Amy's Enthusiasms Butterfly

The Personal Website of Amy K. Rambow  •  Last Modified April 2012

Wise Words and Interesting Innuendos

March 2012 from Below Stairs by Margaret Powell, 1968

Eventually, of course, she couldn't hide it from Mrs. Cutler, and poor Agnes was told to leave at the end of the week.

February 2012 from Monsters in America by W. Scott Poole, 2011

Failing to acknowledge monsters is part of the act of creating them.  ...  Monstrous narratives not only shape identities, they provide a place to hold conversations about our public anxieties.  Our monsters register our national traumas.  ...  [N]umerous moments in American social and cultural history suggest that the monster itself, as omen and portent full of cultural meaning, does exist in the middle of a matrix of history and reflection on the meaning of history.

January 2012 from Monsters of the Gévaudan by Jay M. Smith, 2011

In the extended aftermath of the story, a bottomless fount of antipopular prejudice would be used to wash the hands, and memories, of elites, and to recast the phenomenon of the beast as an emanation of popular foolishness.

The evidence from 1764-1765 reveals a different story, however. ... The literate and the unlearned alike stood watch on the borders of the unthinkable. ... Evidence of modern forgetfulness comes laced with poignancy, however, for it marks the middle 1760s as one of the last moments in French history when a cross-section of educated elites, as well as the humble, could openly confront extraordinary monsters as something other than make-believe expressions of the unconscious. Monstrous habitats still had a place in the interpretive toolkit with which thinking people deciphered and made sense of an often unsettling reality.

Year Index


December 2011 from Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, 1908

Everywhere we see that men do not go mad by dreaming. Critics are much madder than poets.

Homer is complete and calm enough; it is his critics who tear him into extravagant tatters. Shakespeare is quite himself; it is only some of his critics who have discovered that he was somebody else. And though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.

. . . Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. . . . The poet asks only to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

November 2011 Samuel Gompers (1893), quoted in There is Power in a Union: The Epic Store of Labor in America by Philip Dray, 2010

What does labor want? It wants the earth and the fullness thereof... . Labor wants more schoolhouses and less jail cells; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, and to make manhood more noble, womanhood more beautiful, and childhood more happy and bright.

October 2011 from The Splendid Century: Life in the France of Louis XIV by W.H. Lewis, 1953

The domiciled man had civil rights, the bourgeois had both civil and municipal rights; to become a bourgeois, a qualifying period of residence was always required, varying between ten and fifteen years. At Paris, a bourgeois forfeited his rank if he failed to spend seven months each year in the city. In nearly all towns an oath of allegiance to the city was demanded from the new bourgeois, and everywhere a sharp look-out was kept for the bogus bourgeois; it was much easier in old France to become a sham nobleman than a sham bourgeois.

September 2011 from Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas, 1845

Friendship throws out deep roots in honest hearts, d'Artagnan. Believe me, it is only the evil-minded who deny friendship; they cannot understand it.

August 2011 from Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond, 1997

As for strawberries and raspberries, we had similar trouble competing with thrushes and other berry-loving birds. Yes, the Romans did tend wild strawberries in their gardens. But with billions of European thrushes defecating wild strawberry seeds in every possible place (including Roman gardens), strawberries remained the little berries that thrushes wanted, not the big berries that humans wanted.

July 2011 from Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty by Nancy Etcoff, 1999

Appearance is the most public part of the self. It is our sacrament, the visible self that the world assumes to be a mirror of the invisible, inner self. This assumption may not be fair, and not how the best of all moral worlds would conduct itself. But that does not make it any less true. Beauty has consequences that we cannot erase by denial.

June 2011 from Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde, 2009

To assist with the dietary requirements of vegetarians, on the first Tuesday of the month a chicken is officially a vegetable.

May 2011 from Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper by Brant Pitre, 2011

Curiously, many modern readers have never even heard of this holy bread that was kept in the Jewish Tabernacle, much less explored how it might shed light on the Jewish roots of the Eucharist. Perhaps this is because references to the Bread of the Presence are buried in some of the most difficult parts of the Old Testament, such as the detailed descriptions of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25) or the priestly rules and regulations of the Levites (Leviticus 24). Or perhaps it is because older English Bibles tended to translate the Hebrew references to this bread with the rather obscure expression "Showbread" (or "Shewbread"). As we will see below, this has created some problems for properly understanding the significance of this bread.

April 2011 from "A Surprise on the Highway" in Jesus by Andrew Greeley, 2007

Narrative criticism takes all the disparate parts that earlier exegesis has pulled apart in the Gospels and, understanding each of the parts better, feels free to return to the whole story and to learn what it is about. As Shea has said, a story does not indoctrinate or educate, rather it invites the reader (hearer?) into the world of the story so that s/he will emerge from the story with an enhanced view of the possibilities of human life.

March 2011 from Disney's Tangled (2010)

"So... Flynn. Where are you from?"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Sorry, Blondie. I don't do backstory. However, I am becoming very interested in yours. I know I'm not supposed to ask about the hair..."


"...or the mother..."


"...frankly, I'm too scared to ask about the frog."



February 2011 from Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes, 2011

The bottom line is something that's been known (and mostly ignored) for over forty years. The one thing we absolutely have to do if we want to get leaner -- if we want to get fat out of our fat tissue and burn it -- is to lower our insulin levels and to secrete less insulin to begin with. ... If we can get our insulin levels to drop sufficiently low (the negative stimulus of insulin deficiency), we can burn our fat. If we can't, we won't. When we secrete insulin, or if the level of insulin in our blood is abnormally elevated, we'll accumulate fat in the fat tissue. That's what the science tells us.

January 2011 from Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World by David T. Courtwright, 2001

Large-scale cigarette smuggling spread to Canada after its government hiked taxes in 1989 and again in 1991. Cartons selling in Canada for 45 dollars apiece cost half as much south of the border. Smugglers stuffed cigarettes into boats, kayaks, snowmobiles, and inside the bodies of cars and vans, in the manner of narcotics traffickers. ... Canadian citizens, apostles of peace, order, and good government, showed themselves to be every bit as contemptuous of high tobacco taxes as their English and French forebears. By 1994, an estimated one-third of the cigarettes in Ontario and two-thirds of those in Quebec were contraband, purchased from defiant merchants who kept double inventories and sold from below the counter. The government, citing a frightening growth in criminal activity and a breakdown in respect for Canadian law, announced large tax cuts in February of that year. Cigarette seizures promptly declined as Canadian smugglers shifted their attention to liquor, guns, illicit drugs, illegal immigrants, and other, more traditional, forms of contraband.

Year Index


December 2010 from Advent and Christmas Wisdom by G.K. Chesterton, 1929

"The Christmas season is domestic; and for that reason most people now prepare for it by struggling in tramcars, standing in queues, rushing away in trains, crowding despairingly into tea shops, and wondering when or whether they will ever get home. I do not know whether some of them disappear forever in the toy department or simply lie down and die in the tea-rooms; but by the look of them, it is quite likely. Just before the great festival of the home, the whole population seems to have become homeless."

November 2010 from The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases by Michael Capuzzo, 2010

"I'm probably more agnostic than I am atheist, but in any event, even if one doesn't believe in God, in our line of work one must have substance, structure, strong faith, character."  He snuffed out the cigarette.  "It used to be that people had character; now houses have character and people have personality.  That won't do.  The eternal things, the good, the true, the beautiful, must be unbreakable."

October 2010 from “A cause worth the sacrifice and the blisters” by Leonard Pitts in the Miami Herald, 2010

You know, we are sometimes afflicted with inertia, a tendency to regard certain challenges as too big, certain problems as too intractable.  A fondness for the helpless shrug.

That we have no reason to be so cowed, so bereft of imagination and respectful of limitation, is as obvious as footprints on the moon, or children who've never heard of polio, or the black man in the Oval Office.  Yet for all the miracles to which we have borne witness, we still sometimes allow inertia to hold us.

September 2010 from “Dickens in Lagos” by George Packer in Lapham’s Quarterly, 2010

The concerns of [the nineteenth-century social novel] — the individual caught in an encompassing social web, the sensitive young mind trapped inside an indifferent world, the beguiling journey from countryside to metropolis, the dismal inventiveness with which people survive, the permanent gap between imagination and opportunity, the big families whose problems are lived out in the street, the tragic pregnancies, the ubiquity of corruption, the earnest efforts at self-education, the preciousness of books, the squalid factories and debtor’s prisons, the valuable garbage, the complex rules of patronage and extortion, the sudden turns of fortune, the sidewalk con men and legless beggars, the slum as theater of the grotesque: long after these things dropped out of Western literature, they became the stuff of ordinary life elsewhere, in places where modernity is arriving but hasn’t begun to solve the problems of people thrown together in the urban cauldron.

August 2010 from “Anda’s Game” by Cory Doctorow, 2004

The enemy isn't your fellow player.  It's not the players guarding the fabrica, it's not the girls working there.  The people who are working to destroy the game are the people who pay you and the people who pay the girls in the fabrica, who are the same people.  You're being paid by rival factory owners, you know that?  THEY are the ones who care nothing for the game.  My girls care about the game.  You care about the game.  Your common enemy is the people who want to destroy the game and who destroy the lives of these girls.

July 2010 from Prisoner’s Base by Rex Stout, 1952

He regarded me with what looked like amiable appreciation.  “Archie,” he told me, “that was an impressive performance.  Friday, I spoke hastily and you acted hastily, and the fait accompli of that torn check had us at an impasse.  It was an awkward problem, and you have solved it admirably.  By contriving one of your fantastically and characteristically puerile inventions, you made the problem itself absurd and so disposed of it.  Admirable and satisfactory.”

June 2010from The Victorian Visitors: Culture Shock in Nineteenth-Century Britain by Rupert Christiansen, 2000

On one memorably Trollopean occasion, Headlam’s Bishop, the relatively liberal Frederick Temple, agreed to meet a representative of the Guild, one Miss Wooldridge, danseuse.  The Bishop sat clutching a copy of the New Testament as though it were vampire-repelling garlic.  What, Miss Woolridge wanted to know, was the source of the church’s antipathy to ballet?

‘The dance is too sensual,’ complained the Bishop (it being unlikely he had ever seen it).

‘Do you mean the dancer or the step?” asked the intelligent Miss Wooldridge.

‘I mean, we, flesh-coloured tights, the colour of, er, skin,’ whispered the Bishop.

‘But, my lord,’ insisted Miss Woolridge, ‘some of us play the part of fairies: you wouldn’t have fairies surely in a blue or black skin?’

The Bishop shook his head.  ‘I don’t see why so imaginary a creature as a fairy should not have a blue or black skin.’

. . . Yet absurd and naïve as the Guild may seem to us now, it must have effected some slight shift in public consciousness and contributed positively to the contemporary debate about the morality of the theatre.  What makes Headlam himself such an intriguing figure is that his agenda wasn’t simply limited to the salvation of the ballet girls.  He had made a great study of the history of the dance and, in a much reprinted and published lecture of 1894, made the first plea in the English language for it to be taken seriously, with a spiritual dimension.

May 2010 from “The Social Life of the College” by F.J. Furnivall in The Working Men’s College 1854-1904, 1904

As an instance of how this workt I may give the case of a student, a lithographer, who met me in Camden Town some thirty-five years after he had been a member of my grammar class.  After telling me how well he had got on, what classes he was teaching drawing to, etc., he said: “And do you know how all this came about?” “No,” said I.  “Then I’ll tell you,” answered he. “I was in your class at the College, and you askt me to tea with some of the others.  I’d never been in a gentleman’s room before, and when I came out, after seeing your pictures, books, and chairs, I said to myself, ‘I’ll have as good a room as that.’  And now I’ve got a better.”  Cheering, wasn’t it, and so unexpected.  Ruskin and most of our teachers had their classes to tea...

April 2010 from Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Painter and Poet by Jan Marsh, 1999

Millais too is often damned for painting pretty pictures, sentimental scenes, bread-and-butter portraits whose main merit was salability.  But the alternative might have been not to paint at all: the art world was full of promising men who had given up in favour of a salaried position, or who struggled on precariously.  At worst, an artist who could not sell starved in a garret with canvases stacked around, but this Van Goghian figure was not much admired in the Victorian era, where artistic success was measured by wealth, sustained output, eminent clients and magnificent houses.  The position of unworldly genius was already filled by G.F. Watts, secure in the Prinseps’ patronage.  Never unworldly, Rossetti did not intend his talents to be constrained by poverty or dependency.

March 2010 from My Grandfather, His Wives and Loves by Diana Holman-Hunt, 1969

Night after night, the whole street woke up when Annie and her artists came home tipsy from larking at one of the many famous pleasure gardens.  There were two hundred such amusement parks in London, but her favorite haunt was the Chelsea Cremorne.  This was where the most avant garde artists and their models foregathered.

February 2010 from “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” by Arthur Conan Doyle, 1892

As to Miss Violet Hunter, my friend Holmes, rather to my disappointment, manifested no further interest in her when once she ceased to be the centre of one of his problems, and she is now the head of a private school at Walsall, where I believe that she has met with considerable success.

January 2010 from “The Adventure of the Global Traveler” by Ann Lear in Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Space, 1978

“Still, I shall leave this partial record now, not waiting until I have liberty to set down a more complete one.  If you who read it do so at any time during the last eight years of the nineteenth century, or perhaps even for some years thereafter, I beg that you will do me the great favor to take or send it to Mr. Sherlock Holmes at 221B Baker Street, London.

“Thus, in the hope that he may read this, I send my compliments and the following poser:

“The first time the Third Murderer’s lines were ever spoken, they were delivered from memory.

“Pray, Mr. Holmes, who wrote them?

“31st December 1640”

Year Index


December 2009 from “The Celestial Omnibus” by E.M. Forster, 1911

“It does not pay.  It was not intended to pay.  Many are the faults of my equipage; it is compounded too curiously of foreign woods; its cushions tickle erudition rather than promote repose; and my horses are nourished not on the evergreen pastures of the moment, but on the dried bents and clovers of Latinity.  But that it pays! — that error at all events was never intended and never attained.”

November 2009 from “The Man with the Nose” by Rhoda Broughton, 1879

I have got over it; we have both got over it, tolerably, creditably; but after all, it is a much severer ordeal for a man than a woman, who, with a bouquet to occupy her hands, and a veil to gently shroud her features, need merely be prettily passive.  I am alluding, I need hardly say, to the religious ceremony of marriage, which I flatter myself I have gone through with a stiff sheepishness not unworthy of my country.  It is a three-days-old event now, and we are getting used to belonging to one another, though Elizabeth still takes off her ring twenty times a day to admire its bright thickness; still laughs when she hears herself called ‘Madame.’

October 2009 from First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde, 2007

“Hmmm,” I said as we stood inside the entrance of Booktastic! and stared at the floor display units liberally stacked with CDs, DVDs, computer games, peripherals and special-interest magazines.  “I’m sure there was a book in here last time I came in.  Excuse me?”

A shop assistant stopped and stared at us in a vacant sort of way.

“I was wondering if you had any books.”

“Any what?”

“Books.  Y’know — about so big and full of words arranged in a specific order to give the effect of reality?”

“You mean DVDs?”

“No, I mean books.  They’re kind of old-fashioned.”

“Ah!” she said.  “What you mean are videotapes.”

“No, what I mean are books.”

We’d exhausted the sum total of her knowledge, so she went into default mode.  “You’ll have to see the manager.  She’s in the coffee shop.”

“Which one?” I asked, looking around.  There appeared to be three — and this wasn’t Booktastic!’s biggest outlet, either.

September 2009 from The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York by Matthew Goodman, 2008

The merchant papers were all produced within a few blocks of each other in lower New York, from Wall Street running up William and Nassau streets, and their coverage of the city extended little farther than that.  Thanks to the editors’ zeal in appropriating foreign papers, their readers could learn about a new prince installed in Greece or the launch of a new packet ship in Liverpool; thanks to their Washington correspondents, they could learn about the latest debate over the central bank or the passage of a new tariff on cotton or iron; or, thanks to the free exchange with other newspapers around the country, an Indian battle that had been fought near St. Louis or a record steamship time that had been set in Charleston.  But little was ever heard of doings in nearby Corlear’s Hook or Chatham Square or the Bowrey.  So closely focused on each other, the editors were blind to the changes that were rapidly overwhelming their city.

August 2009 from Moongazer by Marianne Mancusi, 2007

Their enthusiasm sends a nagging sense of guilt straight to my insides.  ...  At the end of the day, they got the wrong girl.  One who can't help them — unless they have a virtual dungeon they need rendered at the last minute.  They need a brave, revolutionary leader to step up to the plate and save their world, but somehow got stuck with an incompetent club kid gamer who can't even remember to save her electricity bill by switching off lights when she leaves her apartment.

July 2009 from Head and Heart: American Christianities by Garry Wills, 2007

The Romantic era is mainly studied by literary critics, which may be the reason it is not considered as a larger historical shift, comparable with such great movements in history as the Renaissance, the Reformation, or the Enlightenment.  But Isaiah Berlin argued that Romanticism is even more important to modern ways of thinking than are any later developments:

The importance of Romanticism is that it is the largest recent movement to transform the lives and the thought of the Western world.  This seems to me to be the greatest single shift in the consciousness of the West that has occurred, and all the other shifts which have occurred in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries appear to me in comparison less important, and at any rate deeply influenced by it.

June 2009 from Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landry, 2008

She screamed as a fist smashed through the window, showering the carpet with glass.  She stumbled back as the man started climbing in, glaring at her with blazing eyes, unmindful of the glass that cut into him.  The moment his foot touched the floor inside the house, Stephanie bolted out of the room and over to the front door, fumbling at the lock. ...  And that's when the front door was flung off its hinges and Skulduggery Pleasant burst into the house.

May 2009 from Where God Was Born: A Daring Adventure Through the Bible's Greatest Stories by Bruce Feiler, 2007

There are many dangers in discussing the Bible in contemporary terms; so much about the ancient world bears little resemblance to our democratic, post-Enlightenment world.  ...  But Samuel is clearly skeptical of having a king over Israel because he believes a monarch will not uphold the values of God.  By granting the Israelites' request for a monarch, God acknowledges that they must form a state.  The judges, with their ambiguous power, just won't do anymore.  But if the Israelites do get their state, God wants their leader to have limited power.  ...  In contemporary parlance, state and church should be separate; morality is too important to be entrusted to humans.

April 2009 from Bury Me Standing by Isabel Fonseca, 1995 Fushkrut [Albania], where the poorest Gypsies I had ever seen were living... Within a few minutes the whole population, some three hundred people, were pressing in around us, small children filling the spaces between grown-ups' legs and under their arms.  Just as there were always ravaged, beaten-down older people, and a couple of kids with minor disabilities like crossed eyes, there always seemed to be one outrageous beauty: an angel who would have been forced into indentured topmodeldom had she been found on a Paris bus; or a wavy-lipped, chisel-chinned, almond-eyed boy-warrior out of the Iliad, as beautiful as humans come.

March 2009 from Birth of the Chess Queen by Marilyn Yalom, 2005

A luxury chess set was considered a fine wedding gift.  In 1038, for example, a Bohemian princess married to the German count Wipecht von Groitzsch in Thüringen was given an ivory and rock crystal chess set as a wedding present.  Either she already knew how to play, or she would have been obliged to learn very quickly.  Such gifts may have been helpful to the many young princesses who were married for political reasons and shipped off to foreign domains where they did not speak the language.  There at least they could amuse themselves wordlessly, playing chess.

February 2009 from Good Bad Woman by Elizabeth Woodcraft, 2000

I did a mental run through my address book and realized there was no one I could ring at ten o' clock at night and say, 'I've just been punched in the face, it hurts like hell, will you be nice to me?'  Feeling alone and extremely sorry for myself, I fetched a glass of water from the kitchen and took two aspirin.

I trailed into the living room and put on the Four Tops, who said I could reach out and they'd be there.

And I wondered, as I so often had, if the idea was to reach out now while I was listening to the song, which would be fairly unproductive since I was quite obviously on my own, or if I should wait until I was at a really good party and then reach out and it would all fall into place.

January 2009 from the afterword to The Woman Fencer, by Roberta Brown

I discovered on the first day of shooting that a very probable reason why so few women were renowned for their accomplishments with the blade in centuries gone by is that physical activity in a tight corset leads to discomfort so extreme as to be virtually prohibitive!  While the men with whom I inevitable engage in battle wear clothes that encourage movement, the women's costumes, which are more or less specific to the period of Spanish colonial California, bruise me with every move.  I say this not as a complaint against the costume designers or society in general, but rather as an observation about societal expectations...

Year Index


December 2008 from Frosty the Snowman, 1969

“Don't cry, Karen.  Frosty's not gone for good.  You see, he was made out of Christmas snow and Christmas snow can never disappear completely.  It sometimes goes away for almost a year at a time and takes the form of spring and summer rain.  But you can bet your boots that when a good, jolly December wind kisses it, it will turn into Christmas snow all over again.”

November 2008 from The Inner Game of Fencing by Nick Evangelista, 2000

“To touch and not be touched” should be printed in bold letters on every electric scoring machine, so that each fencer who makes an attack, and automatically stares directly at the box to see if a point has been registered, can be reminded what fencing is truly about.

October 2008 from Piety Along the Potomac: Notes on Politics and Morals in the '50s by William Lee Miller, 1964

Our American outlook on politics is peculiarly prone to an excessive idealism, and then to a disgusted, cynical reaction against it.  Sometimes these two exist simultaneously.  ...  The cynic and the 'above politics' man share a negative judgment on politics -- the one to exploit, the other to pretend to escape its supposedly evil nature.  But politics is a serious, worthy, important activity -- not to be covered over with glamour or romance, of course, but not to be regarded as nefarious, either.  It is in part the struggle for power among contending interests, yes, but the struggle takes place within the frame of larger agreements (in the United States, fortunately, a solid frame), and the power is sought for some purpose (in part, the shared purpose of running a state).  ...  But overarching the conflict and the power-seeking and the interest-serving of that life is something good: the community's effort to organize, shape, maintain, and perhaps improve itself; the perennial quest for justice and the common good.

September 2008 from Dave Barry Talks Back by Dave Barry, 1991

By scientifically analyzing these results, we can conclude that women do not appear to have a high opinion of men.  This is unfair.  Oh, sure, men in the past have displayed certain unfortunate behavior patterns that have tended to produce unhappy relationships, world wars, etc.  But today's man is different.  Today's man knows that he's supposed to be a sensitive and caring relationship partner, and he's making radical life-style changes, such as sometimes remembering to remove the used tissue wads from his pockets before depositing his pants on the floor to be picked up by the Laundry Fairy.

August 2008 from the Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, 1837

There is no month in the whole year in which nature wears a more beautiful appearance than in the month of August.  Spring has many beauties, and May is a fresh and blooming month, but the charms of this time of year are enhanced by their contrast with the winter season.  August has no such advantage.  It comes when we remember nothing but clear skies, green fields, and sweet-smelling flowers -- when the recollection of snow, and ice, and bleak winds, has faded from our minds as completely as they have disappeared from the earth -- and yet what a pleasant time it is!  Orchards and cornfields ring with the hum of labour; trees bend beneath the thick clusters of rich fruit which bow their branches to the ground; and the corn, piled in graceful sheaves, or waving in every light breath that sweeps above it, as if it wooed the sickle, tinges the landscape with a golden hue.

July 2008 from a preface to The Second Confession by Rex Stout, by William G. Tapply, 1995

When, sometime around my fortieth birthday, I was struck by the urge to try to write a novel, I was vastly comforted to learn that Rex Stout didn't write his first Nero Wolfe tale until he was forty-seven, and that he proceeded to write them right up to his death at the age of eighty-eight.  It was considerably less comforting to learn that he typically completed a novel in thirty-eight days, and that he always got it right on the first try.

June 2008 from Thunderbird Falls by C.E. Murphy,  2006

Don't do that.  ...  Belittle yourself.  Or anyone else, for that matter.  ...  I don't like what you can do at all.  But I like you setting yourself up for the sucker punch even less.  It's degrading, and you're better than that.  I won't tolerate it.

May 2008 from Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy,  2005

You want to know the horrible thing?  I felt like it was a big secret, that I couldn't see, and I figured everybody'd point and stare when I came to school with glasses.  Nobody even noticed.  I'd spent all that time psyching myself up for the trauma of being teased.  The trauma of not being noticed was worse.

April 2008 from Love Monkey by Kyle Smith,  2004

When I was a kid, my older brothers would scamper off on a Sunday afternoon while my parents dragged me around to flea markets.  . . .  Until we stumbled upon some merchant-wizard who had a barrel filled with lumps of undercover merchandise in brown paper sacks tied with ribbons.  A Magic Marker question mark was their only label.  "Grab Bags," the sign would say.  Only a buck.  I had to have one, every time.  By the time we got home I would have thrown away the Bakelite candy bowl or wooden duck that always lay within.

March 2008 from Jude's Law by Lori Foster,  2006

Will I need my glasses?

February 2008 from What Jesus Meant by Garry Wills,  2006

However we understand the mysterious sacrifice of the cross, one thing is certain — it is a proof of God's love, not his anger. ... Jesus was sent to express, vindicate, and extend the Father's love. That is why the completion of his rescue raid into history is the descent into hell. This is not mentioned in the New Testament — save for a highly dubious reference in a notoriously obscure verse. But it is contained in the early creeds and baptismal oaths, showing that it is original to the revelation that was preached. ... That is part of the whole conception of Jesus as the summation and climax of creation. He reaches back with his redeeming power to rescue mankind from the very beginning.

January 2008 from The Art of Medieval Hunting: The Hound and the Hawk by John Cummins,  1988

Clearly, there was female participation in certain forms of hunting, especially falconry, and female interest in other forms, but for women to take part in the rigors of classic par force hunting, as opposed to its social preliminaries and aftermath, must have been a rarity.  The medieval practical manuscripts, lavishly illustrated, depict only men, hounds and their quarry. ...  However, when the practical element in a picture or work of hunting literature is less than total, women ... are usually the first thing to creep in.

Year Index


December 2007 from Walking the Bible by Bruce Feiler,  2001

Because Egyptian temples were built so early in the course of human history, they often seem closer to the natural world than to other man-made structures.  One reason is that they are unencumbered by architectural precedent; they refer to nature, not to other buildings.  ...  The volume of words on the public monuments of ancient Egypt is comparable to that other magnum force of Egypt, the flood.  If language is going to triumph over nature, it first must become nature — the pictograms themselves; then divert attention from nature — use those pictograms to tell stories; then dominate it — erect tall buildings that show the triumph of stories over nature.  ...  From now on, the written word was king.

November 2007 from "Dynasty of Nomads: Rediscovering the Forgotten Liao Empire" in Archaeology (November/December 2007; 30-31), by Jake Hooker

The Liao created a dual administration to govern their nomadic Khitan subjects and the sedentary Chinese, a system that the Mongols and Manchus later adopted when they came to power. It is the same 'one country, two systems' model the Chinese government uses today to govern the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

Chinese art and literature enjoyed a renaissance during the Song dynasty and it is hard to imagine any Chinese, then or now, seeing nomads as cultural rivals. Yet at the turn of the first millennium, the Liao had a uniquely sophisticated culture and arguably the more powerful state. From Korea to the Mongolian steppe to the site of present-day Beijing, they controlled a vast swath of territory, all while living much the way that some semi-nomadic Tibetans and Mongolians live today, breeding livestock and relying on horses.

October 2007 from "Return of the Goldwater GOP" by Harold Meyerson, in the Washington Post (10/03/07; A23)

A free public education is a right, or, if you prefer, an entitlement in America, because the nation long ago decided that an educated population is a national good.  You might think that the same logic would apply to providing children with health care, that the gains to the nation from having a healthy population would outweigh those of bolstering private health insurance companies in the name of laissez-faire ideology.

September 2007 from Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages by Phyllis Rose, 1983

To say that George Eliot was the child of the extraordinarily happy union of Marian Evans and George Henry Lewes is more than wordplay. Literary parthenogenesis being as impossible for Miss Evans as the biological sort is generally impossible, George Eliot would almost certainly not have entered the world without Lewes's participation. But what exactly was his role, the dynamics of his contribution? The usual explanation — that Marian was 'not fitted to stand alone' and needed someone to lean on — is subtly misleading, making England's strongest woman novelist seem deficient and dependent. . . .

To want love and sex in one's life is hardly, after all, a sign of neurosis. . . .  It is a small matter of emphasis only, but it does seem to me to make some difference whether we think of one of the most powerful female writers ever as neurotically dependent on men or as brave enough to secure for herself what she wanted.

August 2007 from Three Doors to Death by Rex Stout, 1948

She was forty and looked it, and she was not an eyestopper in any obvious way, but everything about her, the way she walked, the way she stood, her eyes and mouth and whole face, seemed to be saying, without trying or intending to, that if you happened to be hers, and she yours, life would be full of pleasant and interesting surprises.

July 2007 from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, 2001

Pettigrew owes his life to you.  You have sent Voldemort a deputy who is in your debt. . . .  and I'm much mistaken if Voldemort wants his servant in the debt of Harry Potter. . . . the time may come when you will be very glad you saved Pettigrew's life.

June 2007 from Boogers are my Beat by Dave Barry, 2003

Maturity is a crippling handicap for humor columnists.  It's like height for jockeys, or ethics for lawyers.

May 2007 from The Art of Hugging by William Cane, 1996

Hugs early in life make us capable of love.  Infants raised without hugging tend to grow up incapable of loving others.  They can become psychopaths, sociopaths and psychological misfits.  Cross-cultural studies show this startling finding: Societies with less hugging tend to be more violent.

April 2007 from a St. Louis Daily Globe interview with Oscar Wilde, 1882

The West I liked best.  The people are stronger, fresher, saner than the rest.  They are ready to be taught.  The surroundings of nature have instilled in them a love of the beautiful, which but needs development and direction.  The East I found a feeble reflex of Europe; in fact, I may say that I was in America for a month before I saw an American.

March 2007 from "Black Charlie" by Gordon Dickson, 1954

Let us say that you pick up something.  A piece of statuary — or, better, a piece of stone, etched and colored by some ancient man of prehistoric times.  You look at it.  At first, it is nothing, a half-developed reproduction of some wild animal, not even as good as a grade-school child could accomplish today.

But then, holding it, your imagination suddenly reaches through rock and time, back to the man himself, half-squatted before the stone wall of his cave — and you see there, not the dusty thing you hold in your hand, but what the man himself saw in the hour of its creation.  You look beyond the physical reproduction to the magnificent accomplishment of his imagination.

This, then, may be called art — no matter what strange guise it appears in — this magic which bridges all gaps between the artist and yourself.

February 2007 from Bad Habits: A 100% Fact Free Book by Dave Barry, 1987

Cats are less loyal than dogs, but more independent(This is code.  It means: 'Cats are smarter than dogs, but they hate people.')  Many people love cats.  From time to time, newspapers print stories about some elderly widow who died and left her entire estate, valued at $32,000, to her cat, Fluffkins.  Cats read these stories, too, and are always plotting to get named as beneficiaries in their owners' wills.  Did you ever wonder where your cat goes when it wanders off for several hours?  It meets with other cats in estate-planning seminars.  I just thought you should know.

January 2007 from The Fourth Bear  by Jasper Fforde, 2006

Few bills before Parliament were ever so soundly rejected as the Ursine Self-Defense Bill of 2003, defeated by a record 608 to 1.  Proposed to allow bears to protect themselves against illegal hunting and bile tappers, the bill would have permitted adult bears to legally carry a concealed sidearm within the designated safe haven of Berkshire, UK.  The defeat of this particular private member's bill brought an end to the previous record, set in 1821 when Sir Clifford Nincompoop's proposal to allow marriage to one's horse was defeated by 521 to 5.

Year Index


December 2006 from “Richards' Rant Wakes Up Blacks to N-Word's Hate,”  by Leonard Pitts, 2006

In the calculus of race, I am not my brother's keeper.  I am my brother.  Individuality is the first casualty of bigotry.

November 2006 from Partners in Necessity by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, 2000

If the mind processes something as experience, then it is experience.  Reality is perhaps more difficult to define than truth.

October 2006 from “Miss Jéromette and the Clergyman” by Wilkie Collins, 1875

There, there! she said, returning to her natural manner; don't take what I say too seriously.  A poor girl who has led a lonely life like mine thinks strangely and talks strangely -- sometimes.  Yes; I give you my promise.  If I am ever in trouble, I will let you know it.  God bless you -- you have been very kind to me -- goodbye!  A tear dropped on my face as she kissed me.  The door closed between us.  The dark street received me.

September 2006 from The Knight in History by Frances Gies, 1984

Georges Duby, in his Medieval Marriage and in an essay "Youth in Aristocratic Society," goes further, asserting that troubadour poetry was an expression not only of the desire for upward mobility but of the frustrations, particularly strong in the twelfth century, that resulted from the knight's position in society.  A knight was considered a "youth" until he had married, become the head of a house, and started a family.  Younger sons, or even eldest sons unable to make a good match, might remain "youths" for a long time, even permanently.  Although the troubadours glorified youth, the longed-for and often unreachable goal was to join the company of the adults.  The poetry of courtly love may have been a gesture of defiance to the system, a "sublimated form of abduction."

The traditional view of critics is that the poetry of the troubadours idealized women.  Perhaps the reverse is true: the women in the poems already possessed a status from which the poets, through their verses, sought to borrow. ... the heroines of the poems always remained objects through which the poet tried to attain his goal of self-realization or, more concretely, position at court.

August 2006 from Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys by Dave Barry, 1995

Of course human beings, as a species, are no longer subject to the kinds of threats that face animals in the wild.  Thanks to modern medical advances such as anesthesia, antibiotics, and organ transplants, few human beings born in the latter half of the twentieth century have been eaten by wrens.

July 2006 from "Call to Renewal" Keynote Address by Senator Barack Obama, 2006

[T]he discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms.  Some of the problem here is rhetorical -- if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice.  Imagine Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address without reference to "the judgments of the Lord."  Or King's I Have a Dream speech without references to "all of God's children."  Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible, and move the nation to embrace a common destiny.  ...  Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values.  It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason.  I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will.  I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.  ... Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality.

June 2006 from The Grey Horse by R.A. MacAvoy, 1987

I am the horse that bore you over your first jump, a Thóibín.  I am the hauler of the stones for the walls hereabout.  I eat the paltry grass and the flowers and wade in the sea.  I steal men and women, if I might love them, and I carry them off.  I am the púca, and my riders come off me different people than they went on.  ...  Or that is the idea.  I would be a more formidable fairy if I were more clever.

May 2006 from F. Scott Fitzgerald's "O Russet Witch!" in Tales of the Jazz Age, 1922

He knew now that he had always been a fool.  ...  But it was too late.  He had angered Providence by resisting too many temptations.  There was nothing left but heaven, where he would meet only those who, like him, had wasted earth.

April 2006 from Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe by George Eliot, 1861

So, year after year, Silas Marner had lived in this solitude, his guineas rising in the iron pot, and his life narrowing and hardening itself more and more into a mere pulsation of desire and satisfaction that had no relation to any other being.  His life had reduced itself to the functions of weaving and hoarding without any contemplation of an end towards which the functions tended.  The same sort of process has perhaps been undergone by wiser men when they have been cut off from faith and love -- only, instead of a loom and a heap of guineas, they have had some erudite research, some ingenious project, or some well-knit theory.

March 2006 from A. A. Milne's 1940 introduction to The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

One can argue over the merits of most books, and in arguing understand the point of view of one's opponent.  One may even come to the conclusion that possibly he is right after all.  One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows.  The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters.  The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly.  The book is a test of character.  We can't criticize it, because it is criticizing us. ...  When you sit down to it, don't be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame.  You are merely sitting in judgment on yourself.  You may be worthy; I don't know.  But it is you who are on trial.

February 2006 from "Amends," Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 3, Episode 10, by Joss Whedon, 1998

“Just this once, let me be strong.”

“Strong is fighting.  It's hard.  And it's painful.  And it's every day.  It's what we have to do.  And we can do it together.”

January 2006 from Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, 2000

There was a reedy shore, a place of shelter and serenity.  There was a tiny white beach, and a stretch of tranquil lake water.  On it swam a beautiful swan, her neck proudly arched, her beautiful eyes clear and bright.  Beside her, two downy young ones but half fledged, dipping and splashing in the water.  I too have said my farewells.  ...  I had a little time.  More than you have had.  But I fear the cold, and the wolf, and the long loneliness.  More than I can tell you, I fear for them.

Year Index


December 2005 from Sanditon by Jane Austen, 1817

The truth was that Sir Edward, whom circumstances had confined very much to one spot, had read more sentimental novels than agreed with him.  His fancy had been early caught by all the impassioned and most exceptionable parts of Richardson's, and such authors as have since appeared to tread in Richardson's steps, so far as man's determined pursuit of woman in defiance of every opposition of feeling and convenience is concerned, had since occupied the greater part of his literary hours, and formed his character.  With a perversity of judgment (which must be attributed to his not having by nature a very strong head) the graces, the spirit, the sagacity and the perseverance of the villain of the story outweighed all his absurdities and all his atrocities with Sir Edward.  With him, such conduct was genius, fire and feeling.  It interested and inflamed him, and he was always more anxious for its success and mourned over its discomfitures with more tenderness than could ever have been contemplated by the authors.

November 2005 from Catholicism and American Freedom by John T. McGreevy, 2003

The philosopher Charles Taylor's brilliant investigation of our moral resources places current tensions in perspective.  Taylor readily admits the importance of modern notions of autonomy and the "free self-determining subject," and he notes that affirmations of universal human rights emerged in spite of Catholic nostalgia for Christendom, not because of it.  At the same time, Taylor urges Catholics and other people of good will to counter an ethical individualism unwilling to recognize any authority beyond the self, and an economic individualism pliant before the marketplace.  A romantic view of individual autonomy, often commingled in the United States with anti-Catholicism, may weaken the solidarity needed to ensure dignity for society's most vulnerable members.

October 2005 from The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde, 2005

Citizens who find a corpse while walking their dog may be fined if proposed legislation is made law, it was disclosed yesterday.  The new measures, part of the Criminal Narrative Improvement Bill, have been drafted to avoid investigations looking clichéd once they reach the docudrama stage.  Other offenses covered by the act will be motorists declaiming in a huffy tone, 'Why don't you catch burglars/real criminals for a change?' when caught speeding, if there is a documentary crew in attendance.  Civil libertarians, motorist groups and dog walkers are said to be 'outraged.'

September 2005 from Why There are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Woman by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, 2004

For most of the past century, there was one dominant mating system.  It could be accurately described as a system of romantic courtship and marriage.  It was devoted almost solely to the young and never-married.  Its main function was to pair up young people, usually while one or both of them were still in school, and move them toward marriage, usually in the years shortly after the end of formal schooling. ... It provided a set of rules, conventions and practices that nearly everyone recognized and many followed. ... No one suffered confusion about what the standards for courtship were, or what the consequences of violating the standards might be. ... By the time that the women who are now in their 20s and 30s reached college, this national courtship system, for all practical purposes, no longer existed. ... The new single woman who hopes to marry someday faces a quandary: she isn't able to rely on the earlier courtship system.  It no longer exists.  Even if it did, it wouldn't fit the timetable of her early adult life.  It was designed for college women who got married in their early 20s.  And the emerging system doesn't offer an updated courtship systems that helps her fulfill her aspirations for finding a life mate at an older age.

August 2005 from Winds of Fury by Mercedes Lackey, 1994

There's no great virtue in being lifebonded, you know.  It's a lot like having a Predestined Fate; often uncomfortable, frequently inconvenient, usually hazardous.  ...  it isn't love, that's for certain, even though love usually cements the bond.  Van thinks that it's likelier that someone with an extremely powerful Gift of some kind and a tendency to deep depression will be lifebonded than someone who is not so burdened and hag-ridden.  That's so the Gifted-and-suicidal half has someone outside of himself to keep him stable and give him an external focus.

July 2005 from 1776 by Peter Stone, 1972

A second flood, a simple famine, plagues of locusts everywhere, or a cataclysmic earthquake, I'd accept with some despair.  But no, You sent us Congress!  Good God, Sir!  Was that fair?

June 2005 from "You Can't Cut and Paste Your Way Toward Learning to Write," in the Miami Herald, by Leonard Pitts, June 3, 2005

My words are important to me.  I struggle with them, obsess over them.  Show me something I wrote and like a mother recounting a child's birth, I can tell you stories of how it came to be, why this adjective here or that colon there.  See, my life's goal is to learn to write.  And you cannot cut and paste your way to that.  You can only work your way there, sweating out words, wrestling down prose, hammering together poetry.  There are no shortcuts.  ...  But before you go, let me say something on behalf of all of us who are struggling to learn how to write, or just struggling to be honorable human beings:  The dictionary is a big book.  Get your own damn words.  Leave mine alone.

May 2005 from The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl, 2003

That which we are, we are: what we choose to be.  This calmed Holmes a bit.  The three friends waiting for him had agreed.  Still, he could walk away with his hands in his pockets.  He drew in a deep asthmatic breath, the sort followed by an equally pronounced exhale of release.  But instead of completing the motion, Holmes chose.  He did not recognize his own voice, a voice composed enough to belong to the noble flame that spoke to Dante.  He only barely realized his reason for the decision that his words, Tennyson's words, carried into existence.

April 2005 from "Prozac to my Ears" in the Washington Post, 02/25/05, by Eugene Robinson

But we should realize that constant interaction truncates the mental treks that once led us to our moods -- the sustained train of thought, the extended reverie, the day-long smolder, the can't-get-it-out-of-my-head anticipation, the lingering funk.  It used to take a while to internalize a slight to the point where we reached a proper state of righteous indignation, or to reflect on our many blessings and soar into unbridled joy.  But there's no time, and the cell phone keeps ringing.  We plug in our ear-buds and whisper-click the wheel to shut out the world and get our heads where we need them to be, in a hurry.  We used to do this with long walks and quiet rooms, but not anymore.  Designer noise is the new silence.

March 2005 from "Strychnine in the Soup" by P.G. Wodehouse, 1932

The subject of bereavement is one that has often been treated powerfully by poets, who have run the whole gamut of the emotions while laying bare for us the agony of those who have lost parents, wives, children, gazelles, money, fame, dogs, cats, doves, sweethearts, horses, and even collar-studs.  But no poet has yet treated of the most poignant bereavement of all -- that of the man half-way through a detective story who finds himself at bedtime without the book.

February 2005 from "The Aztecs: Blood and Glory" in Smithsonian, January 2005, page 81, by Dan Hofstadter

One is reminded, making one's way through the exhibition, that there was in the sacred quarter of Tenochtitlan a temple, called the coateocalli, that served a very peculiar function.  'It was here,' writes the 16th-century scholar Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, 'that lived the gods of the cities that the Mexicans had conquered.  They made the gods prisoner and brought them back and set them in this temple.'  The Aztecs tended to accept rather than exclude local deities -- but they did want to make sure they had them under their thumb.

January 2005 from In Memorium A.H.H., Stanza 106, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1850

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
    The flying cloud, the frosty light:
    The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
    Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
    The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
    For those that here we see no more;
    Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
    And ancient forms of party strife;
    Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
    The faithless coldness of the times;
    Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
    The civic slander and the spite;
    Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
    The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
    Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Year Index


December 2004 from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, 2004

Chaston wrote that men and fairies both contain within them a faculty of reason and a faculty of magic.  In men reason is strong and magic is weak.  With fairies it is the other way round: magic comes very naturally to them, but by human standards they are barely sane.

November 2004 from Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde, 2004

Well, it's now called The Merry Wives of Elsinore, and features Gertrude being chased around the castle by Falstaff while being outwitted by Mistress Page, Ford and Ophelia.  Laertes is the king of the fairies, and Hamlet is relegated to a sixteen-line subplot where he is convinced Doctor Caius and Fenton have conspired to kill his father for seven hundred pounds.  ...  It takes a long time to get funny, and when it finally does, everyone dies.

October 2004 from Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold, 1986

He was just a little villain.  An old-fashioned craftsman, making crimes one-off.  The really unforgivable acts are committed by calm men in beautiful green silk rooms, who deal death wholesale, by the shipload, without lust, or anger, or desire, or any redeeming emotion to excuse them but cold fear of some pretended future.  But the crimes they hope to prevent in that future are imaginary.  The ones they commit in the present -- they are real.

September 2004 from The House of Gentle Men by Kathy Hepinstall, 2000

And Marty fell with his hands over his eyes, and Daniel died a week later.  And you can't cover horror with horror, for horror is [transparent] and I could see right through it at the thing I'd done.

August 2004 from "Plutarch's Exemplary Lives: An ancient Greek wrote the book on biography then and now," by Lance Morrow, in Smithsonian, July 2004

In the age of chaotic electronic information, there seems to be an indefatigable production line turning out big, solid biographies, written to the weight and bulk of footlockers.  It's as if Thomas Carlyle's Great Man theory of history, a rather heavy nineteenth-century concept, had been genetically crossed with People magazine to create a genre of historical infotainment: retrospection compounded of scholarship, vivid period drama and soap opera at the highest levels.

July 2004 from "How Polarization Sells," by Robert J. Samuelson, in The Washington Post, June 30, 2004

The red and blue states make a pretty graphic.  But in 19 states, the victor in the 2000 presidential election won with about 51 percent of the vote or less; small shifts would have reversed the outcomes.  Then the graphic and its message -- geographic polarization -- would be ruined.  What's actually happened is that politics, and not the country, has become more polarized.  ...  The result is a growing disconnect between politics -- and political commentary -- and ordinary life.  Politics is increasingly a world unto itself, inhabited by people convinced of their own moral superiority.  Polarization and nastiness are not side effects.  They are the game.  ...  Politics should reflect and, at its best, conciliate the nation's differences.  Increasingly, it does the opposite.  It distorts, amplifies and inflames conflicts.  It's a turnoff to vast numbers of centrist voters who do not see the world in such uncompromising absolutes.  This may be the real polarization: between the true believers on both sides and everyone else.

June 2004 St. Bernard, quoted by Beatrice of Nazareth, c. 1260, from the anthology In Her Words: Women's Writing in the History of Christian Thought, 1994

Many are those who suffer torments for Christ, but few are those who love themselves perfectly for Christ's sake.

May 2004 from "The Art of the Final Episode" by John Romano, Weekend Edition (NPR), May 1, 2004

[Great shows] live in people's lives in such a very special way.  . . .  It comes into your living room, sits there with you like a friend, and when that series ends, it's very much a real sense of people going out of your lives in a personal way, and of a conversation you've been having -- that's really been central to your own thoughts, about yourself, and the society we live in -- coming to an end.  . . .  And when that's over, that's different than reaching page 350 of a book, even a very good book, which you knew from the beginning ended in a certain place . . . .  There's nothing quite like the way a loved show vanishes from its audience's life.

April 2004 from The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay, 1956

[I]t is a most strange thing that this important part of human life, the struggle that almost everyone has about good and evil, cannot now be talked of without embarrassment, unless of course one is in church.  It goes on, just the same as it always has ... But now you cannot talk about it when it is your own struggle, you cannot say to your friends that you would like to be good, they would think you are going Buchmanite, or Grahamite, or something else that you would not at all care to be thought.  Once people used to talk about being good and being bad, they wrote about it in letters to their friends, and conversed about it freely; the Greeks did this, and the Romans, and then, after life took a Christian turn, people did it more than ever ...  they went on like this through most of the nineteenth century, even when they were not evangelicals or tractarians or anything like that, and nineteenth century novels are full of such interesting conversations, and the Victorian agnostics wrote to one another about it continually, it was one of their favorite topics, for the weaker they got on religion the stronger they got on morals ...  I am not sure when all this died out, but it has now become very dead.

March 2004 from "Why the M Word Matters to Me" in Time by Andrew Sullivan, February 16, 2004

When I looked toward the years ahead, I couldn't see a future.  There was just a void.  Was I going to be alone my whole life?  ...  I shut myself in my room with my books night after night while my peers developed the skills needed to form real relationships and loves.  In wounded pride, I even voiced a rejection of family and marriage.  It was the only way I could explain my isolation.  ...  Because my sexuality had emerged in solitude — and without any link to ... an actual relationship — it was hard later to reconnect sex to love and self-esteem.  It still is.  But I persevered, each relationship slowly growing longer than the last, learning in my 20s and 30s what my ... friends had found out in their teens.

February 2004 from Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde, 2002

We didn't know the nature of lightning or rainbows for three and a half million years, pet.  Don't reject it just because it seems impossible.

January 2004 from "The Sister Years" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, January 1, 1839

There came [the New Year] treading lightsomely on tiptoe along the street . . .  Her dress was rather too airy for the season, and was bedizened with fluttering ribbons and other vanities, which were likely soon to be rent away by the fierce storms, or to fade in the hot sunshine, amid which she was to pursue her changeful course.  But still she was a wonderfully pleasant looking figure, and had so much promise and such an indescribable hopefulness in her aspect, that hardly anybody could meet her without anticipating some very desirable thing — the consummation of some long-sought good — from her offices.  A few dismal characters there may be [who] have now ceased to pin any faith upon the skirts of the New Year.  But, for my own part, I have great faith in her; and should I live to see fifty more such, still, from each of those successive sisters, I shall reckon upon receiving something that will be worth living for.

Year Index


December 2003 from Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold, 2003

“I'm not getting it right.”

“You are brilliant,” the Voice reassured her.

“It is imperfect.”

“So are all things trapped in time.  You are brilliant, nonetheless.  How fortunate for Us that We thirst for glorious souls rather than faultless ones, or We should be parched indeed, and most lonely in Our perfect righteousness.  Carry on imperfectly, shining Ista.”

November 2003 from "Boo, Humbug!" by Michael Elliot in Time, October 27, 2003

How did cultural infantilization creep up on us? . . . a shift from a culture based on literature -- on reading -- to one based on the image.  In a preliterate world, there's no distinction between children and adults.  Look at a Bruegel painting, and you see adults eating, drinking, groping, necking, together with their children.  Literacy changed all that.  Reading has to be learned; it separates the world of the child from that of the adult.  But children can absorb images -- from TV, say -- just as easily as their elders.  . . .  [A] postliterate culture would be one in which barriers that protected children from the perils and temptations of the outside world would be torn down.

October 2003 from the speech opening Vatican II, by Pope John XXIII, October 11, 1962

The substance of the ancient doctrines of the Deposit of Faith is one thing and the way in which it is presented is another.  And it is the latter which must be taken into great consideration, with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of the magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character.

September 2003 from The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, 1836

There are very few moments in a man's existence when he experiences so much ludicrous distress, or meets with so little charitable commiseration, as when he is in pursuit of his own hat.  A vast deal of coolness, and a peculiar degree of judgment, are requisite in catching a hat.  . . .  The best way is, to keep gently up with the object of pursuit, to be wary and cautious, to watch your opportunity well, get gradually before it, then make a rapid dive, seize it by the crown, and stick it firmly on your head: smiling pleasantly all the time, as if you thought it as good a joke as anybody else.

August 2003 from "Free the Children" in Time by Nancy Gibbs, 2003

Maybe we adults idealize our own red-rover days, the hot afternoons spent playing games that required no coaches, eating foods that involved no nutrition, getting dirty in whole new ways and rarely glancing in the direction of a screen of any kind.  Ask friends about the people and places that shaped them, and summer springs up quickly . . .  The best summer moments were stretchy enough to carry us all through the year . . .

July 2003 from My Man Godfrey by Morrie Ryskind and Eric Hatch, 1936

It's surprising how fast you can go downhill when you feel sorry for yourself.  . . .  You see, Tommy, there's two kinds of people: those who fight the idea of being pushed into the river, and the other kind.  . . .  There's a very peculiar mental process called "thinking" -- you wouldn't know much about that, but when I was living down here, I did a lot of it, and one thing I discovered is that the only difference between a derelict and a man is a job.

June 2003 from A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold, 1999

“You can't make them -- whoever your particular them is -- do anything, really,” said Ekaterin slowly.  “Adulthood isn't an award they'll give you for being a good child.  You can waste . . . years, trying to get someone to give that respect to you, as though it were a sort of promotion or raise in pay.  If only you do enough, if only you are good enough.  No.  You have to just . . . take it.  Give it to yourself, I suppose.  . . .  But that's hard.”

May 2003 from Something New by P.G. Wodehouse, 1915

You remind me of an old cat I once had.  Whenever he killed a mouse, he would bring it into the drawing-room and lay it affectionately at my feet.  I would reject the corpse with horror and turn him out, but back he would come with his loathsome gift.  I simply couldn't make him understand that he was not doing me a kindness.  He thought highly of his mouse, and it was beyond him to realize that I did not want it.  You are just the same with your chivalry.  It's very kind of you to keep offering me your dead mouse, but, honestly, I have no use for it.  I won't take favors just because I happen to be a female.  If we are going to form this partnership, I insist on doing my fair share of the work and running my fair share of the risks.

April 2003 from a speech by Woodrow Wilson, July 4, 1918

The settlement of every question, whether of territory or sovereignty, of economic arrangement, or of political relationship, [must be] upon the basis of the free acceptance of that settlement by the people immediately concerned, and not upon the basis of the material interest or advantage of any other nation or people which may desire a different settlement for the sake of its own exterior influence or mastery.

March 2003 from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, 1988

Invention, pure, creative invention. . . .  [It] is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto nonexistent blindingly obvious.  The cry 'I could have thought of that' is a very popular and misleading one, for the fact is that they didn't, and a very significant and revealing fact it is, too.

February 2003 from Seeing Salvation by Neil MacGregor and Erika Langmuir, 2000

When war broke out in 1939, the [British National Gallery's] entire collection was evacuated to a slate mine in North Wales.  Eventually, in January 1942, it was decided that every month one picture should be brought back to sustain the public, brave the bombs in Trafalgar Square and to hang alone in the gallery.  . . .  And so [Titian's] Noli me tangere became the first Picture of the Month, drawing such crowds that the scheme was continued for the rest of the war.  Every month, tens of thousands came to contemplate one picture, and returned next month to see another.  In a way rarely before experienced in modern times, great paintings became a part of everyday life.

January 2003 from The Container Garden by Nigel Colborn, 1990

Winter is the season which exposes all your planning errors.  If a garden walk on the year's shortest day is not only a pleasurable and interesting experience but also yields a bunch of something to put into a vase indoors, you will have earned your sense of triumph.  Containers are not the only way to achieve this, but chances are your winter walk would have been duller without them.

Year Index


December 2002 from Miracle on 34th Street by George Seaton and Valentine Davies, 1947

Now, you've heard of the French nation and the British nation?  Well, this is the imagination.  It's a wonderful place.  How would you like to be able to make snowballs in the summertime?  Eh?  Or drive a great big bus right down fifth avenue?  How would you like to have a ship all to yourself that makes daily trips to China and Australia?  How would you like to be the Statue of Liberty in the morning, and in the afternoon fly south with a flock of geese?  It's very simple.  Of course it takes practice.  Now, the first thing you've got to learn is how to pretend.

November 2002 from a letter to Robert Bridges by Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1882

It is long since such things had any significance for you.  But what is strange and unpleasant is that you sometimes speak as if they had in reality none for me and you were only waiting with a certain disgust until I too should be disgusted with myself enough to throw off the mask. . . .  Yet I can hardly think you do not think I am in earnest.  And let me say, to take no higher ground, that without earnestness there is nothing sound or beautiful in character and that a cynical vein much indulged coarsens everything in us.

October 2002 from City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles by Mike Davis, 1990

[Contemporary noir], depending on one's viewpoint, is either the culmination of the genre or its reductio ad absurdum. . . . Yet in building such an all-encompassing noir mythology (including Stephen King-like descents into the occult), Ellroy risks extinguishing the genre's tensions, and, inevitably, its power.  In his pitch blackness there is no light left to cast shadows and evil becomes a forensic banality.  The result feels very much like the actual moral texture of [recent times]: a supersaturation of corruption that fails any longer to outrage or even interest.

September 2002 from The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells, 1885

The whole business of love, and love-making, is painted by the novelists in monstrous disproportion to the other relations of life. . . . [Romance is] the affair, commonly, of very young people, who have not yet character and experience enough to make them interesting.  In novels, it's treated as if it's not only the chief interest of life, but the sole interest of the lives of two ridiculous young persons; and it is taught that love is perpetual, that the glow of true passion lasts forever; and that it is sacrilege to think or act otherwise. . . .  [Romance] ought to be recognized as something natural and mortal, and divine honors, which belong to righteousness alone, ought not to be paid it.

August 2002 from The Life of St. Louis by Jean de Joinville, c. 1310

At the end of nine days, the bodies [of those killed in battle] came to the surface of the water, owing, it was said, to the fact that the gall had putrified.  These bodies came floating down to the bridge between our two camps, but could not pass under it because the water was up to the arches.  There was such a number of them that all the river was full of corpses, from one bank to the other. . . .  I saw the Chamberlains of the Comte d'Artois, and many other people, seeking for their friends among the dead; but I never heard that any one of them was found there.

July 2002 from The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment by Dena Goodman, 1994

[S]alonnière[s] achieved success by balancing and blending voices into a harmonious whole.  On one level, this was the rococo aesthetic of order and variety applied to the discursive space of the salon: the salonnière brought order to the variety of views expressed by her guests.  Such harmonizing was necessary both because different views were expressed, and because strong egos were involved.  Because social and intellectual identities could not be easily separated when philosophes interacted directly, it was essential that the salonnière bring them into harmony.  Her function was political as well as aesthetic. . . .  In the eighteenth century, the ideal woman was characterized by a lack of ego which enabled her to direct her attention to coordinating the egos of the men around her.  The qualities that defined the successful salonnière were thus thought to be gender-specific.

June 2002 from Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold, 1996

Then Illyan remarked, “I'd thought that crack about wrestling with temptation was a joke.”

“Best two falls out of three, Simon.  It was that close.  . . .  Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize.  The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart.”

May 2002 from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling, 1997

“The truth,” Dumbledore sighed.  “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.  However, I shall answer your questions unless I have a very good reason not to, in which case I beg you'll forgive me.  I shall not, of course, lie.”

“Well . . . Voldemort said that he only killed my mother because she tried to stop him from killing me.  But why would he want to kill me in the first place?”

Dumbledore sighed very deeply this time.  “Alas, the first thing you ask me I cannot tell you.  Not today.  Not now.  You will know, one day . . . put it from your mind for now, Harry.  When you are older . . . I know you hate to hear this . . . when you are ready, you will know.”

April 2002"God's Grandeur," by Gerard Manly Hopkins, 1877

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

March 2002 from A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, by Barbara Tuchman, 1978

If children survived to age seven, their recognized life began, more or less as miniature adults.  Childhood was already over.  The childishness noticeable in medieval behavior, with its marked inability to restrain any kind of impulse, may have been simply due to the fact that so large a proportion of active society was actually very young in years.  About half the population, it has been estimated, was under twenty-one, and about one third under fourteen.

February 2002 from "The Village Uncle" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1842

How strangely the past is peeping over the shoulders of the present!  To judge by my recollections, it is but a few moments since I sat in another room; yonder model of a vessel was not there, nor the old chest of drawers, nor Susan's profile and mine in that gilt frame; nothing, in short, except this same fire, which glimmered on books, papers, and a picture, and half discovered my solitary figure in a looking glass.  But it was paler than my rugged old self, and younger, too, by almost half a century. . . .  [Y]our figures grow indistinct, fading into pictures on the air, and now to fainter outlines, while the fire is glimmering on the walls of a familiar room, and shows the book that I flung down, and the sheet that I left half written, some fifty years ago.  I lift my eyes to the looking glass, and perceive myself alone. . . .

January 2002 from Drum-Taps by Walt Whitman, 1865

Year that trembled and reel'd beneath me! / Your summer wind was warm enough, yet the air I breathed froze me, / A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken'd me, / Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself, / Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled? / And sullen hymns of defeat?  . . .  Over the carnage rose prophetic a voice, / Be not dishearten'd, affection shall solve the problems of freedom yet, / Those who love each other shall become invincible, / They shall yet make Columbia victorious.

Year Index


December 2001 from a letter by J. R. R. Tolkein to C. S. Lewis, quoted by

We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God.  Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a 'sub-creator' and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall.  Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbor, while materialistic 'progress' leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.

November 2001 from "It's Freedom, Stupid" in The New York Times, by Thomas L. Friedman, 2001

The animating vision of America in the world is the promotion and protection of freedom -- freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of markets and freedom of politics.  And that while America might align itself with all sorts of countries for economic or strategic reasons, in the end it was those who were "basically pro-freedom" whom America would never abandon and with whom America would always share a special bond. . . .  Americans want to destroy this terrorist menace so that we and all other free nations . . . can really enjoy our freedom.  That's what it's all about.

October 2001 from Democracy in America by Alexis De Tocqueville, 1835

In the middle ages, when it was very difficult to reach offenders, the judges inflicted frightful punishments on the few who were arrested, but this did not diminish the number of crimes.  It has since been discovered that when justice is more certain and more mild it is more efficacious.  The English and the Americans hold that tyranny and oppression are to be treated like any other crime, by lessening the penalty and facilitating conviction.

September 2001 from Felix Holt: The Radical by George Eliot, 1866

[W]hat we call illusions are often, in truth, a wider vision of past and present realities -- a willing movement of a man's soul with the larger sweep of the world's forces -- a movement toward a more assured end than the chances of a single life.  We see human heroism broken into units and say, this unit did little -- might as well not have been.  But in this way we might break up a great army into units; in this way we might break the sunlight into fragments, and think that this and the other might be cheaply parted with.  Let us rather raise a monument to the soldiers whose brave hearts only kept the ranks unbroken, and met death -- a monument to the faithful who were not famous, and who are precious as the continuity of the sunbeams is precious, though some of them fall unseen and on barrenness.

August 2001 from Queens' Play by Dorothy Dunnett, 1964

But would you have cherished your beautiful buildings and dressed them with works of art?  Would you have spent your money on jewels and fine clothes, on music and tapestries?  Neither of you can lead.  Neither of you has made a wild success of the profession of arms.  If you are not going to be practical, you must perfect the lusty arts of leisure. . . .  To succeed as you want, you have to be precise; you have to have polish; you have to carry polish and precision into everything you do.  You have no time to sigh over seigneuries and begrudge other people their gifts.  Lack of genius never held anyone back. . . .  Only time wasted on resentment and daydreaming can do that.  You never did work with your whole brain and your whole body . . . and you ended neither soldier nor seigneur, but a dried-out huddle of grudges strung cheek to cheek on a withy.

July 2001 from Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley, 1997

Roses are for love.  Not forget-me-not, honeysuckle, silly sweethearts' love, but the love that makes you and keeps you whole, love that gets you through the worst your life'll give you and that pours out of you when you're given the best instead.  . . .  [T]here aren't many roses around anymore because they need more love than people have to give 'em, to make 'em flower, and the only thing that'll stand in for love is magic . . .  And the bushes only started covering themselves with thorns when it got so it was only magic that ever made 'em grow.  They were sad, like, and it came out in thorns.

June 2001 from "Friendship" by Ralph Waldo Emerson, c. 1841

Our intellectual and active powers increase with our affection.  The scholar sits down to write, and all his years of meditation do not furnish him with one good thought or happy expression ; but it is necessary to write a letter to a friend, -- and forthwith troops of gentle thoughts invest themselves, on every hand, with chosen words.

May 2001 from 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, 1970

[typographical errors as in the original letter, responding to an edition of Catullus containing the Latin text, a verse translation by Sir Richard Burton, and a prose translation by Leonard Smithers]

jan. 4. 1956

          i write you from under the bed where that catullus drove me.
          i mean it PASSETH understanding.
          Up til now, the only Richard Burton I ever heard of is a handsome young actor I've seen in a couple of British movies and I wish I'd kept it that way.  This one got knighted for turning Catullus -- caTULLus -- into Victorian hearts-and-flowers.
          and poor mr. smithers must have been afraid his mother was going to read it, he like to KILL himself cleaning it all up.
          all right, let's just you go find me a nice plain Latin Catullus, I bought myself a Cassell's dictionary, I'll work out the hard passages myself.
          . . .  i enclose a sawbuck for that thing.  that catullus bound in white Limp -- mit-white-silk-bookmark-yet, frankie, where do you FIND these things?!

April 2001 from The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, 1862

[History] is a thing hardly to be predicted from even the completest knowledge of characteristics.  For the tragedy of our lives is not created entirely from within.  "Character," says Novalis, in one of his questionable aphorisms -- "Character is destiny."  But not the whole of our destiny.  Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, was speculative and irresolute, and we have a great tragedy in consequence.  But if his father had lived to a good old age, and his uncle had died an early death, we can conceive Hamlet's having married Ophelia, and got through life with a reputation of sanity, notwithstanding many soliloquies, and some moody sarcasms toward the fair daughter of Polonius, to say nothing of the frankest incivility to his father-in-law.

March 2001 from King of Morning, Queen of Day by Ian McDonald, 1991

I have this dread that afflicts me in the dead of night: it is that somehow, we have lost the power to generate new mythologies for a technological age.  We are withdrawing into another age's mythotypes, an age when the issues were so much simpler, clearly defined, and could be solved with one stroke of a sword called something like Durththane.  We have created a comfortable, santised pseudofeudal world of trolls and orcs and mages and swords and sorcery, big-breasted women in scanty armor and dungeonmasters; a world where evil is a host of angry goblins threatening to take over Hobbitland and not starvation in the Horn of Africa, child slavery in Filipino sweatshops, Columbian drug squirarchs, unbridled free market forces, secret police, the destruction of the ozone layer, child pornography, snuff videos, the death of the whales, and the desecration of the rain forests.

Where is the mythic archetype who will save us from ecological catastrophe, or credit card debt?  Where are the Sagas and Eddas of the Great Cities?  Where are our Cuchulains and Rolands and Arthurs? . . . Where are the Translators who can shape our dreams and dreads, our hopes and fears, into the heroes and villains of the Oil Age?

February 2001 from The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, 1982

She paused a minute, looking at the thoughts that had been with her constantly for the weeks since she had left her old life . . . .  "It is that I cannot see what I am doing or why, and it is unsettling always to live only in the moment as it passes.  Oh, I know -- one never sees ahead or behind.  But I see even less.  It is like being blindfolded when everyone else in the room is not.  No one can see outside the room -- but everyone else can see the room.  I would like to take my blindfold off."

The man smiled.  "It is a reasonable wish.  No one lives more than a few moments either way -- even those fortunate or unfortunate ones who can see how the future will be cast; and perhaps they feel the minute's passing most acutely.  But it is comforting to have some sense of . . . the probability of choices, perhaps?"

January 2001 from "The Thraldom [sic] of Names" by Theodore Roosevelt, 1913

The rule of a mob may be every whit as tyrannical and oppressive as the rule of a single individual, whether or not called a dictator; and the rule of an oligarchy, whether this oligarchy is a plutocracy or a bureaucracy, or any other small set of powerful men, may in its turn be just as sordid and just as bloodthirsty as that of a mob. But the apologists for the mob or oligarchy or dictator, in justifying the tyranny, use different words. The mob leaders usually state that all that they are doing is necessary in order to advance the cause of "liberty," while the dictator and the oligarchy are usually defended upon the ground that the course they follow is absolutely necessary so as to secure "order." Many excellent people are taken in by the use of the word "liberty" at the one time, and the use of the word "order" at the other, and ignore the simple fact that despotism is despotism, tyranny tyranny, oppression oppression, whether committed by one individual or by many individuals, by a state or by a private corporation.

Year Index


December 2000 from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams, 1980

The Belcerebon people [of planet Kakrafoon] used to cause great resentment and insecurity among neighboring races by being one of the most enlightened, accomplished and, above all, quiet races in the Galaxy.  As a punishment for this behavior -- which was held to be offensively self-righteous and provocative -- a Galactic Tribunal inflicted on them that most cruel of all social diseases: telepathy.  Consequently, in order to prevent themselves broadcasting every slightest thought that crosses their minds to anyone within a five-mile radius, they now have to talk very loudly and continuously about the weather, their little aches and pains, the match this afternoon and what a noisy place Kakrafoon has suddenly become.

November 2000 from News: The Politics of Illusion by W. Lance Bennett, 1988

The credibility of a political image lies not in some independent check on its accuracy but in its past success as a news formula.  In this world of media reality, newsworthiness becomes a substitute for validity, and validity becomes reduced to a formula of who applies what images to which events under what circumstances.  Ordinary logic tells us that the more standardized an image, the less valid and meaningful is its application to unique, real-world situations.  Media logic, on the other hand, tells us that reality "is" the image applied to it.  The more "official" the position, the more likely it is to be reported; the more it is reported, the more credibility it gains; and the more credibility it gains, the more "official" it becomes.  It is obvious why common sense fares poorly in direct competition with media logic.  [Media logic] enables both news and politics to operate on a routine, symbiotic basis.  Common sense, by comparison, is of little use in unraveling the news web of political secrecy, double talk, and untestable abstraction.

October 2000 from Middlemarch by George Eliot, 1874

The sufferings of his own pride from humiliations past and to come were keen enough, yet they were hardly distinguishable to himself from that more acute pain which dominated them -- the pain of foreseeing that Rosamond would come to regard him chiefly as the cause of disappointment and unhappiness to her.  He had never liked the makeshifts of poverty, and they had never before entered into his prospects for himself; but he was beginning now to imagine how two creatures who loved each other, and had a stock of thoughts in common, might laugh over their shabby furniture, and their calculations how far they could afford butter and eggs.  But the glimpse of that poetry seemed as far off from him as the carelessness of the golden age; in poor Rosamond's mind there was not room enough for luxuries to look small in.

September 2000 from "The Quitter" in Rhymes of a Rolling Stone by Robert Service, 1912

In hunger and woe, oh, it's easy to blow . . .
It's the hell-served-for-breakfast that's hard.

"You're sick of the game!" Well, now, that's a shame.
You're young and you're brave and you're bright.
"You've had a raw deal!" I know -- but don't squeal,
Buck up, do your d**nedest, and fight.
It's the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don't be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it's so easy to quit:
It's the keeping-your-chin-up that's hard.

It's easy to cry that you're beaten -- and die;
It's easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope's out of sight --
Why, that's the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each grueling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try -- it's dead easy to die,
It's the keeping-on-living that's hard.

August 2000 from Newsweek, "Sexual Assault, Film at Eleven" by Anna Quindlen, 2000

What happened after the parade [in Central Park] happens in this country, in every country, every day.  Oh, it doesn't often happen in broad daylight, and the numbers are not usually so huge, except in war zones . . .  A century ago sexual assault was explained as the inevitable explosive acting-out of men in a repressive sexual atmosphere; now it is supposed to be the inevitable effect of a permissive sexual environment.  When we natter on about our culture, about how this is a corollary of violent lyrics and explicit movies, it is no more than a different kind of excuse.  It is not entirely their fault; rap music made them do it, or halter tops Nonsense.  When skirts were longer and necklines higher, certain men were still holding women down and forcing themselves upon them in an age-old act of power and dominance.  And humiliation, of course: the men on the videotape laugh while the women weep and scream.  There is no mystery about whether this is wrong, and what is the right thing. . . .  Why is it so simple for some boys to learn they cannot lift a person's wallet and yet so difficult for them to understand they cannot lift a person's skirt?