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January 16, 2005 - "When you say that, smile!"

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"When you say that, smile!"


Book Wrangler

January 16, 2005

By Bob Patterson


After writing last week’s column, an omission became very apparent.  This columnist is an easy mark for a good collection of quotes.  Over the years a rather formidable number of such books have accumulated in the apartment.


Why do people like collecting quotes?  The bumper-sticker answer is: “Because it’s fun!”


A much longer, more intellectual explanation is contained in Chapter 2 of Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death.  If one excerpt had to be selected to summarize it, then it may best be explained thus:  “As Walter Org points out in oral cultures proverbs and sayings are not occasional devices: ‘They are incessant.  They form the substance of thought itself.  Thought in any extended form is impossible without them, for it consists in them.’”


Since we don’t presume to be able to elaborate the process better than Neil Postman, the next best step may be to provide some evidence as if this were a courtroom trial, so we will list some of our favorites quotes from our favorite books of quotes.


The Book of Quotes by Barbara Rowes is a compendium of American society in the sixties and seventies.  One of the passages we quote quite often is: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”  Bill Cosby.  How about Ronald Reagan’s: “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with.”  He also is in the book for saying: “If you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.”


In Loose Talk: The Book of Quotes from the Pages of Rolling Stone Magazine, compiled by Linda Botts, you will find many delights including Richard Nixon speaking to David Frost: “How are you?  Did you do any fornicating this weekend?”


The Bad Guys’ Quote Book compiled by Robert Singer has many gems including - “I wrecked trains because I like to see people die.  I like to hear them scream.”  The book notes that the fellow who said that, Sylvestre Matuschka, escaped from prison in 1937 and hasn’t been heard from since.


The Guinness Book of Poisonous Quotes compiled by Colin Jarman reminds us of John Steinbeck’s sentiment: “Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.”


Power Quotes by Daniel B. Baker, is a treasury for pundits and includes Edward Grey’s: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”


The Movie Quote Book by Harry Haun will help you find some of the most famous lines from film and a few quotable others you might have missed.  Remember the line in The Green Berets: “Out here, due process is a bullet.”


Whatever It Is, I’m Against It, compiled and Edited by Nat Shapiro provides this quote from Adolf Hitler: “Pacifism is simply undisguised cowardice.”


The Experts Speak: The Definitive Compendium of Authoritative Misinformation by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky, copyright 1984, has this:  “We have no political prisoners – only Communists and others involved in conspiracies against the country.”  That was said by Park Chung Hee, president of South Korea.  [Is it fair to note that there have been great strides and advances in the field of Authoritative Misinformation and a revised and update edition of this particular book is a fond hope for this columnist?]


John-Roger and Peter McWilliams have collaborated on a series of books that relies on inclusion of many quotes.  Life 101 includes this one by Norman Vincent Peale:  “The ideas I stand for are not mine.  I borrowed them from Socrates.  I swiped them from Chesterfield.  I stole them from Jesus.  And I put them in a book.  If you don’t like their rules, whose would you use?”


Sometimes it seems that just about every other line in a novel is eminently quotable.  The quote section of the BW library includes several novels that are rife with quote worthy sentences.


Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad has many great passages.  It even has advice for anyone in the audience who is in the process of forming a Rock’n’Roll musical group: “This devoted band called itself the Eldorado Exploring Expedition.” 


It seems that every sentence in George Orwell’s 1984 is an example of eloquence.  What’s not to like about: “If you kept the small rules you could break the big ones.”


The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde seems like a collection of familiar quotes.  It may even have provided a motto for Hollywood: “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”


Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche has many lines that are still often quoted, such as: “And whomever you cannot teach to fly, teach him – to fall faster!”


Some folks may not like the political philosophy of Hunter S. Thompson but his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas includes this quotable bit of advice:  “You can run, but you can’t hide.”  Could you work this sentence -  “But there were no costume stores open, and we weren’t up to burglarizing a church” - into your novel?


Once while contemplating a future involving writing, this columnist flipped open a Bible at random (full of quotable lines) and without looking placed a finger on Daniel Chapter 5 verse 8 which advised: “Then came in all the king’s wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof.”


The keystone for any quotes library is Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.  We have the 16th edition, an older one is available onlineOur favorite, for the moment, is (on page 305) from Philip Dormer Stanhope, the Earl of Chesterfield: “Women, then, are only children of a larger growth.”


The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations by Robert Andrews is an excellent choice to be co-captain of the quote team of books because it augments the Bartlett’s with a minimum of duplication and/or overlap.  Rita Mae Brown is quoted as saying: “You sell a screenplay like you sell a car.  If someone drives it off a cliff, that’s it.”


In library and estimation, the king of quotes is Jon Winokur.  We need only see his name as the editor for a book and we want to buy it.  We have had the pleasure of interviewing him via phone (he tends to be the Howard Hughes of the quote wrangler world) and were surprised that he had never heard the Winston Churchill quote (from Bartlett’s page 619 of the 16th edition): “It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations is an admirable work, and I studied it intently.  The quotations when engraved upon the memory give you good thoughts.  They also make you anxious to read the authors and look for more.”


Here is a selection of some of Winokur’s books with an example from each. 

Friendly Advice -  “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”  - Drew Bundini Brown


The Portable Curmudgeon - “Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.”  - W. C. Fields


True Confessions - “I kept the same suit for six years – and the same dialogue.  We just changed the title of the picture and the leading lady.” - Robert Mitchum


Writers On Writing - “Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before him.”  - Mark Twain


Zen To Go -  “Knowledge is knowing as little as possible.”  - Charles Bukowski

Jon Winokur will have a new book out in May from Sasquatch books, titled: IN PASSING: Condolences and Complaints on Death, Dying, and Related Disappointments.  We’ll probably get it, probably like it, and probably give it a good review. 

Copyright 2005 – Robert Patterson


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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