Literature Quotes

Literature (and literature-related) Quotes

The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.

Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

A story doesn’t have to be true to be truthful.

There might be just as many funny writers today, but they don’t have places to put their material.

Woody Allen

(On comic literature in the tradition of S J Perelman or Robert Benchley or James Thurber or Dorothy Parker)

Fiction is an indoor sport.

This structure is as Nox made it, and there is no point questioning it.

Piers Anthony
(distinguishing physics from magic, fantasy, illusion)

Literature became ghastly when it became stupidly conscious of itself. The Greeks weren’t deliberately following Aristotle.

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.


Fictions behave; facts change.

Most people are very free in judging right and wrong, but they aren’t so foolish as to get into trouble about it.

Piers Anthony

If I were told I had but six weeks to live, I’d just type a little faster.

the prolific Isaac Asimov

Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.

Isaac Asimov
(Picture a musician saying something parallel about music.)

An artist is never poor.

Babbette’s Feast

He creates nothing. He copies what he sees.

spit by Honoré’s mother in Balzac

You don’t believe in marriage.
That’s what I wrote, not what I think.
A writer lies?
No, but he makes mistakes.


I wish I could read Balzac as fast as Balzac wrote.

one of the comp lit professors at Columbia, c. 1958

I am a drinker with writing problems.

Brendan Behan

Trying to understand …

Beckett, Watt

An author of nonfiction has an obligation to disclose at the outset some of his prejudices.

Harold J. Berman

Fortunately, men are weak, bribable, so sometimes justice can be done

Brecht, Mother Courage

Southey will be remembered after Homer and Shakespeare have been forgotten: but not until then.

Lord Byron

That isn’t writing at all, it’s typing.

Truman Capote

There’s plenty of stories that need telling what never get told, just because people can’t bear the listening.

Carr, The Angel of Darkness

He is a [sane] man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.

G K Chesterton

The poet will be discontented even in the streets of heaven.

G K Chesterton

The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.

Tom Clancy
(the novelist, not the singer)

For he on manna dew hath fed/ And drunk the milk of paradise.


The difference between us, Wells, is fundamental. You don’t care for humanity but think they are to be improved. I love humanity, but know they are not!

Joseph Conrad to H. G. Wells

You play long odds.
They’re the only odds I have.

Chrichton, Pirate Latitudes

As I imagined, so it was.


I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.

Peter De Vries

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

Philip K. Dick

Poetry: the rapid opening and closing of a door through which we catch of glimpse of what is beyond.

Emily Dickinson (paraphrase)

The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.

Benjamin Disraeli

Now nothing makes time pass more quickly and shortens a journey more effectively than thoughts which absorb the thinker’s every faculty. External existence seems to resemble a deep slumber of which this thought is the dream. Under its influence time becomes measureless and space loses all distance.

Alexandre Dumas

The triumph of feeling over reason

Alexandre Dumas

A misfit in a sorry makeshift world

Alexandre Dumas

All for one, and one for all.

The Three Musketeers

(Just who or what did Aramis, Porthos, Athos, D’Artagnan have in mind when they said “all”? You? Me? The Cardinal? Or did they merely mean themselves, the four of them?
And I must say while on the subject: isn’t D’Artagnan simply one of the most wonderful characters in literature?)

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The desire to write grows with writing.

Desiderius Erasmus

The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.


Women never grant every favour to a man but one, without granting him that one also.

Fielding, Tom Jones

It’s not enough that your actions be good, you must take care that they appear so.

Bridget Blifil (of Tom Jones)

Please pardon me for the length of this letter: I didn’t have time to write a short one.

Flaubert (paraphrase)

If human nature does alter it will be because individuals manage to look at themselves in a new way. Here and there people – a very few people, but a few novelists are among them – are trying to do this. Every institution and vested interest in against such a search: organized religion, the State, the family in its economic aspect, have nothing to gain, and it is only when outward prohibitions weaken that it can proceed: history conditions it to that extent.

EM Forster

Their artistic beastliness

Philistine thoughts in Howards End

Writing is easy.
All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.

Gene Fowler

There is no greater joy than knowing there is no help coming. The decision is ours to make alone.

Genghis in Iggulden’s Lords of the Bow

No security system is a match for a stupid employee.

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs …

according to Amos 5:23

It’s fiction but it brought me closer to reality.


A tradition cannot be inherited; it has to be earned.


Pity goes out to any human need — and makes it worse.

Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter

You are tied up with a middle aged man. We can’t be bothered to lie all the time like the young.

Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter

He listened with the intense interest one feels in a stranger’s life, the interest the young mistake for love.

Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter

Easy reading is damn hard writing.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Every writer I know has trouble writing.

Joseph Heller

He had a small fluency, a big imagination, and enough doubt to sink a ship.

Stephen Hunter, Black Light

“Always cheat. Always win.”

Stephen Hunter, Hot Springs

God, Stink, I admire the Germans. They really do do things, don’t they? Bloody pity they do the wrong things.

Stephen Hunter, Tapestry of Spies

There’s only a paradox if you build it yourself.

Stephen Hunter, Havana

Your body is like any other animal in your care. … It will clamor for food and water, warmth and relief from pain. Find the cold face and you will be able to shut out its clamoring voice.

Conn Iggulden’s Genghis

The state is concentric and the individual is eccentric.

James Joyce

Books: to be “wielded like a pickax to shatter the frozen sea within the reader’s mind.”


Do you believe in dreams? I do; I believe in nothing else.

Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ

It was too close to real life to be good.

Stephen King

Some of us know how we came by our fortune,
and some of us don’t,
but we wear it all the same.

Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.

Rudyard Kipling

Life is sweet to us all; to the artist who lives many lives in one, sweetest.

Rudyard Kipling

Shakespeare “could put himself in your place: and speak.”

GL Kittredge

We learn to speak before we learn to read or to write. A musical culture would likewise have a population that could improvise melodies and harmonies and rhythm variation before it learned what melody, harmony, or rhythm “were”: in theories of reading and writing music.

The mental life! Suddenly she hated it with a rushing fury, the swindle!

D. H. Lawrence

His lies were not fabrications. They were a brilliantly devised distorting lens that turned facts into monsters, yet left them looking like facts.

John le Carré

Then force entered in; might making right;
power, and its tool, violence, and its
most devoted ally, the averted eye.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Out t’ the lake? The bushes on those women!
I ain’t goin’ in there without a gun and a flashlight!

Elmore Leonard

No God, no country, no ‘society.’
Just people and things, and people one by one.

Macleod, Stone Canal

Friends, Romans, and Countrymen: we come to bury Shakespeare, not to praise him.

Marshall McLuhan

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

W. Somerset Maugham

The best style is the style you don’t notice.

Somerset Maugham

I would prefer not to.

Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener

Chaos is our word for order which is not understood.

Henry Miller

Words are artifice; action is never deceitful.

Yukio Mishima

Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads.

Marianne Moore

No matter how I felt, life had to go on.

Walter Mosley

My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.

Anais Nin

I’d rather fail my Wasserman test
Than read a poem by Edgar Guest.

Dorothy Parker

I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.

Blaise Pascal

Jesus was, after all, a man, and so cannot be fully trusted.

Mario Puzo

Of course there was always a good excuse.
The mind can sell itself anything.

Mario Puzo

In love the truth is of no importance.

Mario Puzo

… Goodness made them vulnerable to the bullying nature of others. For often, kindness is mistaken for weakness.

Mario Puzo

Let life happen to you. Life is in the right: always.


I went up in a balloon so big
The people on earth
They looked like a pig.

Collected by Carl Sandberg

O, what can you do in a case like that?
What can you do, but stamp on your hat
And your toothbrush, and your grandmother
And everything that’s helpless.

Collected by Carl Sandberg

The old stories are important even if they are not true.

Sanibel Flats

Art made tongue-tied by Authority


In my youth I worshipped Mars, the God of War. I turned from him to serve the Christian god; but today the Christian god forsook me; and Mars overcame me and took back his own. The Christian god is not yet. He will come when Mars and I are dust; but meanwhile I must serve the gods that are not the God that will be.
Lavinia: I’II strive for the coming of the God who is not yet.

GB Shaw, Androcles and the Lion

Who am I to be objective?


If it isn’t the bible, throw it on the fire.

GBS advising to writers to strive to write the bible and nothing but the bible

I do not like to write; I like to have written.

Gloria Steinem

One of the great beauties of politics as an art form was its lack of restriction to merely standard forms of realism.

Bruce Sterling

“What gives you any right to change the way people think?”
“Because we are artists.””What gives you any right to change the way the world works?”
“Because we are scientists.”

Bruce Sterling

A good work of art can in its entirety be expressed only by itself.


… an ignorance hardly surpassed by it arrogance. But the writing was clever. The facts, if not true, were well invented; the arguments, if not logical, were seductive.

Anthony Trollope

The pigs never recognize themselves in the sausage.

Mrs. Anthony Trollope

God gave the American people three inestimably precious things:
freedom of conscience
freedom of speech
and the good sense never to practice either.

Mark Twain

Sometimes I feel like the one sane person in the community of the mad.

Mark Twain

The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.


Art is mostly failure.

Gore Vidal

(I’ve heard it said about baseball too. It could be said about life. But we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.)

I write only because I cannot stop.

Heinrich Von Kleist

Be obscure clearly.

E.B. White

If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.

Tennessee Williams

It isn’t true unless it makes you laugh,
but you don’t understand it until it makes you weep.

Wilson & Shea, Illuminatus!

Reality is thermoplastic, not thermosetting, you know: I mean you can reprogram it much more than people realize.


We cannot imagine the scene apart from ourselves.

Denis Wood

To be an Artist is to be Revolutionary.

Tennessee Williams

Oaths are sacred, even to those of us who wonder if any God cares enough to enforce them.

The Winter King

Every moment is a window on all time.

Thomas Wolfe

I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.

Steven Wright

Word Press has taken to inserting literary quotes onto posting pages. I’d filched a couple of them, now a couple more. (Who knows how many of mine get borrowed?) Regardless, I’ll subdivide this file soon.

Art, Music … Lit Quotes Subdivisions:

Art Quotes (plastic arts)
Literature Quotes
Movie Quotes
Music Quotes

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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