during the Internet era is ‘moasting,’ a verb that combines the words moaning and boasting. Everyone moasts, sometimes, but media creatures on Twitter have perfected the form: ‘Racing from Washington for a Charlie Rose taping. What’s happened to the quiet car on the Acela?'”

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source: book review of Bernard-Henri Lévy and Michel Houellebecq’s Public Enemies, in “Throwing Mud and Calling It Beautiful,” The New York Times, January 11, 2011.

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medium: book review

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language / And next year’s words await another voice.”

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source: “Little Gidding,” in The Waste Land and Other Poems (New York: Penguin, 2003), xxi.

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medium: poetry

“I found that the Italian I’d learned by studying operas enabled me to talk intelligently only about poisons and suicide and tragic love affairs, and was no good at all for everyday affairs.”

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source: “Dolores Wilson, Met Soprano, Dies at 82,” by Margalit Fox, The New York Times, October 5, 2010.

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medium: Obituary

“There is no word in the language for end-of-summer sadness, but the human spirit has a word for it and picks up the first sound of its approach.”

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source: “Cold Weather,” in One Man’s Meat (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1944), 349.

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medium: essay

notes: White wrote this essay in January 1943.

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