Wednesday, October 22, 2008

you said it

There's a new book of quotations out. A teaser in the Telegraph (UK) gives a somewhat satisfactory excuse for yet another book in this genre. The author says: "It's all I can do to peruse the side of a packet of breakfast cereal without distraction from radio, television or phone. I have no doubt you are in the same case. You would dearly like to suck intellectual and metaphysical juice from the fruity flesh of the world's best thinkers and writers but the treetops are all out of reach and it would be too much of a fag to go and fetch a ladder. If only someone would pick, pulp and squeeze that fruit for you." The book is Advanced Banter, compiled, it appears from a Telegraph column called Quote Interesting. I've selected from the teaser's selections below. Culling them, I couldn't help feeling that pithy quotes can make you queasy when ingested in any quantity. I generally get the same feeling on reading bunches of literary anecdotes.

As for example, doing some searching on Samuel Beckett's country cottage and Paris apartments I found a page of reminiscences by one of the man's publishers. He explains how he came to meet Beckett for the first time, how they hit it off pretty well, and how they'd generally have a meal together when the publisher's business brought him to Paris. They developed a routine: "We nearly always had dinner alone together and went on to cafes, continuing to talk, but also playing chess, ping-pong and sometimes billiards. Sam was a better player than myself at nearly everything, but occasionally when be had had more to drink than I had, I might win a game." This statement leads to an anecdote that came back to me on reading the extracts from the quote book: "One evening in 1961 when we met, the newspapers were full of Hemingway’s suicide and we never got off the topic. We agreed that suicide was the best way to die, but Sam’s problem was how not to leave a mess for others to clean up, while mine was how to do it quickly and painlessly." This one little insight proved to be enough and I've not read the rest of the brief memoir in which it appears.*
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Here are a few quotes from the book:

There is no generally accepted definition of life.

Life is a sexually transmitted terminal disease.
LEWIS GRIZZARD (1946-94) The original "grumpy old man" and one of the South's most popular columnists and comedians. His personal life was messy: four wives, a congenital heart defect and a battle with alcoholism. He was once voted "the Author from Hell" by a publishers' conference because of his bad behaviour on tour.

We are born. We eat sweet potatoes. Then we die.


It's hard for me to get used to these changing times. I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty.

Parents & Children

If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them as you think you should and half the amount of money.

Before I got married, I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.
JOHN WILMOT, EARL OF ROCHESTER There are only records of Rochester having five children: Anne, Charles, Elizabeth and Mallet by his wife Anne; and a girl by his mistress Elizabeth Barry. Despite succumbing to pox and alcoholism at 33, he seems to have been a popular and attentive father.

Cats & Dogs

Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a function.

Food & Drink

Ever wonder about those people who spend $2 apiece on those little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backward.

Actually, it only takes one drink to get me loaded. Trouble is, I can't remember if it's the 13th or 14th.

He was a bold man who first swallowed an oyster

House & Garden

Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing.

To the makying of bookes of gardenyng there is noe ende.
THOMAS HYLL From 'The Profitable Arte of Gardening' in 1563, the first gardening book published in English.


I have heard with admiring submission the experience of the lady who declared that the sense of being well-dressed gives a feeling of inward tranquillity which religion is powerless to bestow.

Once you can accept the universe as being something expanding into an infinite nothing which is something, wearing stripes with plaid is easy.

*Though I did locate the reference to Beckett's country cottage: "Henri and Josette Hayden had shared Sam Beckett’s wartime experiences, hiding with him and Suzanne, his resistance partner, who only married him in the sixties, and later they were living not very far from him his little house in the ‘Marne mud’, as he liked to put it, near Ussy-sur-Marne where he did most of his writing during the sixties and later."

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