Commonplace Book

This photo of an actual 17th-century commonplace book comes from the James Marshall and Marie Louise Osborn Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

This photo of an actual 17th-century commonplace book comes from the James Marshall and Marie Louise Osborn Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

A commonplace book is a place where people would jot down quotes or information that they figured would be useful to them later. For me, this a collection of quotes I like. Some of them are popular and will be found elsewhere on the WWW, others are rather obscure – plucked from a book with crumbling pages, or otherwise divined elsewhere. By elsewhere, I could mean from the dreams of hummingbirds, or the mouth of a friend. Each quote is followed by its provenance, at least as well as I could gather. Time-permitting and where welcome, I will link to further information about author or quote. For books, occasionally page numbers are listed without editions – sorry – when I wrote these down it was not for the purpose of citing them later in full. For this reason, they are not organized in any special scheme, except in the order I got them down. Enjoy the quotes.

“Who peyntede the leon, tel me who?”
Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales (Wife of Bath’s Prologue L.692)

“An author, unfortunately, can never experience the sensation of reading his own work as though it were a book he had never read. Yet with each new work that expectation is prompting me.”
Thornton Wilder, Playwrights at Work

“Hemingway’s last years were a nightmare. He tried to walk into the propeller of a plane.”
Tennessee Williams, Playwrights at Work

“Wrong things..when people don’t do things the right way”
– Dr. Alfred Zucker (esteemed English Professor at LAVC)

“If I could be one thing in the world, I would be a tear born in your eyes, living on your cheek, and dying on your lips.”
– ?

“And so the flower of Eden has bloomed…”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne, House of Seven Gables (Ch. 20)

“Caresses, expressions of one sort or another, are necessary to the life of affections, as leaves are to the life of a tree. If they are wholly restrained, love will die at the roots.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne, American Note-Books (1853)

“What are the haughtiest of us but ephemeral aristocrats of a summer’s day?”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Toll Gatherer’s Day (from Twice-Told Tales)

“Had it not been for this accident of biology, an accommodation requiring the locking together of two separate parts, penis into vagina, there would be neither copulation nor rape as we know it.”
– Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will

“Man’s discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to prehistoric times, along with the use of fire and the first crude stone axe.”
– Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will

“What sound does one hand clapping make?”
– ?, (Japanese Zen Koan)

“Fighting conformity will only leave you a conformist amongst a group of non-conformists just like yourself.”
– ?

“One who knows does not speak; one who speaks does not know.”
– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (LVI:128)

“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
– James Dean

“Evil will always triumph, because Good is dumb.”
– Lord Helmet, Spaceballs

“A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.”
– Oscar Wilde

“I’m sorry, I can’t study in apartments.”
– E-Diddy

“Simplicity is beautiful.”
– Chuck Johnson (math professor at LAVC who taught in a way exactly opposite.)

“To the world you are but one person, but to one person you could be the world”
– John Saxman or Josephine Billings

“Girls only want one thing…that’s your mans milk…and if they realize you are in the palm of their hands….that’s when they take your manhood.”
– Boogie Two Shoes (WWA, a wrestling “fed” I was part of in my teens)

“Moral Indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity.”
– Marshall McLuhan (according to this site: quoted by Philip Marchand, MM’s biographer, in Marshall McLuhan: The Medium And the Messenger)

“Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable, than risk being happy.”
– Robert Anthony(?)

“The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”
Alexander Chalmers(?)

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”
– Oscar Wilde

“…no matter where you go, there you are.”
Buckaroo Banzai

“A man in hue, all hues in his controlling”
– Bill Shakespeare (Sonnet 20)

“I won’t kill myself. I’m one of my favorite people.”
– Charles Barkley

“I have never been a material girl. My father always told me never to love anything that cannot love you back.”
Imelda Marcos

“The universe is transformation; our life is what our thoughts make it.”
– Marcus Aurelius

“A reporter interviewing A.J. Muste, who during the Vietnam War stood in front of the White House night after night with a candle, one rainy night asked,’Mr. Muste, do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night with a candle?’ Muste replied, ‘Oh, I don’t do it to change the country, I do it so the country won’t change me.’ ”
– Andrea Ayvazian

“If you do not change the direction in which you are going, you will end up where you are headed.”
– Confucius

“Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.”
– Confucius

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”
William Edwards Deming

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

“Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”
– Frank Herbert

“The more things change, the more they remain…insane.”
– Michael Fry and T. Lewis, Over the Hedge (05-09-04)

“Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.”
– Benjamin Disraeli

“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
– Benjamin Franklin

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
– George Bernard Shaw

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
Henri Bergson

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
sixx john / Peter F. Drucker

“The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created–created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them, changes both the maker and the destination.”
John Schaar

“Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable you will never be able to truly change at all, because you’ll be forever in the control of things you can’t give up.”
Andy Law

“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
– John F. Kennedy

“Life is a process of becoming, a of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”
– Anaïs Nin

“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
– Andy Warhol

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
– Leo Tolstoy

“If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it You just do it one step at a time.”
Marian Wright Edelman

“If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.”
– ?

“Some people change when they see the light, others when they feel the heat.”
– Caroline Schoeder(?)

“The greatest revolution in our generation is that of human beings, who by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”
Marilyn Ferguson

“Costumes change, but the same undersea opera plays on…”
– Jacques-Yves Cousteau (from Amazon river exploration video)

“To change one’s life: 1. Starte immediately, 2. Do it flamboyantly, 3. No exceptions.”
– William James

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
– Mark Twain

“Paris had become a forest of guillotines…”
– from ENG 206 class I took at LAVC with Rod Moore, re: French Revolution.

“Proust, better for you than drugs.”
– Jean Stearns, LAVC English Professor.

“We all suffer from the preoccupation that there exists … in the loved one, perfection.”
– Sidney Poitier

“It’s so simple to be wise. Just think of something stupid to say and then don’t say it.”
Sam Levenson

“No one has a finer command of language than the person who keeps his mouth shut.”
Sam Rayburn

“You never saw a fish on the wall with its mouth shut.”
– Sally Berger(?)

“A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.”
Rachel Naomi Remen

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

“Silence is the true friend that never betrays.”
– Confucius

“Experience teaches us that silence terrifies people the most.”
– Bob Dylan

“Speech is great; but silence is greater.”
– Thomas Carlyle

“If A equals success, then the formula is: A = X + Y + Z, X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut.”
– John Dryden

“Silence is argument carried out by other means.”
Richard Flecknoe

“Sometimes silence is not golden–just yellow.”
– ?

“What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.”
Richard Bach

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
– Mark Twain

“We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us…perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.”
Rainer Maria Rilke (from Letters to a Young Poet, letter 8).

“In the silence, our stage whisper might carry…”
– Ray Bradbury (from Fahrenheit 451).

“The edged steel by careless chance
Did into his own ankle glance;
And there among the grass fell down,
By his own scythe, the Mower mown.”
– Andrew Marvell (Damon the Mower, 77-80).

“Only for him no cure is found,
Whom Juliana’s eyes do wound.
‘Tis death alone that this must do:
For Death, thou art a Mower too.’ ”
– Andrew Marvell (Damon the Mower, 85-88).

“When Juliana came, and she,
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.”
– Andrew Marvell (Damon the Mower, refrain).

“He that hath left life’s vain joys and vain care
And truly hates to be detained on earth,
Hath got an house where many mansions are
And keeps his soul unto eternal mirth

But though thus dead unto the world and ceased
From sin, he walks a narrow, private way;
Yet grief and old wounds make him sore displeased,
And all his life a rainy, weeping day.”
– Henry Vaughan (The Timber, 29-36).

“My thoughts are all a case of knives.”
George Herbert (Affliction [IV])

“There is no way to be truly great in this world. We are all impaled on the crook of conditioning. A fish that is in the water has no choice that he is. Genius would have it that we swim in sand. We are fish and we drown.”
-James Dean

“We ape, we mimic, we mock. We act.”
– Laurence Olivier

“Living is strife and torment, disappointment and love and sacrifice, golden sunsets and black storms. I said that some time ago, and today I do not think I would add one word.”
– Laurence Olivier

“A career is wonderful thing, but you can’t snuggle up to it on a cold night.”
– Marilyn Monroe

“Shepherds are honest people, let them sing.”
-George Herbert (Jordon [I]).

“Surely a people who made no complaints could not be very much oppressed…”
– Charles W. Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition (re: thoughts of northern visitor about Southern Blacks at the turn-of-the-century).

“…the continuity of life, how inseperably the present is woven with the past, how certainly the future will be but the outcome of the present.”
– Charles W. Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition (Dr. Miller’s realization at hearing the story of Josh Green’s mother).

“This is the age of crowds, and we must have the crowd with us.”
– Charles W. Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition (General Belmont strategizing for the pro-white movement).

“You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by; but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.”
– J.M. Barrie

“You rarely have time for everything you want in life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”
– Fred Rogers

“I’ve often hesitated in beginning a project because I’ve thought, ‘It’ll never turn out to be even remotely like the good idea I have as I start.’ I could just ‘feel’ how good it could be. but I decided that, for the present, I would create the best way I know how and accept the ambiguities.”
– Fred Rogers

“Be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart, and learn to love the questions themselves.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

“Where you used to be there is a hole in the world which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling into at night. I miss you like hell.”
Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.”
Pablo Neruda, from Tonight I Can Write…

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official…”
– Theodore Roosevelt

“…as a librarian, you can be a catalyst and lead from the center, you can be a weaver…”
– from The Shifted Librarian blog (notes on a lecture by Joyce Valenza).

“Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary. Love put into action is a compelling and attractive worldview.”
– St. Francis

“…And the body was more than what is visible in a mirror; the most valuable part was inside. That’s why references to the body’s organs and functions became a favorite part of her vocabulary. If she wanted to express that her lover had driven her to desperation the night before, she would say, “The moment he left I had to throw up.” Even though she often talked of vomiting, Agnes wasn’t sure whether her sister had ever actually done so. Vomiting was not Laura’s truth but her poetry: a metaphor, a lyrical image of pain and disgust.”
– Milan Kundera, from Immortality.

“I look out the window: spring is coming.
I look out the window: spring is here.
The shuffle and click of the slide projector
Changing slides takes longer.

I like the dandelion –
How it sticks to the business of briefly being.
Shuffle and click; shuffle and click –
Life, more life, more life.”
Frederick Seidel, (To Robert Lowell and Osip Mandelstam).

“I have tattooed forgive on the insides of my eyelids,
so when I blink I can be reminded that God doesn’t make mistakes…”
In-Q, (God Doesn’t Make Mistakes).

“If you admire somebody, go ahead tell ’em
people never get the flowers, while they could still smell em’…”
– Kanye West, Big Brother.

“A flower unplucked is but left to the falling,
And nothing is gained by not gathering roses.”
– Robert Frost, (Asking for Roses, 19-20).

“Let the old flesh char
and the ashes fly
to a land afar
where the dead have died.
What’s left is you
in real life.”
Jaime Alberto Castillo Verduzco, (Response to “A Poem for…” pt. II).

“…if I’m anything by a clinical name, I’m a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.”
– J.D. Salinger, from Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.

“I guess it can’t be too often that two people can laugh and make love, too, make love because they are laughing, laugh because they’re making love. The love and the laughter come from the same place: but not many people go there.”
– James Baldwin, from If Beale Street Could Talk.

“It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information.”
– Oscar Wilde

“…My life has been a series of opening doors into wonderful new rooms–wonder not without fear, pain and sorrow and always with the voice of the Lord, reminding me that nothing is free and must be paid for by service to others in the realization of one’s birthright gifts.”
Lawrence Clark Powell

“…human thought–and its close relatives, problem solving and planning–seem more rooted in past experience than in logical deduction. Mental life is not neat and orderly. It does not proceed smoothly and gracefully in neat, logical form. Instead, it hops, skips, and jumps its way from idea to idea, tying together things that have no business being put together; forming new creative leaps, new insights and concepts. Human thought is not like logic; it is fundamentally different in kind and in spirit. The difference is neither worse nor better. But it is the difference that leads to creative discovery and to great robustness of behavior. ”
Donald A. Norman, from The Design of Everyday Things (115).

“I have been asked how I managed to read and write so much, in addition to administration, teaching, travel, and speaking. My answer was always the same: eliminate nonessentials and gain free hours. Each must decide what for him are the nonessentials. And the second part of my answer: marry a woman of character who will adapt, protect, and nourish with unstinting loyalty and love.”
Lawrence Clark Powell, from Fortune and Friendship (178).

“Am I happy? Happiness is a mediocre standard for a middle-class existence…”
Saul Williams (Untimely Meditations).

“It is only our Western societies that quite recently turned man into an economic animal. But we are not yet all animals of the same species. In both lower and upper classes pure irrational expenditure is in current practice: it is still a characteristic of some French noble houses. Homo oeconomicus is not behind us, but before, like the moral man, the man of duty, the scientific man and the reasonable man. For a long time man was something quite different; and it is not so long since he became a machine — a calculating machine.”
Marcel Mauss, from The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies (74, translated by Ian Cunnison).

“The mere pursuit of individual ends is harmful to the ends and peace of the whole, to the rhythm of its work and pleasures, and hence in the end to the individual.”
Marcel Mauss, from The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies (75, translated by Ian Cunnison).

“These phenomena are at once legal, economic, religious, aesthetic, morphological and so on. They are legal in that they concern individual and collective rights, organized and diffuse morality; they may be entirely obligatory, or subject simply to praise or disapproval. They are at once political and domestic, being of interest both to classes and to clans and families. They are religious; the concern true religion, animism, magic and diffuse religious mentality. They are economic, for the notions of value, utility, interest, luxury, wealth, acquisition, accumulation, consumption and liberal and sumptuous expenditure are all present, although not perhaps in their modern senses.”
Marcel Mauss, from The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies (76-77, translated by Ian Cunnison, re: on the concept of Total Social Fact).

“Please, please stop referring to yourselves as consumers. Okay, consumers are different than citizens; consumers do not have obligations, responsibilities and duties to their fellow human beings, and as long as you’re using that word, consumer, in the public discussion, you will be degrading the quality of the discussion we are having and we are going to continue being clueless going into this very difficult future that we face.”
James Howard Kunstler, from his Feb 2004 TED Conference talk.

“You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
Zig Ziglar

“Your freedom ain’t so free, it’s just loose
But the power of your voice could redirect any truth
Shift and shape the world you want
And keep your fears in a noose
Let them dangle from a banner star spangled
I’m willing and able
To lift my dreams up out of their cradle
Nurse and nurture my ideals
‘Til they’re much more than a fable”
Saul Williams, (Act III Scene 2(Shakespeare)).

“The fact is, the Web isn’t all that impressive as an information resource. The static, publicly accesible HTML text on the Web is roughly equivalent in size to 1.5 million books. The UC Berkeley Library has 8 million volumes, and the average quality of Berkeley library content is much, much higher!”
Hal R. Varian and Carl Shapiro, from Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy (8).


“Commentators marvel at the amount of free information on the internet, but it’s not so surprising to an economist. The generic information available on the Net – information commodities such as phone numbers, news stories, stock prices, maps, and directories – are simply selling at marginal cost: zero.”
Hal R. Varian and Carl Shapiro, from Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy (24).

“Items that are read only occasionally are often accessed via libraries: more than 70 percent of public library circulation is fiction, a figure that has remained constant for 200 years or more.”
Hal R. Varian and Carl Shapiro, from Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy (49).

“She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power”
Adrienne Rich, (Power(re: Marie Curie)).

“Art, including juvenile literature, has the power to make any spot the living center of the universe…”
– William Steig, from his Caldecott Award Acceptance Speech.

“I don’t spit / I send words on field trips…”
Skillz, F.P. (Design of the Decade: 90s)

“critics say I’m over their head when I bless it / well it’s over your head, nigga, jump up and catch it”
Skillz, F.E.A (Design of the Decade: 90s)

“…The concept of totality exists in theory, but never in life. In even the best-built wall there is always a chink (or we hope there is, and that means something). Even when we have the feeling that nothing works anymore, something works and makes a minimal existence possible. Even if there’s an ocean of evil around us, green and fertile islets will poke above the water. They can be seen, they are on the horizon, Even the worst situations in which we find ourselves breaks down into elements that include something for us to grab hold of, like the branch of a bush that grows on the bank, to avoid being sucked to the bottom by the whirlpool. That chink, that island, that branch sustain us on the surface of existence.”
Ryszard Kapuściński, from Another Day of Life (translated from Polish by William R. Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand, 81).

“When they left the rock or tree or sand dune that had sheltered them for the night, the Navajo was careful to obliterate every trace of their temporary occupation. He buried the embers of the fire and the remnants of food, unpiled any stones he had piled together, filled up the holes he had scooped in the sand…just as it was the white man’s way to assert himself in any landscape, to change it, make it over a little(at least to leave some mark of memorial of his sojourn), it was the Indian’s way to pass through a country without disturbing anything; to pass and leave no trace, like fish through water, or birds through air…
…their conception of decoration did not extend to the landscape. They seemed to have none of the European’s desire to “master” nature, to arrange and re-create. They spent their ingenuity in the other direction; in accommodating themselves to the scene in which they found themselves.”
– Willa Cather, from Death Comes for the Archbishop.

“Love is for the birds. They have wings to fly away on when it’s time for flying. For the tigers in the jungle because they don’t know their end. We know our end. Every night I watch over poor, dying men. I hear them breathing, crying, talking in their sleep. Crying for the air, and water, and love, for mother and field and sunlight. We can never know love or greatness. We should know both.”
– William Saroyan, from The Time of Your Life (Elsie speaking).

“Ah well, that is a missionary’s life; to plant where another shall reap.”
– Willa Cather, from Death Comes for the Archbishop.

“God’s veil over things makes them all riddles”
– Saul Bellow, from Herzog (80).

“But can thought wake you from a dream of existence? Not if it becomes a second realm of confusion, another more complicated dream, the dream of intellect, the delusion of total explanations.”
– Saul Bellow, from Herzog (182).

“I love you both. I yield to that entirely as well as everything else and even the knowledge that I may be punished. And when I am punished, I shall dread it, and suffer it and understand it and accept it. Beauty, when you accept you will flower in the pain, you will flower in your suffering.”
– Anne Rice, from Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (172, Prince Alexi talking to Beauty).

“…I am preparing to die a few leagues from the hexagon in which I was born. Once dead, there will not lack pious hands to hurl me over the banister; my sepulchre shall be the unfathomable air: my body will sink lengthily and will corrupt and dissolve in the wind engendered by the fall, which is infinite.”
– Jorge Louis Borges, from The Library of Babel (translated by Anthony Kerrigan).

“Citizenship by proxy is an oxymoron.”
– Robert D. Putnam, from Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (160).

“To study is to uncover; it is to gain a more exact comprehension of an object; it is to realize its relationships to other objects. This implies a requirement for risk taking and venturing on the part of a student, the subject of learning, for without that they do not create or re-create.”
Paulo Freire, from Teachers as Cultural Workers: Letters to Those Who Dare to Teach (translated by Donaldo Macedo, Dale Koike, and Alexandre Oliveira, 21).

“To achieve critical consciousness of the facts that it is necessary to be the ‘owner of one’s own labor,’ that labor ‘constitutes part of the human person,’ and that ‘a human being can neither be sold nor can sell himself’ is to go a step beyond the deception of palliative solutions. It is to engage in authentic transformation of reality in order, by humanizing that reality, to humanize women and men”
Paulo Freire, from Pedagogy of the Oppressed (164).

“It’s not pleasant to use—because it happens on computer screens—but it is a far-reaching revolution in thinking. The transition from the idea of text as a line to the idea of text as a web is just about as big a change of consciousness as we are capable of. I can imagine the hypertext consciousness spreading to things we take in, not only things we read. I am very keen on this unfinished idea because it co-opts things like screen savers and games and models and even archives, which are basically unfinished pieces of work. ”
Brian Eno, from a Wired Interview, re: hypertext.

“To be a Jew is to hold one’s soul clean and open the stream of endless striving so that God may not be ashamed of His creation. Judaism is not a quality of the soul but a spiritual life. With souls we are born; spirit we must acquire.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, from The Earth Is the Lord’s (108).

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably in themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die.”
Daniel Hudson Burnham

“The bent bowstring straining at our throats
releases and becomes the arrow!”
– Rumi, from “A Green-Winged Longing” (version by Coleman Barks, translated by John Moyne, via this site).

“My work is far reaching and never finished.”
– Khadijah Williams, from this Los Angeles Times article.

“But what is the role of metre if it is this semi-abstract sort of thing, not a comprehensive formula for the actual movement of spoken verse? Its role is to provide a fixed scheme across which the endless variety of stress-fluctuations can play as one line succeeds another. Our experience of a line of verse is therefore not a single and simple thing but essentially dual: comprising a simultaneous recognition on the one hand of a constant metrical pattern (with its occasional variations by substitution of feet), and on the other of the actual stress-profile of the line as natural speech would require. These two experiences are mated, they are coherent; they are not radically distinct since metre is rooted in stress. But they are not identical, and a true feeling for verse depends on appreciating the difference.”
– James McAuley, from Versification: A Short Introduction (30-31).

“Contrast, but not contradiction; freedom within order; variety within uniformity; tension and flexibility; the unexpected that nevertheless fulfills the pattern it seems to be overriding; the heightened noticeability of each syllable because its actual behavior is upon a basis of regular expectation; the reconciling of the natural and the artificial in the dance of language; the sensitive response to logical and emotional nuance – these are the reasons that have made accentual-syllabic verse one of the great inventions of Western culture, and have enabled its usefulness to endure over many centuries.”
– James McAuley, from Versification: A Short Introduction (33).

“If death meant leaving stage long enough to change costume &come back as a new character,would you slow down or speed up?”
– Chuck Palahniuk

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”
– Leonard Cohen

“Passion doesn’t count the cost. Pascal said that the heart has its reasons that reason takes no account of. If he meant what I think, he meant that when passion seizes the heart it invents reasons that seem not only plausible but conclusive to prove that the world is well lost for love.”
– W. Somerset Maugham, from The Razor’s Edge (narrator speaking).

“And that — that brings me to the second mode of civil disobedience. There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus — and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all!!”
Mario Savio, from the Sit-in Address on the Steps of Sproul Hall, or the “Bodies upon the gears” speech (1964).

“Patiently pleasures I shunned till they shunned me.
I made my soul forsake them; steadfast she stood.
The soul’s for man to make her as he would:
If fed, she seeks more; else, resigned she’ll be.
Mine was an arrogant soul; but when she knew
Me resolute for humbleness, humble she grew.”
– Abu’l-Abbas al-Qasim al-Sayyari, from Sufi Poems: A Mediaeval Anthology (compiled and translated by Martin Lings).

“Only do not stand there, sighing,
And please, do not hang your head.
But rather think of me lightly
And afterward, simply, forget.”
– Marina Tsvetaeva, from the poem “Идешь, на меня похожий” (translated by Andrey Kneller, with a small change by me)

“This is how it works for me: I sit down in the morning and reread the work I did the day before. And then I wool-gather, staring at the blank page or off into space. I imagine my characters, and let myself daydream about them. A movie begins to play in my head, with emotion pulsing underneath it, and I stare at it in a trancelike, until words bounce around and form a sentence. Then I do the menial work of getting it down on paper, because I’m the designated typist, and I’m also the person whose job it is to hold the lantern while the kid does the digging. What is the kid digging for? The stuff. Details and clues and images, invention, fresh ideas, an intuitive understanding of people. I tell you, the holder of the lantern doesn’t even know what the kid is digging for half the time — but she knows gold when she sees it.”
– Anne Lamott, from bird by bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (pg.56).

“I am sure that we will recognize that there are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted. There are some things concerning which we must always be maladjusted if we are to be people of good will. We must never adjust ourselves to racial discrimination and racial segregation. We must never adjust ourselves to religious bigotry. We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. We must never adjust ourselves to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.”
– Martin Luther King Jr. from a speech to the American Psychological Association (APA) on September 1, 1967

“He passed out with her among all the idle people that were assembled there; they were all looking at her very hard; she had begun to chatter as soon as she joined him.”
– Henry James, from Daisy Miller: A Study

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
– Anatole France

“Many schools have entirely given up the task of character education, setting a great number of American children adrift without direction. Under the current laissez-faire policy, our schools are harboring a great many inadequately socialized children. But leaving children to discover their own values is a little like putting them in a chemistry lab full of volatile substances and saying, “Discover your own compounds, kids.” We should not be surprised when some blow themselves up and destroy those around them.”
– Christina Hoff Summers “The War Against Boys…” (200).

The avant-garde is, by its nature, a timeless phrase. It literally means “advanced guard” in French: the first soldiers in any fight, whether military, political, or cultural. So it can hardly apply to any one historical era; every era has its avant-garde, which in most cases morphs in to the “status quo” as the rest of us catch up, and eventually becomes “old hat.” In the 1870s, for instance, the art establishment thought of the paintings of Monet and Renoir as reckless and maybe even dangerous; later events showed their work, in retrospect, to be avant-garde; and today their imagery, on umbrellas and note cards, soothes the masses. In modern political theory, the fledgeling United States achieved “avant-garde” status by establishing a form of government based on each citizen having an equal vote; today, that concept strikes so few people as novel that half the populace ignores it entirely.”
– Tesser, Neil. “The Avant-Garde” (Coltrane, Cherry) re-issue album liner notes.

“People appear to be under the fixed impression that one speaks or writes of these things in order to improve them or do them some good, assuming, too, that the speaker has himself been improved and is able to speak with authority. In other words, the philosopher is forced into the role of preacher, and is in turn expected to practice what he preaches. Thereupon the truth of what he says is tested by his character and his morals – whether he shows anxiety or not, whether he depends upon ‘material crutches’ such as wine or tobacco, whether he has stomach ulcers or likes money, whether he loses his temper, or gets depressed, or falls in love when he shouldn’t, or sometimes looks a bit tired and frayed at the edges. All these criteria might be valid if the philosopher were preaching freedom from being human, or if he were trying to make himself and others radically better.”
– Alan Watts, from his essay “This Is IT” from the collection of the same name (31).

“As I understand it, the work of the philosopher as artist is to reveal and celebrate the eternal and purposeless background of human life.”
– Alan Watts, from his essay “This Is IT” from the collection of the same name (33).

“…the perception of the empty threat of the death’s head was certainly a recognition of the fact that the fear of death, as distinct from the fear of dying, is on of the most baseless mirages that trouble us. Because it is completely impossible to imagine one’s own personal absence, we fill the void in our minds with images of being buried alive in perpetual darkness. If death is the simple termination of a stream of consciousness, it is certainly nothing to fear.”
– Alan Watts, from his essay “The New Alchemy” from the collection This Is It and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience (149).

“Whether we are traditionalists about libraries or not, and I consider myself not, we ought to be able to accept that libraries are very important pieces of machinery for delivering to human beings what they need – information, pleasure, instruction, enlightenment, new direction in life. They’re also joining up with services which help people with difficulty reading, and working with people learning English – to put all that in danger is exactly the wrong thing to do…”
– Andrew Motion, as quoted in Alison Flood’s June 11th, 2010 article in the Guardian “Andrew Motion attacks ‘catastrophic’ plan for volunteers to run libraries.”

“The most efficient way to do library research is to match your retrieval technique to the library’s storage technique, for in this way you will be exploiting the internal structure of the system.”
– Thomas Mann, The Oxford Guide to Library Research (3rd Ed.) (61).

“…reading, once begun, quickly becomes home and circle and court and family; and indeed, without narrative, I felt exiled from my own country. By the transport of books, that which is most foreign becomes one’s familiar walks and avenues; while that which is most familiar is removed to delightful strangeness; and unmoving, one travels infinite causeways; immobile and thus unfettered.”
– M.T. Anderson, from The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Part 1 (143, Octavian talking).

“Darling, I call that the perverse effect. Those things that you hate for so long are insidiously working on you until one day you can’t resist them anymore. They turn into favorites. It just takes a while to sort out the complications in them. Those artworks that come all ready to love empty out pretty quickly. It’s why outsiders hate the art we love; they haven’t spent time with it. You and I see things again and again whether we want to or not. We see them in galleries, we see them in homes, we see them in the magazines, they come up at auction. Outsiders see it once, or hear about it after it’s been reduced to an insult: ‘It’s a bunch of squiggles that my kid could do.’ I would like to see a kid who could paint a Jackson Pollack. In a half a second, any pro could tell the difference. People want to think Pollack’s not struggling, that he’s kidding. He’s not kidding. You want to know how I think art should be taught to children? Take them to a museum and say, ‘This is art, and you can’t do it.’ ”
– Steve Martin, from An Object of Beauty (148-9, Patrice Claire talking).

“Writers write, and they write, and they go on writing, in some cases long after wisdom and even common sense have told them to quit. There are always plenty of reasons — good, compelling reasons, too — for quitting, or for not writing very much or very seriously. (Writing is trouble, make no mistake, for everyone involved, and who needs trouble?) But once in a great while lightning strikes, and occasionally it strike early in the writer’s life. Sometimes it comes later, after years of work. And sometimes, most often, of course, it never happens at all. Strangely, it seems, it may hit people whose work you can’t abide, an event that, when it occurs, causes you to feel there’s no justice whatsoever in the world. (There isn’t, more often than not.) It may hit the man or woman who is or was your friend, the one who drank too much, or not at all, who went off with someone’s wife, or husband, or sister, after a party you attended together. The young writer who sat in the back of the class and never had anything to say about anything. The dunce, you thought. The writer who couldn’t, not in one’s wildest imaginings, make anyone’s list of top ten possibilities. It happens sometimes. The dark horse. It happens, lightning, or it doesn’t happen. (Naturally, it’s more fun when it does happen.) But it will never, never happen to those who don’t work hard at it and who don’t consider the act of writing as very nearly the most important thing in their lives, right up there next to breath, and food, and shelter, and love, and God.”
– Raymond Carver, from Call If You Need me (pgs. 217-218, from the section “All My Relations”).

“To be inquiring without being nosy is a fine art. How absurd to proclaim librarianship a science! It an artful craft, a crafty art to be practiced with a trinity of talents: hands, head, and heart.”
– Lawrence Clark Powell (from his essay, “What’s Wrong with Librarians?”).

“The public expects two things of a librarian: that he be bookish and that he be cordial. Call me simple if you will, but I believe that any worker in a library, regardless of rank, who is not both bookish and cordial is in the wrong work. And by “bookish,” I mean informed about the contents of whatever library he works in.”
– Lawrence Clark Powell (from his essay, “What’s Wrong with Librarians?”).

“I know: the devil can cite Jefferson. Anyone can cull through the papers of the Founding Fathers in order to find quotations in support of a cause.”
– Robert Darnton, from his essay “A Library Without Walls.”

“…She remembered one who had for a time been her lover and who in the moment of his passion had cried out to her more than a hundred times, saying the same words madly over and over: ‘You dear! You dear! You lovely dear!’ The words she though expressed something she would have liked to have achieved in life.”
– Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio (from the story “Death,” she being Elizabeth Willard).

“Several years ago when we lived in Bend, the pastor of the church we attended and his wife Kathy had a teenage daughter who was battling leukemia. I remember attending a prayer time for the daughter, and one of the women in the church asked Kathy how she dealt with the uncertainty of her daughter being in and out of remission.

Her answer came back to me as I mulled all this over the past few weeks. Kathy stretched out her arm with her palm up and her fingers open. “I hold her lightly,” she said.”
– Gypsy Martin, from her blog post “Losing Our Grip“.

“People construct these selves for well-known people,” he said. “And those selves acquire a kind of credibility by repetition.”
– Salman Rushdie (from an LA Times article)

“And the key to dressing well is to find freedom within the rules. Anyone can be completely different, since it’s easy to be outrageous. The trick is to be just that bit different.”
– G. Bruce Boyer, Elegance: A Guide to Quality in Menswear (from the essay “Evening Wear”, pg. 108)

“I mean simply that in the arid Southwest, it takes more to be a good librarian than elsewhere. An ordinary man just won’t do. For it takes fortitude and a crazy kind of stubbornness to go on believing in books and libraries and their power to transform and illuminate, when you have to battle against odds…I dare say you in California had someone somewhere in he beginning who had what it took — maybe Jim Gillis or Charlie Lummis. But these heroic characters are accidental.

My query is, what kind of people are being trained now for what kind of librarianship that there are so few who measure up. Are there no more pioneers? Is the frontier really gone? I say no! And I challenge the library profession to breach it.”
Patricia Paylore, quoted in “Librarianship is a Calling” by Lawrence Clark Powell (from A Passion for Books, pg. 161-162)

“We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it.”
– Septimus Hodge in Arcadia by Tom Stoppard (responding to Thomasina’s angst over the lost plays of the ancients)

“I spent the afternoon on that train as I had spent afternoons on trains all the way through the Americas. I remembered people who had been cruel to me; I rehearsed cutting remarks that I should have uttered; I recalled embarrassments in my life; I reran small victories and large defeats; I imagined being married to someone else, having children, getting divorced; I elected myself president of a banana republic and tried to cope with a noise opposition; I went to medical school and set up a practice and carried out tricky operations; I told a long humorous story to a large gathering, but in the end the prize went to someone else. I died, and people talked loudly about me. It was a fairly typical afternoon on traveling.”
– Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express, pg. 474

“But this landscape taught patience, caution, tenacity. It needed to be studied to be seen.”
– Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express, pg. 474 (of the dry, desolate Patagonia)

“It is sometimes frustrating that no matter how much I have on my plate, I always seem to be able to get it done. It’s frustrating because I know that often, I am not all that exhausted, just either whining, apathetic or just simply not getting on to the next thing. This is why I try to be in environments that don’t give me the opportunity to go sideways. Age has forced me to trade in some energy for more resolve. I think it’s a good deal.”
– Henry Rollins, in a column titled “Empowerment Through Libraries” for LA Weekly

“A feeling of immediate contact with the past is a sensation as deep as the purest enjoyment of art; it is an almost ecstatic sensation of no longer being myself, of overflowing into the world around me, of touching the essence of things, of through history experiencing the truth.”
Johan Huizinga, from The Social Animal by David Brooks, pg. 236

“Entering God’s sacred space compels one to engage in a process of tzimtzum, diminishing one’s self. No longer may pridefulness, ego, and personal need be the focus of one’s handiwork, but rather communal devotion, youthful enthusiasm, and a keen awareness of one’s shortcomings.”
– Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz, in his weekly series, The Taste of Torah, commenting on parts of Leviticus 16 (the Torah Portion, Aharei Mot)

If any of these quotes are misattributed, please let me know. Thanks.

4 Responses to Commonplace Book

  1. Jaime says:

    ah! Haha, I’m in here! :-D Thanks, my friend; it is an honor, for sure. See you tomorrow! :)

  2. Alice Pidgeon says:

    Oleg: Love your Commonplace book. I’m a collector of quotes as well though I haven’t done a website to “publish” them. I’m an Unwinder like you and found your site through your guest post today. Good work! All the Best, Alice.

    • Oleg K. says:

      Hi Alice, welcome!

      I “publish” them here so I can have access to them anywhere I am. The list is getting long, but I like to read through it every so often on my cell phone when waiting in line at the bank or on a work computer, etc. I can also add quotes even if I’m not at home.

  3. Pingback: The Future of Collection Development | Life in Oleg

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