"As usual, I think of Oscar Wilde. It’s the same old story: ‘I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.’"

— “HHhH”, Laurent Binet

"THERE IS NOTHING more artificial in a historical narrative than this kind of dialogue – reconstructed from more or less firsthand accounts with the idea of breathing life into the dead pages of history. In stylistic terms, this process has certain similarities with hypotyposis, which means making a scene so lifelike that it gives the reader the impression he can see it with his own eyes. When a writer tries to bring a conversation back to life in this way, the result is often contrived and the effect the opposite of that desired: you see too clearly the strings controlling the puppets, you hear too distinctly the author’s voice in the mouths of these historical figures."

— “HHhH”, Laurent Binet

"The modern traveller, gazing down ion the wrinkles of the earth’s waters from an armchair six miles up, has no conception of the forbidding grandeur of the sea into which the First Fleet now moved. Its waves are the largest of any of the world’s oceans, and from the deck of a boat they are overwhelming: tottering hills of indigo and malachite glass, veined in their transparencies with braids of opaque white water, their spumy crests running level with the ship’s cross-trees. The inexorable rhythm of their passage numbs the brain, first with fear and then with repetition."

— “The Fatal Shore”, Robert Hughes

"

Wallace: “Irony has only emergency use. Carried over time, it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy the cage. This is because irony, entertaining as it is, serves an almost exclusively negative function. It’s critical and destructive, a ground clearing… irony’s singularly unuseful when it comes to constructing anything to replace the hypocrisies it debunks.”

….

“The next real literary ‘rebels’ in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of ‘anti-rebels’, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse single-entrendre principles. Who treat plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in US life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue.”

The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal; shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. The new rebels might be the ones willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the ‘how banal’”.

"

— “Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace”, DT Max

"I was quite stunned by the cement-machine prose. (ie a writer labouring a point over and over again)."

— “Great Books”, David Denby

"

From Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse”:

“And, resting, looking from one to the other vaguely, the old question which traversed the sky of the soul perpetually, the vast, the general question which was apt to particularise itself at such moments as these, when she released faculties that had been on the strain, stood over her, paused over her, darkened over her. What is the meaning of life? That was all—a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one. This, that, and the other; herself and Charles Tansley and the breaking wave; Mrs. Ramsay bringing them together; Mrs. Ramsay making of the moment something permanent (as in another sphere Lily herself tried to make of the moment something permanent)—this was the nature of a revelation. In the midst of chaos there was shape; this eternal passing and flowing (she looked at the clouds going and the leaves shaking) was struck into stability. Life stand still, Mrs. Ramsay said. “Mrs. Ramsay! Mrs. Ramsay!” she repeated. She owed it all to her.”

"

—  “Great Books”, David Denby

"Franz Kafka said that he wanted works of literature that would affect us as ‘a catastrophe,’ works that would break up ‘the frozen sea’ within us."

— “Great Books”, David Denby

"I thought we’d be like that too when we got old enough. Dignified. And in a place. And people would come to our door."

— “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”, Raymond Carver

"You nod and watch her. She is an exceptionally beautiful girl. You think of that old saying Show me a beautiful girl and I’ll show you someone who is tired of fucking her. You doubt you would have ever tired of her, though."

— “This Is How You Lose Her”, Junot Diaz

"The newest girl’s called Samantha and she’s a problem. She’s dark and heavy-browed and has a mouth like unswept glass—when you least expect it she cuts you."

— “This Is How You Lose Her”, Junot Diaz

"Yes—it’s an opposites-attract sort of thing, it’s a great-sex sort of thing, it’s a no-thinking sort of thing. It’s wonderful! Wonderful! Until one June day Alma discovers that you are also fucking this beautiful freshman girl named Laxmi, discovers the fucking of Laxmi because she, Alma, the girlfriend, opens your journal and reads. (Oh, she had her suspicions.) She waits for you on the stoop, and when you pull up in her Saturn and notice the journal in her hand your heart plunges through you like a fat bandit through a hangman’s trap."

— “This Is How You Lose Her”, Junot Diaz

"YOU, YUNIOR, HAVE A GIRLFRIEND named Alma, who has a long tender horse neck and a big Dominican ass that seems to exist in a fourth dimension beyond jeans. An ass that could drag the moon out of orbit. An ass she never liked until she met you. Ain’t a day that passes that you don’t want to press your face against that ass or bite the delicate sliding tendons of her neck. You love how she shivers when you bite, how she fights you with those arms that are so skinny they belong on an after-school special."

— “This Is How You Lose Her”, Junot Diaz

"She’s sensitive, too. Takes to hurt the way water takes to paper."

— “This Is How You Lose Her”, Junot Diaz

"On Scott Fitzgerald: His talent was a natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless."

— “A Moveable Feast”, Ernest Hemingway

"

But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the splutter of blue they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’

So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.

"

— “A Moveable Feast”, Ernest Hemingway