And I ceased to be poor because I had nothing left.
—Girolamo Cardano (Jerome Cardan), The Book of My Life (J. M. Dent and Sons, 1931), p. 15. Trans. Jean Stoner from the Latin, De Vita Propria Liber, published in 1575.
Who claims Truth, Truth abandons.
—Thomas Pynchon, Mason and Dixon (Henry Holt, 1997), p. 305
A song is like a dream, and you try to make it come true. They’re like strange countries that you have to enter. You can write a song anywhere, in a railroad compartment, on a boat, on horseback—it helps to be moving. Sometimes people who have the greatest talent for writing songs never write any because they are not moving.
—Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One (Simon and Schuster, 2004), pp. 165-66
… can we change the normal brutality of civilization? My own answer is affirmative, and the reason is that certain individuals and institutions have witnessed clearly to us that normalcy is not destiny, that the normalcy of civilization’s brutality is not humanity’s inevitable fate.
—John Dominic Crossan, God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now (Harper Collins, 2007), p. 36
What happens in the heart simply happens.
—Ted Hughes, “Child’s Park,” from Brithday Letters (1998)
I have begun to write a book in order to pass away the time.
—Adam Smith to David Hume, 5 July 1764
I should be sincerely sorry to see my neighbor’s children devoured by wolves.
—Waldo Lydecker, Laura, 1944
How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.
—Niels Henrik David Bohr, quoted in R. Moore, Niels Bohr, the Man and the Scientist (1967), p. 140.
The hack songwriter will write the absolute truth every single word, whether it makes a great song or not. And the good songwriter takes something as a springboard and then goes from there. People chase, to this day, “Who is the Mr. Tambourine Man?” Songs aren’t really written that way. You take something that inspires you, and it might just be a pack of lies.
—Paul Westerberg, 15 October 2003
A full description of the differences could lead us into a tedious exploration of a semantic bog.
—Robert A. Dahl, Polyarchy
They had so little sense of history they couldn’t tell the difference between a room of one’s own and lebensraum.
—Janet Burroway, “The Mandlebrot Set,” Five Points, 2002
… the act of living can be seen as the act of replicating and preserving information despite Nature’s attempts to dissipate and destroy it.
—Charles Seife, Decoding the Universe
Adam Smith’s invisible hand – the idea that free markets lead to efficiency as if guided by unseen forces – is invisible, at least in part, because it is not there.
—Joseph Stiglitz, The Guardian, 20 December 2002
I believe that we should read only those books that bite and sting us. If a book we are reading does not rouse us with a blow to the head, then why read it? Because it will make us happy you tell me? My God, we would also be happy if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy we could, if necessary, write ourselves. What we need are books that affect us like some grievous misfortune, like the death of one whom we loved more than ourselves, as if we were banished to distant forests, away from everybody, like a suicide; a book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.
—Franz Kafka, from a letter to Oskar Pollak, 27 January 1904