This month, we Quills set out to share with you, great book quotes that have inspired us, and why. There are so many, a person can get carried away quickly with this one. But in the end, we restrained ourselves . . .
First up today is Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies. Take it away, Robin!
I am a lemon in the book quotation collection department. Oh, I have accumulated scores of quotes, but mostly in the line of pithy truisms. Like, “All of us could take a lesson from the weather; it pays no attention to criticism.” Or "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." They are little reminders to myself that I need to buck up, knuckle down, stop being overly sensitive, work toward my goals, and remember to breathe. Those reminders get jotted down on post-it notes and stuck around my workspace. Bright, rich butterflies whispering directions I would otherwise forget.
Great stuff, Robin. Thank you!
Next is P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse. What have you for us this time, Parker?
The quotes with the most meaning to me personally have come from within stories themselves, as opposed to quotes from an author or prominent individual. I think that's because for me a quote can capture the essence a story--suddenly a snippet evokes an entire journey. The sentence is no longer a disassociated fragment, it has a context. It becomes the story itself, capturing some essential element that inspires me to consider, at least for a moment, the entire narrative from a single perspective.
The best part of Quills day for me is reading what my fellow authors have set out. Thank you, Parker.
Finally, I have some thoughts . . .
It’s interesting to consider those things that catch one’s attention. For my part, they are often obscure lines that most people likely pass by without a second thought. Occasionally when I find a gem tucked in amidst all the words surrounding it, I grasp it, then adopt it for my own for later use. No, I don’t mean that I copy and use it in my written works, I just say it from time to time. For example, back as a young adult, I read some of Robert A. Heinlein’s science fiction. From his works, one line stood out that I’ve revised—just a bit—and repeated many times over the years (giving Heinlein credit, of course). My version reads thusly: Man is not a rational, rather, a rationalizing being.” All too often, that seems to be the case . . . So if you like, you can count that as my first choice, but I can’t say that it has inspired me so much as that it has intrigued me.
As to the quotes that have inspired me and why, I will reach to my all time favorite, Les Miserables (1862), by Victor Hugo, who also wrote other works I’ve read and loved. (They include Notre-Dame de Paris, better known as Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) (which is not the story Disney told!), and Les Travailleurs de la Mer (Toilers of the Sea) (1866), which, like Les Miserables, also tells a story of great self-sacrifice.)
Hugo lived in a time of social upheaval and his works reflect that, as they include commentary on social issues, misery and poverty. He greatly influenced later writers, far and wide, including Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Not only is Les Miserables replete with beautiful, poetic prose (such as, by way of example, the following: “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words, and that which cannot remain silent.”), but it also speaks out about “speaking out.” Perhaps because it seems difficult to engage in genuine discussion about hearty issues these days, I though I'd share a few of my favorites on that topic:
Not being heard is no reason for silence.
You ask me what forced me to speak? A strange thing: my conscience.
It is not easy to keep silent when silence is a lie.
Add to that a thought on the need and value of education, and you get a good feeling for why I so admire Hugo:
As with stomachs, we should pity minds that do not eat.
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse ... A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself . . .
Of course, no one “likes” war. In my estimation, however, it is not something to be avoided at all costs. If brought to me, and I have a choice between fighting (and retaining my freedom or that of my brothers and sisters) or passively accepting servitude, bondage, oppression, I hope I will be strong enough to choose the former. In the meantime, my gratitude for our men and women in uniform knows no bounds.
I’ve one more quote here (sometimes attributed to John Locke, other times to other sources), before I move on because it is another I’ve repeated many, many times over the years. It is: “Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.” Or as I like to say it: “Your rights stop where my nose starts.” The idea here is that “rights” are something a person possesses innately, by reason of existence, through no doing of that person’s own, and having required nothing from anyone else. Thus, “rights” include, for example, the right to speak your mind, to practice your religion of choice, and to defend yourself. When you exercise those things, you take nothing from anyone else. It costs your neighbor nothing to allow you to speak; it costs your community nothing for you to worship in your chosen way; it costs your fellow citizens nothing to allow you to defend your life. By contrast, something is not a right and cannot be a “right,” if it requires anything from anyone else. To demand that another provide something to you would be, essentially, for you to make a slave of your neighbor. And so, “your right stops where my nose starts” means that you do not have the “right” to demand anything from me, including my labor or the fruits of it, for your benefit, nor may I demand the like from you. That doesn't mean that we should not help one another. Rather, it means that we cannot force others using the power of the state (which really means, at the threat of the loss of liberty or life), to give from the fruits of our labor to others ... So in the end it seems that this simple quote evokes deep meaning ...
Finally, I will take a quote from another personage not generally considered an author. Still, he did write things, including many speeches and letters that have been collected into books. I speak of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the U.S. His words remain profoundly impactful to this day. Thus, I note:
Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and under a just God, cannot long retain it.
Add to that, this:
The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.
Those words are every bit as true today as they were in Lincoln’s time. And if that doesn’t get you thinking, I really and truly do not know what could.
What great quotes would you like to share?
From time to time we Quills pose a question designed to get people thinking. Then each of us responds to the query, revealing a bit of ourselves along the way. For this post, here is our question:
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island for an undetermined period of time, what three books would you want to have with you?
I am curious to see what P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse, has for us. Take it away, Parker!
I have a wonderful life. I'm surrounded, tackled, and set upon by four wonderful kiddos, loved by a beautiful wife, and I have several vocations I truly enjoy. I write, I teach, and I work in real estate. I get to be a part of restoring old buildings in a small yet interesting and thriving community.
All that said, getting stranded on a distant island sometimes sounds like a holiday. I wonder how long I would procrastinate starting a signal fire ...
Next is Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies. Robin always has great things in store for us. Let's see what three books she chose ...
I’m cold. A desert island sounds good right now with its sandy beaches, rolling waves, peace and quiet… I put in a request for palm trees and other vegetation, too. Birds. No snakes. A hammock. One terrific thunderstorm. And chocolate, of course. Would it be cheating if I brought my e-reader and a solar charger? It only takes up the space of one book, right?
Choosing a mere three books is serious business. I think I’ll go with something old, something new, and…
Finally, it's my turn!
Here goes ...
Before I fully answer this question, I admit that I’m going to cheat juuuuuussssst a little bit. You see, I think that others might expect that I should respond to this question by listing first, the book of authority for my faith. That is, I think others might think that the first item on my list should be the Christian Bible. I acknowledge that the Bible is full of stories that are entertaining, enlightening, encouraging and faith-building. The words of the Bible, through stories, songs, and poems, can lift someone out from dark times while teaching untold numbers of life lessons. Its words seem new every time you read them. So it seems natural that it would be my first choice. So natural in fact, that I’m not going to list it with my three choices. Rather, I’ll expect to find a copy of it in the hotel room top drawer of wherever I end up staying on the desert island in question. What?! No one said the island to which I’ll be stranded had always been deserted, only that it’s deserted when I’m left there. So I’ve chosen to have faith that the island will have been inhabited at one time prior to my arrival, and that someone will have left behind, a copy of the Good Book for me to find there. (That was tricky of me, don’t you think?) And so, now that I’ve handled that, my three choices follow.
My first choice is a copy of Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, which after twenty years in the making, was first published in 1862. I choose this work primarily because of the unmatched beauty of Hugo’s prose, and because this is a beautiful story of personal sacrifice.
The 1000 pages or so of Les Miserables are filled with personalities and descriptions that pull in the past, thread in the present, and foreshadow the future. Altogether it reads like poetry, as follows:
Towards the end of this fourth year Jean Valjean’s turn to escape arrived. His comrades assisted him, as is the custom in that sad place. He escaped. He wandered for two days in the fields at liberty, if being at liberty is to be hunted, to turn the head every instant, to quake at the slightest noise, to be afraid of everything—of a smoking roof, of a passing man, of a barking dog, of a galloping horse, of a striking clock, of the day because one can see, of the night because one cannot see, of the highway, of the path, of a bush, of sleep. On the evening of the second day, he was captured.
Les Miserables tells of the cost to self, to others, and to society, that comes with judgment and a desire for retribution lasting far beyond the damage a wrongdoer has caused, and well beyond the period allotted for incarcerating someone as payment for his crime. It is a story of the power of forgiveness and of the power of love in the form of long suffering personal sacrifice. This is not the noun, love, to which I refer. That is, I refer not to the love that is a feeling. I refer, rather, to the verb, love. I refer to the love that does—that acts. I refer to acting for the benefit of others, even when that act comes at a great cost to oneself.
If you have not read Les Miserables, I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you are not generally a reader of classics and find the challenge a bit daunting, give yourself permission to skip the parts that don’t speak to you or that are hard to follow. For example, skip over the complicated historical and political issues if you like. Concentrate on the people, and on Hugo’s spellbinding descriptions of their past and present lives. If you rise to the challenge, I am confident you will not regret it.
My second choice would probably be a Charles Dickens novel. The reason I include him on this list is because, while I’m on that desert island, I will probably need a good laugh from time to time, and for me, Dickens is hysterically funny.
While it’s hard to pick just one great Dickens work, perhaps there is nowhere he is more amusing than in the opening pages of Great Expectations, first published in 1861. I know. I know. It is intended to be a serious work—and it is, and the opening sets the stage for all the seriousness to come. Still, there is also great humor to be found there.
Once, years ago, when my two youngest were about eight and ten or so, I started reading Great Expectations out loud to them. (I love to read out loud and I do so with a great deal of, shall we say . . . flair, or perhaps, drama would be the correct word here.) Through the first chapter or so, as I read (and this was not my first reading of this work!), I laughed so hard that tears rolled down my face and my stomach hurt. Yes, I know that the story opens with poor Pip staring at his parents’ tombstones. But consider the way Dickens sets forth those facts from Pip’s point of view. Not only do we see with the eyes of a naïve child (who has nevertheless already suffered greatly), but the images we see are, in a word, hilarious. Sad—and hilarious. For example, consider Pip’s contemplation of his father’s tombstone:
… the shape of the letters on my father’s, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair.
Funny stuff. Right?
Then of his brothers, Pip thinks:
To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine - who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle …
Imagine one the age of young Pip already concerned about making a living … Yes, this passage is sad because in that day, making a living was such a struggle. Even little ones felt it. But there is also something humorously intriguing about the way Pip ponders those things.
Then, there is Dickens' masterful way of summing up the entirety of a person or thing through a few short words. Try the following. Keep the flow going so that the first two sentences move at a normal, almost slow, pace, while from there, it gradually moves more quickly, quickly, quickly, then ends with the last clause slowly ... Ready? Read:
A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.
Not laughing yet? Then, I’m sorry to say, I really don’t think there’s anything I can do for you!
Finally, I would choose one book for the sheer pleasure of its power to help me to “get away.” Specifically, I would choose Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule. Then, whenever I needed to escape (assuming that being stranded on a desert island wouldn’t be enough of an escape for me), I could journey through its pages once more…
How about you? What books would you take? Oh please, do share!
We Quills are back this month with what has quickly become my favorite type of post. That is, we selected a single picture for which each of us has spun his or her own flash fiction tale. This time around, I got to select the inspirational image. It is entitled, A Quiet Man, and is by PeteMohrbacher, found here, on DeviantARt. What do you think?
There are so many ways this could go that I cannot wait to see what my fellow Quills have for us. But for starters, I present to you (at exactly 1000 words, inclusive of the title!) ...