Saturday Quotathon: Writing

>> Saturday, January 2, 2010

It's been a good year for me, writing-wise, even if I haven't been marketing worth a damn. Given that, I thought I'd see what, if any writing quotes I have and, if I don't have many, I might just include some by authors I like.

Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.
-Mickey Spillane

The play was a great success, but the audience was a disaster.
- Oscar Wilde

I once sent a dozen of my friends a telegram saying 'flee at once - all is discovered.' They all left town immediately.
- Mark Twain

I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception.
- Groucho Marx

He is the same old sausage, fizzing and sputtering in his own grease.
- Henry James

I regard you with an indifference bordering on aversion.
- Robert Louis Stevenson

There but for the grace of God, goes God.
- Winston Churchill

He's completely unspoiled by failure.
- Noel Coward

He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.
- George Bernard Shaw

Today's public figures can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence that they can't read them either.
- Gore Vidal

One could not even dignify him with the name of stuffed shirt. He was simply a hole in the air.
- George Orwell, on Stanley Baldwin

Whenever cannibals are on the brink of starvation, Heaven, in its infinite mercy, sends them a fat missionary.
- Oscar Wilde

Thank you for sending me a copy of your book - I'll waste no time reading it.
- Moses Hadas

From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.
- Groucho Marx

Fine words! I wonder where you stole them.
- Jonathan Swift

The covers of this book are too far apart.
- Ambrose Bierce

I didn't like the play but then I saw it under adverse conditions - the curtain was up.
- Groucho Marx

This book is both good and original, but the part that is original is not good and the part that is good, is not original.
- George Bernard Shaw

This is one of those big, fat paperbacks, intended to while away a monsoon or two, which, if thrown with a good over arm action, will bring a water buffalo to its knees.
- Nancy Banks-Smith on M.M. Kaye's "The Far Pavillions"

Nature not content with denying him the ability to think, has endowed him with the ability to write.
- A. E. Housman

An editor should have a pimp for a brother so he'd have someone to look up to.
- Gene Fowler

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
- Robert Heinlein

I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it shall be behind me.
- Max Reger in a letter to critic Rudolph Louis

Paradise Lost is a book that, once put down, is very hard to pick up again.
- Samuel Johnson

Every word she writes is a lie, including "and" and "the."
- Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman
Sitting in a sewer and adding to it.
- Thomas Carlyle, on Algernon Charles Swinburne

A fat little flabby person, with the face of a baker, the clothes of a cobbler, the size of a barrel maker, the manners of a stocking salesman, and the dress of an innkeeper.
- Victor de Balabin, on Honor? de Balzac

If people don't sit at Chaplin's feet, he goes out and stands where they are sitting.
- Herman J. Mankiewicz, on Charlie Chaplin

An unmanly sort of man whose love life seems to have been largely confined to crying in laps and playing mouse.
- W. H. Auden, on Edgar Allan Poe

That's not writing, that's typing.
- Truman Capote, on Jack Kerouac's style

A freakish homunculus germinated outside of lawful procreation.
- Henry Arthur Jones, on George Bernard Shaw

He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.
-William Faulkner about Ernest Hemingway
Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?
-Ernest Hemingway about William Faulkner

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
-Dorothy Parker ( regarding Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged)

Go on writing plays, my boy, One of these days one of these London producers will go into his office and say to his secretary, "Is there a play from Shaw this morning?" and when she says, "No," he will say, "Well, then we'll have to start on the rubbish." And that's your chance, my boy.
-George Bernard Shaw

I haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.
-Mark Twain

There is humor in Dod Grile, but for every laugh that is in his book there are five blushes, ten shudders & a vomit. The laugh is too expensive.
-Mark Twain

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.
-- Henry David Thoreau

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
- Cyril Connolly

Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

OK, I guess I had plenty.


  • Roy

    Great collection! Lots of Twain and Shaw, I see. Heh, heh!

    Which reminds me of the purported communication between GBS and Winston Churchill. GBS sent Churchill two theater tickets with the message: "These are tickets to the opening night of my new play. I sent you to so that you may bring a friend, if you have one." And Churchill replied: "Am unable to make it that night. Will attend on the second night, if you have one." Nothing like British humor!

  • Stephanie B

    I'd used that quote before or it would likely be included here.

    I keep thinking I'll run low of quotes on a subject, but it rarely happens.

  • Jeff King

    Nice, there is a lot i haven't read before.

  • The Mother

    Love the Doyle quote--although he himself got caught up in superstitious nonsense. I often wonder why so many mysteries and thrillers use pseudoscience and paranormal, when there is so much weirdness in the real world to do for a thousand plots.

  • Shakespeare

    I am astonished at how acerbic comments are about fellow writers. Perhaps a writer must, to a degree, feel his or her writing is best, even if that same writer hates it when others criticize his or her own work.

    Are we writers both harsh and overly sensitive? Or are people that way in general (and writers just write about it)?

  • Stephanie B

    You have a point, Shakespeare. On the other hand, praise for someone else's writing (like, for instance, Anne Maccaffrey's gushing over Sharon Lee and Steve Miller) rarely comes across as clever or memorable. Many writers, of course, spent at least some time as critics of other people's work, especially 70 or so years ago when making a living from books was, um, challenging.

    I think competition was likely a factor (I can recall some rather scathing remarks by Poe on other writers) and it was, literally, the bread and butter of writers eeking a living. Twain was a humorist and praise is rarely funny.

    Today, of course, the venues for publishing or getting exposure of one's writing are considerably more numerous, with many presumed "poor quality" novels out there for the mass market. I'm guilty, to some extent, of that myself, disheartened to find really poor quality work and sloppy writing in print, I might be unusually caustic. Why? Because the craft of writing matters to me.

    I'm only speculating here, and, of course, I'm not even a published writer (except by way of looser definitions).

    Going through my quotes, I've discovered far more than I realized are really quite vicious. Writers are not immune from it by any stretch, but they are not the only ones with sharp tongues. It's probably a sad commentary that so much of humor is really pretty mean-spirited and that sharp wits and sharp tongues so frequently go together.

  • Relax Max

    Good ones. I chuckled out loud at Twain and Shaw this time. :)

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