Archive for the ‘Favorite Passages’ Category

Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.  And then there are books […] which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.  It wasn’t even that the book was so good or anything; it was just that the author […] seemed to understand me in weird and impossible ways.


~ John Green, The Fault in Our Stars


“Lesendes Mädchen” by Franz Eybl, 1850

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Anna paid attention to herself in the same way without guests, and was also very much taken up with reading – of novels and the serious books that were in vogue.  She ordered all the books that were mentioned with praise in the foreign newspapers and magazines she received, and read them with that concentration that one only finds in solitude.


~ From Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy


National Media Museum

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I don’t want to die because I keep on thinking of the future. I’m desperately curious to know what life will bring to me. What will happen to me, how I’ll develop, what I’ll be in five years’ time, in ten, in thirty. The man I will marry and the places I will live in and get to know. Children. It isn’t just a selfish curiosity. This is the worst possible time in history to die. Space-travel, science, the whole world waking up and stretching itself. A new age is beginning. I know it’s dangerous. But it’s wonderful to be alive in it.


~ From The Collector by John Fowles, born on this day in 1926


Blue Morpho Butterfly by Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904)

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All life seen from the hole of invisibility is absurd.  So why do I write, torturing myself to put it down?  Because in spite of myself I’ve learned some things.  Without the possibility of action, all knowledge comes to one labeled “file and forget,” and I can neither file nor forget. […] Now that I’ve tried to put it all down the old fascination with playing a role returns, and I’m drawn upward again. […] The hibernation is over.  I must shake off the old skin and come up for breath.  There’s a stench in the air, which, from this distance underground, might be the smell either of death or of spring – I hope of spring. 

As I said before, a decision has been made.  I’m shaking off the old skin and I’ll leave it here in the hole.  I’m coming out, no less invisible without it, but coming out nevertheless.  And I suppose it’s damn well time.  Even hibernations can be overdone, come to think of it.  Perhaps that’s my greatest social crime, I’ve overstayed my hibernation.


~ From Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, born on this day in 1914


“Paris Catacombs” by Viktor Hartmann (1834-1873)

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At the bottom of her heart, however, she was waiting for something to happen.  Like shipwrecked sailors, she turned despairing eyes upon the solitude of her life, seeking afar off some white sail in the mists of the horizon.  She did not know what this chance would be, what wind would bring it to her, towards what shore it would drive her, if it would be a shallop or a three-decker, laden with anguish or full of bliss to the portholes.  But each morning, as she awoke, she hoped it would come that day; she listened to every sound, sprang up with a start, wondered that it did not come; then at sunset, always more saddened, she longed for the morrow.


~ From Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert


“Madame Bovary” by Charles Leandre, 1931

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There were days when she was very happy without knowing why.  She was happy to be alive and breathing, when her whole being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the color, the odors, the luxuriant warmth of some perfect Southern day.  She liked then to wander alone into strange and unfamiliar places.  She discovered many a sunny, sleepy corner, fashioned to dream in.  And she found it good to dream and to be alone and unmolested. 

There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why,—when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead; when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation.  She could not work on such a day, nor weave fancies to stir her pulses and warm her blood.


~ From The Awakening by Kate Chopin, born on this day in 1850


“A Willing Captive” by Frederick Stuart Church, 1888

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It evaded her now when she thought of her picture.  Phrases came.  Visions came.  Beautiful pictures.  Beautiful phrases.  But what she wished to get hold of was that very jar on the nerves, the thing itself before it has been made anything.  Get that and start afresh; get that and start afresh; she said desperately, pitching herself firmly again before her easel.  It was a miserable machine, an inefficient machine, she thought, the human apparatus for painting or for feeling; it always broke down at the critical moment; heroically, one must force it on.


~ To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, born on this day in 1882


Miklós Barabás, 1838

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