Friday, January 18, 2008

A Smattering of Quotes

"When I was a student, I had two ideas about history, and one of them was that history was about dead men who had done dull things. History was dates and governments and laws and war and money - and dead men. Always dead men.

But I also read historical novels. And I adored them. People in historical novels loved, fought, and struggled to survive. They died violently; they were beset with invaders and famine and plague. They wore splendid clothes or picturesque rags. They performed miracles of courage and strength just to get something to eat. It was from novels that I learned that history was the story of survival: even something that sounded boring, like crop rotation or inheritance law, might be a matter of life and death to a hungry peasant. Novels taught me that history is dramatic. I wanted my students to know that, too."

--Laura Amy Schlitz, from the foreword to her 2008 Newberry Award-winning book Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!


"... And because in all other monasteries and nunneries all is composed, limited, and regulated by hours, it was decreed that in this new structure there should be neither clock nor dial, but that according to the opportunities and incident occasions, all their hours should be disposed of; for, said Gargantua, the greatest loss of time that I know, is to count the hours. What good comes of it? Nor can there be any greater dotage in the world than for one to guide and direct his courses by the sound of a bell, and not by his own judgment and discretion."

--Rabelais, in Gargantua and Pantagruel


"There’s no reason to think that reading and writing are about to become extinct, but some sociologists speculate that reading books for pleasure will one day be the province of a special 'reading class,' much as it was before the arrival of mass literacy, in the second half of the 19th century. They warn that it probably won’t regain the prestige of exclusivity; it may just become 'an increasingly arcane hobby.' Such a shift would change the texture of society. If one person decides to watch 'The Sopranos' rather than to read Leonardo Sciascia’s novella To Each His Own, the culture goes on largely as before — both viewer and reader are entertaining themselves while learning something about the Mafia in the bargain. But if, over time, many people choose television over books, then a nation’s conversation with itself is likely to change. A reader learns about the world and imagines it differently from the way a viewer does; according to some experimental psychologists, a reader and a viewer even think differently. If the eclipse of reading continues, the alteration is likely to matter in ways that aren’t foreseeable."

--From "Twilight of the Books," New Yorker, December 24, 2007


"It has often been said there's so much to be read,
you never can cram all those words in your head.
So the writer who breeds more words than he needs
is making a chore for the reader who reads.
That's why my belief is the briefer the brief is,
the greater the sigh of the reader's relief is."

--Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Seuss Geisel

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