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Words, You See, Are the Thing

I am reading George Durrells’, "My Family and other Animals.” His writing, his words, causes my breath to catch in my throat, my pulse to quicken. You see, for me, words are the thing.  I love words― words strung together to not only tell a story but to paint a picture, words that are beautiful in and of themselves:

“The Turk, when he arrived turned out to be a tall, young man , with meticulously waved hair and a flashy smile that managed to convey the minimum of humour with the maximum of condescension.  He had all the smug self-possession of a cat in season.”

“…and then Margo, trailing yards of muslin and scent. Mother looking like a tiny, harassed missionary in an uprising…”

Thus, I’ve decided to dedicate this blog to quotes from some of my favorite books by some of my favorite authors.

Erastes, author of gay historical fiction, writes prose that is clean and spare yet full of depth as with:

“Warmth generated between them everywhere they touched, skin and cloth…a center of heat between them…”
―from Muffled Drum

Justin Torres’ prose is short, crisp, economical, each carefully chosen word precise, sharp as a surgeon’s knife.

“After dinner he led us all to the bathtub, no bubbles, just six inches of gray water and our bare butts and elbows, and our three little dicks. Paps scrubbed us rough with a soapy washcloth. He dug his fingernails into our scalp as he washed our hair and warned us that if shampoo got in our eyes, it was our own fault for squirming…and we tried to be brave when he grabbed us; we tried not to flinch.”
―from “We the Animals”

Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” is another favorite.  His writing is sometimes luminous, often hysterical. One of my favorite passages is when Adams describes the hands of the host at The Restaurant at the End of the Universe:

“…They lay lightly along the folds of the curtain and gave the impression that if he didn’t watch them like a hawk they would crawl away of their own accord and do something unspeakable in a corner.”
Another favorite passage is when he describes the end of the universe, an apparently recurrent occurrence:

“A monstrous, grisly light poured in on them, ―a hideous light, ―a boiling, pestilential light, ―a light that would have disfigured hell. The Universe was coming to an end.”
―from “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”

PD James (aka, Baroness James of Holland Park), writes mysteries.  Her words are almost poetic and precise as when she introduces us to the soon-to-be dead Sally:
“The heavy, red-gold hair piled under her cap seemed too heavy a weight for so slender a neck.”
―from “Cover Her Face”

Laura Argiri is a writer whose words leave me in awe:

“Also, in a gorgeous plain vase of heavy crystal, twenty-four coral roses…these roses were neither tangerine nor red but the perfect flaming pink of ambiguity, of winter sunset, of Baudelairean dawn.”

“His body felt the poignant ache of possession denied, a cello note along the nerves.”
―from “The God in Flight”

James Baldwin’s prose is quite simply luminous, evocative:

“His eyes moved with the splendid, reckless precision of a small bird, an insert with translucent wings, lighting on this, on that, a twig, a stone, a branch, you---and gone, circling, circling back, again, gone again: making of air, light, space and danger, a province, a kingdom—you, rooted to the earth, follow without moving, stare.”
―from “Just above His Head”

At the top of my favorite quotes is this one from F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“This is a valley of ashes—a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.”
―from “The Great Gatsby”

Fitzgerald, like James Baldwin doesn’t just arrange words on a page; he makes them sing. And for that reason, for me, both he and Baldwin remain favorites. And an inspiration.

What about you?  Share with me, in the comments, your favorite quotes from your favorite writers.


  1. Self-proclaimed (slightly agnostic) atheist that I am, this is one of my favourite quotations, from Russell Brand's Booky Wook Two. I think what I find most amazing about this is that he is acclaimed for everything but his literary talent, but what talent it is!

    "God is in the mountains. Impassive, immovable, jagged giants, separating the celestial from the terrestrial with eternal diagonal certainty. As if silently monitoring the beating heart of the creator from the universe's perfect birth. Stood in the thin air and the awe, one inhales God, involuntarily acknowledging that we are but fragments of a whole, a higher thing. The mountains remind me of my place, as a servant to truth and wonder. Yes, God is in the mountains. Perhaps the pulpit too and even in the piety of an atheist's sigh. I don't know; but I feel him in the mountains."

    1. Wow. God may be in the mountains but he's in these words too. Gorgeous passage.

    2. Wow. God may be in the mountains but he's in these words too. Gorgeous passage.

  2. Wow - thank you! It's a real honour to be among such company!

    1. You're welcome. You're a good writer and I adored Muffler Drum.


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