Top Ten Tuesday: Best Quotes

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join.

This week we’re discussing our favorite lines!  Being an English major has sort of turned me off from making note of good quotes – being required to do something has that effect – but it hasn’t stopped me from pausing to re-read a particularly beautiful line.

I’m reading “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck right now and I’m guessing I’ll be reading it for another few weeks.  It’s a long, dense book, and I want to absorb all of it because it’s also darn beautiful.  I’ve been marking a few favorite lines as I read:

1. “The direction of a big act will warp history, but probably all acts do the same in their degree, down to a stone stepped over in the path or a breath caught at sight of a pretty girl or a fingernail nicked in the garden soil.”

2. “To a man born without a conscience, a soul-stricken man must seem ridiculous.  To a criminal, honesty is foolish.  You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous.”

3. “Eventlessness has no posts to drape duration on.”  This was in a paragraph about the passage of time and how it’s the parts of our lives where a lot happens that seem the longest.  By contrast, it’s when nothing noteworthy occurs that the time seems to disappear.  It’s an interesting idea and of course Steinbeck expresses it succinctly and cleverly.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s books are beautiful and full of wonderful lines, but one of my favorites comes from “The Namesake:”

4. “‘Remember that you and I made this journey together to a place where there was nowhere left to go.'” Gogol’s father Ashoke says this to Gogol after a trek to the coast, and I absolutely love that idea of not only taking a unique journey with someone, but of reaching the end of the road with them.  It makes me think of the end of a lifelong marriage.

Another book by Lahiri, “Unaccustomed Earth,” also has a line I love:

5.‘Be happy, love Baba,’ he signed [the letters], as if the attainment of happiness were as simple as that.”

I never actually read all of “Monarch of the Glen” in Neil Gaiman’s “Fragile Things” because it’s a novella based on “American Gods,” which I haven’t read yet and I’m extremely spoiler-phobic.  Still, I came across this before I put the book down:

6. “He had imagined Scotland as being a soft place, all gentle heathery hills, but here on the North Coast everything seemed sharp and jutting, even the gray clouds that scudded across the pale blue sky.  It was as if the bones of the world showed through.”

“The bones of the world showed through” – doesn’t that just make your brain do a happy dance?

I loved “The Serialist” by David Gordon for its unabashed love of books and writing.  “The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril” is similarly bibliophilic, but I had actually written down a few lines from “The Serialist” because they were so great:

7.  “The part that writes is, I believe, the sane part, the part that strives to rescue the world from oblivion, life from death, by getting it all down on paper.”

8. “Every work of literature is a great victory over oneself and a small act of resistance against the world.”

An all-time favorite quote comes (again) from Neil Gaiman, this time from his “Sandman” series:

9. “What power would hell have if those imprisoned here would not be able to dream of heaven?”

Finally, one of my favorite insults falls from the lips of Arthur’s mother Igraine in “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley:

10. “Why should I waste my breath with a curse?  I would as willingly bid you Godspeed to your own heaven, and may your God find more pleasure in your company than I do.”

Bam!

What are some of your favorite lines?

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6 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Best Quotes

  1. What lovely quotes! East of Eden is one of my favorite books, and it is eminently quotable. I wish I had marked my favorite lines as I read it, though! I hope you’re enjoying it and am looking forward to reading your thoughts. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your list!

    • It’s a lovely book. I don’t think I appreciated Steinbeck nearly as much when he was required reading – I didn’t dislike his books, but I didn’t love them as much as I’m loving this one!

  2. East of Eden is one of my favorite books too. Yes, take your time with it. I used a couple of quotes from it today but really, I could have used more. It’s that good!

    • And those are only the quotes I’ve come across in the first quarter or so of the book! I’m really looking forward to the rest of it. 🙂

  3. Ooh, ooh, ooh. So, some of my favorite lines actually come from plays rather than books; maybe because imagining them on stage makes my spine prickle? Two are from Agamemnon, by Aeschylus. The first requires most of the previous context, which is that Cassandra, who is doomed to see the future but have nobody believe her, knows that she is fated to be murdered by Clytemnestra for having been brought back as a war prize by Clytemnestra’s husband, the titular Agamemnon, and can do nothing to stop fate from making her return to the house where Clytemnestra waits:

    “Alas, poor men, their destiny. When all goes well
    a shadow will overthrow it. If it be unkind
    one stroke of a wet sponge wipes all the picture out;
    and that is far the most unhappy thing of all.
    (Cassandra goes slowly into the house.)”

    I admit it’s the stage direction that gets me every time.

    Second is Clytemnestra, triumphant after having killed Agamemnon and Cassandra:

    “Thus he went down, and the life struggled out of him;
    and as he died he spattered me with the dark red
    and violent driven rain of bitter savored blood
    to make me glad, as gardens stand among the showers
    of God in glory at the birthtime of the buds.”

    Mostly because that’s just stone cold scary, comparing someone’s dying body spraying you with blood to spring rains. LOVE IT.

    Context is so important for making a line resonate with the reader, though! Like, in Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky, “Pedure, there is a deepness in the sky, and it extends forever,” is such a great line, but even understanding what the character means requires having read the book up to that point to know what a “deepness” is. Of course, there are some sorts of quotes out there that do pretty well even when divorced from their parent text, such as this quote from Mary Roberts Rinehart’s Bab: A Sub-deb: “‘The written word does not change…It remains always, embodying a dead truth and giving it apparent life.'” Which is a pretty hilariously meta quote to like, I guess!

    Anyway, I could go on, but I’ll restrain myself.

    • I thought of a few lines from plays, especially “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” but yeah, context is particularly important in lines from plays. And of course part of what makes R&GAD so great is the banter, and it’s hard to really quote from banter. I’d be writing out whole scenes!

      Today I learned “Agamemnon” is hardcore and I should see it!

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