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Jan 2017

4th January

[T]ights donít bring me joy. But if I didnít have any, that would bring me a lot of un-joy. Indeed, if I chucked out everything but joy-generating clothing, I would be left with one cardigan and I would have to stay in.

Zoe Williams, Did Marie Kondo's Spark bring me Joy? (2016), The Guardian, 2 Jan 2017

11th January

[H]e did not hate people. He did not run after them - to that extent he was a solitary. But if they came his way and liked him and were the sort of people he liked being liked by he was gratified.

Sylvia Townsend Warner, TH White: A Biography (1967)

18th January

[I]t will we hope be clear that not by any stretch of the too willing imagination could it be said that Robin was in love with Anne. Had that glorious passion filled his heart, he would not for a moment have considered his future wifeís happiness or convenience, being fatuously convinced that with HIM her life would at once become a bower of roses.

Angela Thirkell, Peace Breaks Out (1946)

25th January

The naively cynical measure a piece of legislation, a victory, a milestone not against the past or the limits of the possible but against their ideas of perfection, and as this book reminds you, perfection is a yardstick by which everything falls short.... The deeply engaged well know that the particular bit of legislation under discussion isnít everything we hope for, doesnít get us all the way there, and also know that it can be a step forward from which further steps can and must be taken, and that change is often made incrementally, not by a great leap from evil to pure goodness.

Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Third Edition, with a new foreword and afterword (2016)

Feb 2017

1st February

The humble omnibus. The humble omnibus may be thought by some readers too democratic a kind of conveyance to be considered in a book on Manners. Not at all! There are several reasons why it should have a place in such a volume.... A fine field for true courtesy.True courtesy, for instance, will prevent a man from infringing the rights of his neighbours on either side by occupying more than his own allotted space. The man who wants all the room. Very stout men are obliged to do so, but at least they need not spread out their knees in a way that is calculated to aggravate the evil. Nor need they arrange themselves in a comfortable oblique position, with the result of enhancing the inconvenience they must necessarily cause to those near them. Even a thin man can take up a quantity of room by thus disposing himself at an angle of forty-five with the other occupants of an omnibus.

Mrs CE Humphry ('Madge' of Truth), Manners for Men (1897)

8th February

Thereís so much pressure on women now to be sexy, to become educated, to have a fulfilling relationship. And - oh yes! - you also have to have children, and youíre supposed to be very happy when youíre doing all of this. Itís impossible. You donít have to do everything. Just do a little bit at a time.

Annette Benning, Interview, The Observer, 5 Feb 2017

15th February

[I]t was a hard lesson for a prince to learn. He was accustomed to command, and you cannot command yourself to know. Knowledge is granted; knowledge is gained; but it is not commanded.

Sarah Tolmie, The Stone Boatmen, (2014)

22nd February

Donít you see that the real truth about Truth is that he is not sober, but drunk - drunk as a lord? Wild, crazy, splendid, heroic, shameful, spectacular? Nothing more hideous, noble, lovely and absurd has ever been invented by the craziest lunatic than the things that are truly happening in this world at this moment?

Winifred Holtby, 'Truth is not Sober', in Truth is Not Sober and Other Stories (1934)

Mar 2017

1st March

First of all, it's important to realize that the absence of formal prohibitions against committing art does not preclude the presence of powerful, informal ones.

Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing (1983)

8th March

This meaningless chatter about intuition is due to the duplicity of women. When one tells a fool something and the fool wants to know how one knows it, and one cannot be bothered explaining one's mental processes, one alludes mysteriously to 'feminine intuition'. It is a social ruse[.]

Rebecca West, 'The Nature of Woman: Every Home a Little Earlswood', review of The Nature of Woman by Dr Lionel Tayler, The Clarion, 7 Mar 1913, reprinted in The Young Rebecca: Writings of Rebecca West, 1911-17 (edited by Jane Marcus) (1982)

15th March

Bureaucracies almost by natire lack excitement, glamour, or charisma. We often live for fleeting intensities and charged moments, and celebrate marginality as a kind of permanent desideratum. But if bureaucracy and routinization have their costs, so do marginality and charisma. Marginality and momentary excitements are intrinsically fragile, evanescent, and unstable.

Gayle Rubin, 'Geologies of Queer Studies' (2004) in Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader (2011)

22nd March

People like stories. Not as much as they like food or shelter, but a lot. And a good story is held together by one question: what happens next? Itís a question for the audience to ask and the storyteller to answer. Itís something an entertained audience wants to find out, not decide. Thereís no suspense if the denouement is of your own devising.

David Mitchell, Choose my own Netflix adventure? No thanks, The Observer New Review 19 Mar 2017

29th March

Jude had readily identified Gordon Blaine's type. He was the kind of man who would build up the difficulties of any task he was given and then apply his miraculous practical skills to succeed in delivering the impossible.

Simon Brett, The Strangling on the Stage (2013)

Apr 2017

5th April

Overcoming evil with good does not often yield results in the short term, and it lacks all the special satisfactions of revenge.

Marilynne Robinson, 'Memory', in The Givenness of Things: essays (2015)

12th April

Much has changed; much needs to change; being able to celebrate or at least recognize milestones and victories and keep working is what the times require of us.

Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Third Edition, with a new foreword and afterword (2016)

19th April

[I]tís an increasingly frightening, chaotic, unknowable world and we can only control it (or make sense of it) in small, kindly, hopeful gestures. Thatís what this ridiculous purchase was supposed to be. When it failed, I needed the person on the end of the phone to be kind and sympathetic and for the two of us to share a moment of fellow feeling. When that didnít happen, it all seemed to represent something much bigger than itself. Something huge and helpless, to do with the world and everything thatís happening.

Victoria Coren Mitchell, I ordered 50 tiny tambourines. And then I wept, The Observer, 16 Apr 2017

26th April

What we, the audience, take for magic, is often only technical expertise, and relatively small changes - sometimes, a single, subtle adjustment - can turn a play that has no spark at all into one that sets the theatre ablaze.

Nicholas Hytner: ĎIíve always thought of theatre as a cure for lonelinessí , The Observer, 23 Apr 2017

May 2017

3rd May

I felt that nothing of interest had happened to me, not understanding that every life is ordinary to its owner, that looking for interesting events was to search in the wrong direction for something that isn't absent because it isn't the point.

Jenny Diski, In Gratitude (2016)

10th May

We have been trained to regard certain kinds of art (especially the violent, the arcane, and the assaultive) as 'experimental'. But there's all the difference in the world between studying oxidation and producing loud noises with gunpowder. The former leads somewhere; the latter... does not.

Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing (1983)

17th May

[I]t is important to know that a chap who says enthusiastically 'Why don't we knock the two rooms into one?' is not necessarily an expert with a sledgehammer. He has just always fancied the idea of knocking down a wall. A friend of mind was married to a chap possessed of this spirit of enquiry, who carried a Swiss Army penknife at all times.... At dinner parties he was noted for telling stories of fast-thinking chaps with Swiss Army penknives who had saved lives by performing emergency tracheotomies. Understandably, everybody kept quite quiet after this, and chewed very carefully. The slightest choke, and you knew he was likely to leap from his seat and cut your throat.

Lynne Truss, Making the cat laugh: One Woman's Journal of Single Life on the Margins (1995)

[No Quotations for 24th and 31st May]

Jun 2017

[No Quotation for 7th June]

14th June

There is, of course, no reason for the existence of the male sex except that one sometimes needs help in moving pianos.

Rebecca West, 'Aren't Men Beasts': Review of Eva Figes, Patriarchal Attitudes, in The Sunday Telegraph 28 June 1970 The Essential Rebecca West: Uncollected Prose (2010)

21st June

Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow.

CS Lewis, The Silver Chair (1953)

28th June

[B]ut of course I donít write Re-Fi, as its fat fans in three-piece-suit costumes call it. Realism is for lazy-minded, semi-educated people whose atrophied imagination allows them to appreciate only the most limited and conventional subject matter. Re-Fi is a repetitive genre written by unimaginative hacks who rely on mere mimesis. If they had any self-respect theyíd be writing memoir, but theyíre too lazy to fact-check. Of course I never read Re-Fi. But the kids keep bringing home these garish realistic novels and talking about them, so I know that itís an incredibly narrow genre, completely centered on one species, full of worn-out clichťs and predictable situations - the quest for the father, mother-bashing, obsessive male lust, dysfunctional suburban families, etc., etc.

Ursula K Le Guin, 'Genre: A Word Only a Frenchman Could Love: A talk given at the Public Library Association Preconference on Genre, in Seattle, February 2004, revised in 2014', in Words are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, with a Journal of a Writer's Week (2016)

Ju1 2017

5th July

[M]ost environmental victories look like nothing happened; the land wasnít annexed by the army, the mine didnít open, the road didnít cut through, the factory didnít spew effluents that didnít give asthma to the children who didnít wheeze and panic and stay indoors on beautiful days. They are triumphs invisible except through storytelling.

Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Third Edition, with a new foreword and afterword (2016)

12th July

Twenty-two acknowledged concubines, and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes, attested the variety of his inclinations; and from the productions which he left behind him, it appears that the former as well as the latter were designed for use rather than for ostentation.

Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 1 (1782)

19th July

[Edith Wharton was] a remarkable novelist if not a large-sized one, and while there are few great novelists there are not even so many remarkable ones that we can afford to let her be overlooked.

'QD Leavis, 'Henry James's Heiress: the Importance of Edith Wharton', Scrutiny 7, 1938, quoted in Janet Malcolm, 'The Woman Who Hated Women' (1986), in Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers (2013)

26th July

I will spare you the bother of... prevaricating Englishly (i.e. frowning and saying ĎThat sounds familiar . . .í until the information is furnished; whereupon we pretend we knew all along).

Catherine Fox, Realms of Glory (2017)

Aug 2017

2nd August

[B]ecause they realised that human communication is a very subtle and difficult thing, they used words not only with considerable skill, but with a sort of austere faithfulness. Only, since on Henry Hargreaves skill and austerity would have been thrown away, they spoke to him in his own tongue, and used it with mastery. Compared to their ordinary speech, talking to Henry was really hardly more than a sort of conversational rubbing noses.

Ann Bridge, Four-Part Setting (1939)

9th August

Cultural messages can obliterate even the concrete evidence of female experience recorded by female artists and do so very young.

Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing (1983)

16th August

All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. Without them, our lives get made up for us by other people.

Ursula Le Guin, 'The Operating Instructions. A talk given at a meeting of Oregon Literary Arts in 2002' in Words are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, with a Journal of a Writer's Week (2016)

23rd August

She was a victim of the bizarre juxtaposition which made a woman imagine she had fallen in love with a man, when in fact she had actually fallen in love with the masculine facet of her own self as projected in this manís image. The heart of the timid and puritanical virgin was inflamed by the daring and libidinous pirate in the universal myth. But the cutlass thrust through his belt was as much the symbol of her own unrealized potential, of the castration of her mental bravura, as it was the emblem of the male phallus. In reality she did not yearn for the pirateís embrace, she yearned to become the pirate.

Tanith Lee, 'Nightshade' (1974) in Nightshades: Thirteen Journeys into Shadow (1993)

30th August

Even if it is true that the Dark Ages have come back, we cannot stand away in isolation.... Taking it at its most hedonistic, we can't be happy unless other people are; we have to be kind to one another. Glyndwr was kind to me then, and I took it for granted, as one should between comrades; he was not elaborately kind, but he was what I needed--he gave the sense of praxis in personal relationships.

Naomi Mitchison Vienna Diary 1934 (1934)

Sep 2017

6th September

She was a mimbling little woman, meekly supporting the prestige of recent widowhood. Perhaps with the object of entrenching herself in this state, she spoke in a whimper.

Ngaio Marsh, Grave Mistake (1978)

13th September

Very often... the harshest version of a religion seems the purest, the most serious and authentic. Those inclined to defer to 'Christianity,' however defined, can be persuaded by an apparent consensus that it is essentially a system of prohibitions meant to fortify believers' consciences against any doubt they might otherwise feel about behaviour the Bible forbids--vilifying and condemning, for example, or about depriving and excluding. This might be what moral rigor looks like, after all.

Marilynne Robinson, 'Memory', in The Givenness of Things: essays (2015)

[No quotation for 20th September]

27th September

To be effective, activists have to make strong, simple, urgent demands, at least some of the time - the kind of demands that fit on stickers and placards, the kind that can be shouted in the street by a thousand people. And they have to recognize that their victories may come as subtle, complex, slow changes instead, and count them anyway. A gift for embracing paradox is not the least of the equipment an activist should have.

Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Third Edition, with a new foreword and afterword (2016)

Oct 2017

4th October

When the memory of one's predecessors is buried, the assumption persists that there were none and each generation of women believes itself to be faced with the burden of doing everything for the first time.

Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing (1983)

11th October

A non-literary repercussion of the novel, according to her [Julia Frankau, publishing as 'Frank Danby'], was an increase in the premiums for life assurance on doctors's wives since Dr Phillips [1887] had demonstrated what a breeze it was to rub them out.

Timothy D'Arch Smith, The Frankaus: Prejudice & Principles Within a London Literary Family (2015)

18th October

Because there is the real mystery. Why is one book entertaining, another disappointing, another a revelation and a lasting joy? What is quality? What makes a good book good and a bad book bad?

Not its subject. Not its genre. What, then? Thatís what good criticism, good book talk, has always been about.

Ursula K Le Guin, 'Genre: A Word Only a Frenchman Could Love: A talk given at the Public Library Association Preconference on Genre, in Seattle, February 2004, revised in 2014', in Words are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, with a Journal of a Writer's Week (2016)

25th October

Downstairs in the lounge, by the third pillar from the left, there sits an old lady with a sweet, placid, spinsterish face, and a mind that has plumbed the depths of human iniquity and taken it as all in the day's work.

Agatha Christie, The Body in the Library (1942)

Nov 2017

[No quotation for 1st November]

8th November

Apart from her virtues, he loved Florence simply because she was Catherine's daughter, and Catherine was the great love of his life, a love, or at least an image of love, immortalised by death, sealed off from decay and habituation, from the mundane forces that turn admiration into tolerance, and tolerance into irritation.

Edward St Aubyn, Dunbar: King Lear retold (2017)

15th November

She had no sense of proportion. She was so very weary of having her life interrupted by her weakness that anything that she had begun to do always seemed to her worth finishing, even under torture. To finish every task, in spite of all hindrance, was her only ambition, but it was almost always frustrated.

Stella Benson, Living Alone (1919)

22nd November

He began to think that life might be more interesting if one was not always looking for aspects of it to make fun of, people better value if one took them as they came and tried to get to know them, instead of classifying them for future witticisms, while at the same time using them as an audience.

Ann Bridge, Four-Part Setting (1939)

29th November

It was not as if [his plays] expressed a despairing admiration for integrity and tragedy and strength, obviously written up by a weak but aspiring soul; no, they were written down, as if by a lofty soul that already possessed integrity and the tragic sense and strength, and believed everyone else should possess them too. What was he doing sniffing... at people with commonplace longings for happiness?

Stella Gibbons, Westwood, or the Gentle Powers (1946)

Dec 2017

6th December

It would most certainly have been more traditional to go to the Rockies and shoot bears, which are always supposed to cure a broken heart, but it was cheaper to come to Paris and fully as dangerous. Also, those who go to the Rockies have to spend almost a week in a liner with nothing to occupy them but the broken heart. Whereas Phoebe was ingeniously contriving to evade or fail to recognise her heart-break for hours at a time - with luck.

Naomi Mitchison, Beyond This Limit (1935), in Isobel Murray (ed), Beyond This Limit: Selected Shorter Fiction of Naomi Mitchison (1986)

13th December

Only the most pathologically pure-hearted writers, artists, and performers are indifferent to how their work is received and judged. But some hang more attentively than others on the words of the judges.

Janet Malcolm, 'Forty-One False Starts' (1994), in Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers (2013)

20th December

[H]uman survival in the face of multiple threats depended on our ability to live in groups, but the imperative of maintaining group cohesion can sometimes override realism and common sense, making us hesitate to challenge the consensus or be the bearer of bad news. So, after checking with others, it remains the responsibility of each individual to sift through the received wisdom, insofar as possible, and decide what's worth holding on to.

Barbara Ehrenreich, Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World (2009)

[No quotation for 27th December]


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History of Sexuality Women's History Stella Browne Archival matters Books
Interwar Progressives Science Fiction and Fantasy Random Links of Interest
Victoriana Quirky Stuff