The first time I ate coconut was in New Hampshire. Stores had packets and packets of it, shredded for baking pies. Every day the temperature barely stretched above ten. “Eat this; think of palm trees,” you said and passed me the bag of sweet white flakes. Frost-bitten, cavity-ridden, I never went back again.
"…with that extraordinary gift, that woman’s gift, of making a world of her own wherever she happened to be. She came into a room; she stood, as he had often seen her, in a doorway with lots of people round her. But it was Clarissa one remembered. Not that she was striking; not beautiful at all; there was nothing picturesque about her; she never said anything specially clever; there she was, however; there she was."
—Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
"Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth."
"Life here is in that nasty, fickle stage between winter and spring, and I have written several very good poems which I think you will like."
— Sylvia Plath, letter to her mother of February 11, 1955
"There’s more to life than books you know – but not much more."
Dictionaries Lie. Look at one and you get the impression that words line up like English school children, alphabetically, well-behaved, not one of them cracking gum or catcalling. But words aren’t so orderly. Like wolves, they roam in packs; like hermits, they sequester themselves; like old tires, they roll through the language and land in places you’d never expect. And writing means working with words, not as Webster’s would have them, but as they are: unwieldy, fecund, alive.
-Eric LeMay from “Word Hoards”
"The old American question: what do you want—blood?”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth
"I don’t read fiction or poetry to learn; nonetheless, it often happens as though by implication. Teaching us is one of literature’s afterthoughts; it is fiction’s bored sigh. Thus I have learned, or half-learned, that love is often just one way of putting something much more complex, and that, in turn, language is revenge on easy or false or lazy feeling. Often in fiction, people make choices in love that are very foolish; the drama comes from this. But there are times when words don’t matter, and books even less, and these are maybe the best times, such as when you turn in the night and find that someone you — what is the word? — love? desire? feel warm with? turns with you by a mixture of pure magic and sweet will, and then you both fall into a lovely literatureless sleep."
"Literature teaches us to understand, in the most intimate way, the experiences and interior lives of others — which, of course, reveals us to ourselves."
— Natasha Trethewey, New York Times Sunday Book Review