Quote Of The Day
Quote Of The Day
Walter Kirn Quotes
August 3, 1962
A writer who isn't writing is asking for trouble.
Ask Jeeves! Who ever used that thing? College freshmen to find out who Goethe was - that's it.
The room-service Caesar salads with soggy croutons, the distant relatives who show up at readings pitching weird, far-fetched investment schemes, the fans who have you sign a book to 'Cathy' and then tell you, 'No, it's Kathy with a K' - it gets challenging after a while. It tests your stamina.
I've been around - having gone to Princeton, and I went to Oxford after that - some pretty fancy characters in my life. And they're just as nutty as the rest of us - sometimes worse.
I grew up in a little town in Minnesota, 500 people. I went out to Princeton, and I wasn't very well-accepted out there by the fancy folks of Princeton University, I felt. I came away bruised and feeling rejected.
There are two sides to me. One is the writer. That's a savage person who looks at everything as a story and, you know, wants to use real life in his books. The other part is the Midwesterner, who, you know, wants to say nice things about people and be polite.
At college, I wanted to be a poet. I liked the extremely concentrated language, the atmosphere of otherworldliness.
I studied English at Princeton in the early eighties in what I consider a period of high obscurity. Professors and students ran around discussing the work of critics and philosophers that I doubt they'd read or understood.
I'm a magpie in my fiction, taking whatever looks shiny and curious to line the nest of my story.
I have very specific advice for aspiring writers: go to New York. And if you can't go to New York, go to the place that represents New York to you, where the standards for writing are high, there are other people who share your dreams, and where you can talk, talk, talk about your interests.
When we have a favorite writer, it's always the places where they grew up, lived, worked, and that they recreated on the page that we most want to visit and commune with. Faulkner's Mississippi, Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles, etc. The mind of the reader longs to be somewhere, not just anywhere, and certainly not nowhere.
I love reference books, especially collections of memorable quotations, world almanacs, and atlases. Facts to me are like candy or popcorn, small, tasty delights, and I like to gorge on them now and then.
Now And Then
View the list
I say 'here's the thing' a lot, both to alert people that I'm about to say something important and to give myself a moment to figure out what that important thing might be, because my head is so often completely empty.
My mother used to push 'Wuthering Heights' on me as a boy, and I sensed from her breathy description of the story that it would make me laugh. I have no plans to find out if this is true.
Make Me Laugh
Once you realize just the sort of glut of books that exists out there, it does become incumbent on you not to add to it unless you have a damn good reason.
I like to think that I could praise the good book of someone I personally dislike. I try not to comment on the person, to be insulting, but I have no trouble being insulting to the work.
I think of myself as writing realist American fiction. 'Cynical but hopeful' wouldn't be the worst thing I've ever been called.
I think people get a sense of possibility when they're on a plane, even romantic possibility, wondering if the perfect person is going to sit down next to them or something.
I've noticed that the few times I've traveled first class myself, you've already got your drink, and your coat has been taken by the time the rest of the passengers file on, and it's hard not to feel sorry for them. They're sort of trooping past you like cows to slaughter and you're sitting there in your, you know, wide-body seat.
We're on Twitter with one side of our personality, and Facebook with another, and LinkedIn with another side of our personality, and we're toggling between them. That's just a version of what an impostor does: shifting from one side of their personality to another with lightning speed.
A sociopath doesn't warm up their environment, doesn't make it cozy. They don't have to; when they're not performing, when they're not manipulating, when they're all alone, there's nothing.
Realize that the game of life is the game of, to some extent, being taken advantage of by people who make a science of it. Whether they are in government or personal life or in business, they're everywhere.
What is it in people, or just in people like me, that would rather let a lie go by, would rather wish it away or minimize it, than point it out and cause the liar embarrassment?
The Bible has been through millions of rounds of exegesis and interpretation, but it hasn't been until quite recently that it's been taken as the absolute truth, to the point where people expect it to inform ideas about biology and life on this planet.
Every generation looks at literature through the lens of their own experience, but with the Bible, everyone gets apprehensive and thinks it'll be too stuffy.
When I was writing about the Republican primaries, it was as though the Bible was a black box that people reached into to pull out edicts and prejudices and rules and opinions, and I wish they had fact-checked it! Especially Rick Santorum.
God is a freaking character, with enough foibles, tantrums, and paradoxical behaviors to supply a thousand screenplays. But who do you cast?
A writer is someone who tells you one thing so someday he can tell his readers another thing: what he was thinking but declined to say, or what he would have thought had he been wiser. A writer turns his life into material, and if you're in his life, he uses yours, too.
The least sexy city is Los Angeles. And it poses as the most sexy. As you grow up, L.A. is being sold to you as home of the bikini-clad party girls. And then you get there, and it's full of very goal-oriented, yoga-obsessed careerists.
I remember the first time I went to Italy when I was eighteen, I was in Florence and there were all these eighteen, nineteen, twenty-year-olds gliding past on Vespas with crinkly, long, hair, and I thought I was on the set of a movie. I couldn't believe that this was going on and I hadn't known about it before. I was flabbergasted.
I had the impression from reading English literature that British women were great beauties, and I only had seen Julie Christie, and she was gorgeous and sexy. I don't know whether it was just my taste, but when I got to London, I went two years without seeing a truly attractive woman. A lot of near misses.
We want to believe that we're invulnerable, and that people who get tricked deserve it. Well, they don't. And someday the arrogant types who mock the gullible are likely to get their turn to wear the dunce cap.
I'd assumed that a deal was a deal when Princeton admitted me, but I was wrong. The price of getting in - to the university itself, and to the great world it promised to open up - was an endless dunning for nebulous services that weren't included in the initial quote.
In fourth grade, I learned that reading was serious business, not just a pleasant way to pass the time, and that like medicine or engineering, it had a definite, valuable purpose: to foster 'comprehension.'
A president, like a college freshman, can't know in advance which questions he'll have to answer or what topics he'll have to master. He has to be flexible, supple, and responsive. He has to be comfortable with multiple-choice.
Cross the wrong state border with your gun, or wake up one morning to new legislation or a new presidential executive order, and suddenly you're the bad guy, not the good guy. No wonder some gun owners seem so touchy; they feel, at some level, like criminals in waiting.
Size has nothing to do with literature. All legs are long enough to touch the ground, and all books are big enough to fill their covers.
However old-fashioned and right-wing this may sound, the American genius for language lies in understatement, in saying things simply, pointedly and quickly, and in making new and clean and swift what otherwise might be ponderous, round and slow.
Novelists who pretend to understand what keeps them scribbling are really just guessing. A profound, unmet childish need to be acknowledged? Maybe. It hardly matters, though. The termite that asks itself why it keeps chewing risks becoming sluggish and inefficient, as does the writer who grows self-conscious in the middle of chapter five.
Stopping to think is fine for characters, but not for their creators. They have to work.
My primary ambition is to be a fiction writer... Being a critic wasn't an aspiration of mine.
According to the perverse aesthetics of artistic guilty pleasure, certain books and movies are so bad - so crudely conceived, despicably motivated and atrociously executed - that they're actually rather good.
I've come to learn that the determined and gifted and genuine sociopath has far more power to deceive than we realize.
The reason con artists get away with what they get away with is, their victims are ashamed of their own blindness and their own gullibility, and they tend to just quietly go away.
In the age of networked everything, life moves sideways and covers lots of ground while barely touching the earth.
I review books as a day job, and through the years I've come to view the contemporary memoir as, almost always, a saga of victimization, sometimes by others, sometimes by the self, and sometimes by illness or misfortune, leading, like clockwork, to healing and redemption.
To young people born under the weird planet of the SAT, intelligence was equated with agility, with raw acuity. It produced a certain sort of person of which I was a typical specimen: the mental contortionist, able to rise to almost every challenge placed before him, except the challenge of real self-knowledge.
The strange anthropological lesson of social media is that human beings, if given a choice, often prefer to socialize alone.
Since the founding of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other mainstays of what technology writers have come to call 'the social Web' or 'Web 2.0,' a sizable portion of humanity has learned to be together while apart, sacrificing intimacy for control and spontaneity for predictability.
On the Web, we can be whoever we wish to be, editing the face we show to others in ways that aren't possible in physical space. We can also fine-tune the complexity and depth of our interactions and relationships.
H. P. Lovecraft
29Quotes © 2020
A site designed to inspire you to grow, achieve success, stay well, and live an abundant life.
Quote of the Day