Quoting the Quill: Why Read?

 

I’m back with my weekly round-up of great quotes. I’ve changed the name, inspired by the art and the brilliance of Blogs-Of-A-Bookaholic which I found this week. She’s invited people to participate so here I am, jumping on board in my own way.

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From Haruki Murakami

“Have books ‘happened’ to you? Unless your answer to that question is ‘yes’, I’m unsure how to talk to you.”

This is the first Quoting of the Quill I stumbled upon and what drew my attention. These words could form my life motto! It’s not as if I think everyone needs to read as voraciously as I do, but when I meet someone who doesn’t “get reading,” I know we can be friendly but never really friends. Sad but true.

From Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.

A follow-up to the first quote from one of my favorite writers, this is today’s Goodreads Quote of the Day. I’ve walked in so many other worlds and so many periods of history thanks to books. I can’t imagine living any other way. (If you haven’t yet read The Namesake, I highly recommend.)

From Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

“When you read a book, the story definitely happens inside your head. When you listen, it seems to happen in a little cloud all around it, like a fuzzy knit cap pulled down over your eyes.”

I adore this distinction between print and audio books (as I adored the entire book). I’m relatively late to the audio game and confine my listening to my daily commute. I still prefer the printed word because I like to do some of the creative work, but the image of the “fuzzy knit cap” is one I can’t shake. That’s exactly what it’s like to listen to a really good audio book.

From Penelope Lively, Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir

“Reading fiction, I see through the prism if another person’s understanding; reading everything else, I am traveling…The one entirely benign mind-altering drug.”

Do you sense a theme in this week’s quotes. Yes, I love reading writers who love books as much as I do. Lively is an author I can always count on for great writing, so it’s no surprise that her memoir relishes her life in objects that include lots and lots of books. I want to be her friend.

From Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”

And a departure from the reading theme, but I couldn’t help including this great paragraph from the brilliant Joan Didion. When I first read this collection of essays a couple of years ago, it blew me away for its precise, straight-to-the-heart observations on living. So much of what she writes about in terms of politics, sexuality and self-knowledge is timeless.

Looking for more great quotes?  Check out: More Quoting the Quill at Blogs-Of-A-Bookaholic or Thursday Quotables at Bookshelf Fantasies.

I’d love to know what lines have caught your attention this week.

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Teaching Failure

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” ―  Maya Angelou

I never set out to teach my sons to be failures. Yes, it’s a part of life and we learn from our failures, but come on…don’t we all hope that the successes will outweigh the failures? I do. And, luckily for me, my sons’ failures have been manageably few and far between.

But not this year. Not in youth sports. In 2014, throughout Basketball and Baseball seasons, we’ve been cheering on the underdogs, hearing a lot of “good try” from the stands, and returning home with dejected players in the back seat.

And I am here to tell you, it sucks.

My boys want to win as much as anyone else, work really hard at whatever sport they’re currently playing and show up ready to give 100%. These are all fine qualities in young men, but when they lead to losing results it presents a problem. Why is the hard work not paying off? If you study, practice, try…you should achieve success, right?

I don’t have the answers.

Let me be clear. I’m not talking about a loss here and there. My oldest son’s basketball team played the entire season without a single victory. My youngest’s travel baseball team managed only two wins this summer.

Game after game, day after day, late night after late night, I was left with nothing but platitudes about effort to offer my children. I got tired and repeating them and they sure got tired of hearing them. Yes, they were trying hard and their individual skills were improving, but they were frustrated and frankly, embarrassed.

Even in “recreational” sports, kids keep score. They no who the losers are. Wining matters to kids, mine included. We’re well past the “everybody’s a winner” just for playing leagues.

Still, ever the optimist, I tried a million different ways to boost morale. Pep talks, realistic expectations, even jokes, all stop working after a while. As Pat pointed out to me, he got sick of hearing that he had a good game, “Mom, what does it matter if we can’t ever win?”

That was a heartbreaking moment, but not nearly as bad as the few times they took personal responsibility for tough losses, blaming themselves for a shot missed or base runner walked-in. (This is not the kind of “personal responsibility” character education I planned.) No words of reason or explanations of team responsibility could assuage their guilt when they truly believed the team could have won “if only.”

I was thrown back to my own childhood, always one of the last ones picked for team sports, struggling with the Presidential Fitness Test, choosing to cheer from the sidelines instead of participating so that I wouldn’t fail in front of my peers. My sons were living my junior high nightmares. I was treading very close to that “living out our dreams through our children” line I vowed never to cross.

I learned to back off a bit. They know I have their backs. I’m there to cheer them on. I know I need to give them more personal space to work through their frustration as they learn to keep it in check.

By the time each season was over, we felt battered and bruised as a family. But they were not broken. It’s not what I would have wished for, but I have witnessed how my sons come out from the other side of failure. I’ve seen them stand by their teammates, never-say-quit and continue to shake hands with their opponents no matter the outcome. Maybe they’re not completely gracious in defeat, but I’m OK with that.  I’m ready to help them pick themselves up and rise again.

Team sports are finally (mercifully) over and we have a couple of months off before the cycle starts all over again with soccer and fall baseball. Meanwhile, we’re still Cubs fans, so lessons in failure continue to abound.

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Best Quotes of the Week — Independence Day edition

I thought I’d change up my Friday post this week in honor of Independence Day. Liberty and Independence are complicated ideas upon which to found a country as our history has proven. Here are my favorite quotes from founding fathers, classic writers and even a fictional president.

 

Benjamin Franklin, Memoirs of the life & writings of Benjamin Franklin

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”

Thomas Jefferson (affectionately known as TJ in our house)

“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves ; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

“If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal”, then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

“The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.”

Robert G. Ingersoll, The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child

“This is my doctrine: Give every other human being every right you claim for yourself.”

Emma Goldman

“People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take.”

Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement speech, 2005

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

And, finally, my favorite fictional presidential speech of all time: Andrew Shepard, The American President

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, because it’s going to put up a fight.”

Check out the video here:

Best Book Quotes of the Week

Best Book Lines

So many quotes made me stop and think this week. Here are a few.

From Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

“And her joy would become a restless thing, flapping it’s wings inside her, as though looking for an opening to fly away.”

Restless joy is such a great image. So many great books involve characters afraid of their own joy. Ifemelu is no exception. This quote is the moment my heart opened up to her in this book. I am taking my time reading her story and enjoying the language Adichie uses to tell it.

 

From Cristina Henriquez, The Book of Unknown Americans

“I felt the way I often felt in this country — simultaneously conspicuous and invisible, like an oddity whom everyone noticed but chose to ignore.”

Henriquez is speaking specifically of the immigrant experience, but this quote resonated with me as some who always feels a little apart from the mainstream. I don’t think that’s a product of my Mexican heritage, but perhaps is roots are there. Se hit the nail on the head with the feeling of being “simultaneously conspicuous and invisible.” Maybe that’s a place we’ve all been?

 

From Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise

“I don’t know what I’m doing. I never knew what I was doing. I just jumped in and tried, no manual, I tried as hard as I could, and for the second time in my son’s life, I missed the important cue.”

This one hit me like a punch in the gut. These are seriously true words about motherhood. There is not training or guidebook that can possibly prepare us for truly knowing what we are doing. Am I making mistake? Am I missing important cues? I only know that I’m trying as hard as I can.

 

From Pearl S. Buck

“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.”

My favorite Goodreads quote of the day this week. I hold these words as a reminder of how I choose to live my life. I don’t want to chase the big dream so hard that I lose sight of the everyday blessings. I really think the blogosphere celebrates this philosophy. So many of us are writing about the seemingly “small joy” moments of beauty and laughter and love that fills our days. I really enjoyed The Good Earth when I read it with my book club. I may have to add another Pearl Buck to my list.

 

From Kate Atkinson, interviewed by Melvyn Bragg on ‘The South Bank Show’ [Sky Arts]

“Fiction is about making the chaos in my head into objective external order.”

All credit for finding this quote goes to sandra danby, a blog I only recently discovered. I encourage you to read Sandra’s original thoughts on this quote. It resonates with me, not only because I’m a big fan of Atkinson’s work, but because I’m attracted to the idea that we can make sense of the chaos in our heads. I think it explains why I always journaled, now blog. When I can set my thoughts down, I can organize them, at least a bit.

 

Looking for more great quotes?

Check out: Thursday Quotables at Bookshelf Fantasies.

 

I’d love to know what lines have caught your attention.

Best Book Quotes of the Week

Best Book Lines Quotes, past and current.

From Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise

“How can both worlds exist, the one where a life is meaningful and the one where it means nothing? Does not the presence of one negate the other? Emily is dead. Children are raped. Mothers have killed. Isn’t it obvious that what is happening to me does not matter?”

Fewer than 100 pages into reading this book, and already loving its tone and its characters. Avis is struggling with the breakup of her marriage after almost 30 years.  While I don’t share her struggle, I get the agony of living among evil sometimes. McBride is doing a great job of dealing with pretty meaty issues, while the focus stays on great storytelling.

From Dan Chaon, Among the Missing

As her husband held her close, she could feel the pulse of other choices, other lives, opening up beneath her. Her past crackled behind her like a terrible lightning, branches and branches, endless, and then nothing. ”

Who has not wondered about the path not taken? I can’t help but do it on occasion. But in Dan Chaon’s hands, that innocent wonder becomes something electrifying. The “what if” is really the concept that holds the entire collection together.

From Amy Bloom

You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.

My favorite Goodreads Quote of the Day this week. I have not yet gotten around to reading Bloom’s newest book, Lucky Us, but I hope to get to it this summer. In a culture that places so much importance on image, it’s always nice to be reminded that it is our imperfections that give us character and true beauty.

From R.J. Palacio, Wonder

“She said soft words that I knew were meant to help me, but words can’t change my face.”

Another old Goodreads review that popped up this week. Wonder was the first children’s (even younger than YA) fiction that I had read in some years, but I loved it despite the manipulation of my heart-strings. This quote always reminds me of the flip-side of “words can hurt.” Of course words, especially the taunts of peers, can hurt. The sad truth is that words cannot fix the perception (or reality) of deformity or illness or even perceived ugliness. Such a simple truth from Auggie, a truly remarkable narrator.

Looking for more great quotes?

Check out: Thursday Quotables at Bookshelf Fantasies or Every Day Has. You can also find bookish quotes on Book Quotes Hub.

 

I’d love to know what lines have caught your attention.

Best Book Quotes of the Week

Best Book Lines Quotes, past and current.

 

From Julian Barnes, The Lemon Table

“Geese would be beautiful if cranes did not exist.”

Julian Barnes would be the crane of literary fiction writers in this example. Not sure why my Goodreads review of this collection is suddenly getting some “likes” but I’m thrilled to be taken back this simple, but beautiful thought. I loved this collection of stories and I’m thinking I may need another Barnes fix.

From Laura Moriarty, The Chaperone

“The young can cut you with their unrounded edges…but they can also push you right up to the window of the future and push you through.”

Another old Goodreads review that popped up this week. I still haven’t figured out why this short review remains one of my most liked , but since I’ve been thinking a lot about how my sons are too quickly maturing from boys to men, this quote resonates with me. I give them much credit for pushing me right into the future.

From Ruth Ozeki,  “A Conversation with Ruth Ozeki” at the end of My Year of Meats

“I want to write novels that engage the emotions and the intellect, and that means going head to head with the chaos of evils and issues that threaten to overpower us all. And if they threaten to overpower the characters, then I have to make the characters stronger.”

No surprise that she perfectly describes why I love reading her books so much. Her books engage me on multiple levels with just the right amount of chaos, strength of character and story resolution.

From Lisa See, China Dolls

“Dreamers are born to be disappointed.”

This is such a melancholy thought and it’s the one that underlies most of the novel. It’s the flip side of my usual “dare to dream” approach to living. It just made me think.

From Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

“Let the wild rumpus start!”

My favorite Goodreads quote of the day this week. I read it and felt a whirlwind of emotional recall. I remember reading it repeatedly as a child and then sharing with my own sons. This book captured all our imaginations. (And, it’s a great quote to start the weekend!)

 

Looking for more great quotes?

Check out: Thursday Quotables at Bookshelf Fantasies or Every Day Has. You can also find bookish quotes on Book Quotes Hub.

 

I’d love to know what lines have caught your attention.

Best Book Quotes of the Week

Best Book Lines

I found it difficult to narrow my favorite quotes down this week. I was off of work for much of the week and had time to read some great stuff.

Stumbled upon a new-to-me blog Book Notes Plus and was reminded of the wisdom of Albert Einstein.

“Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

As the school year draws to a close, I try to keep this lesson in mind. The high school I work, even with its high college-prep standards, does a great job celebrating the individual genius of each student. I need to keep this in mind at all times with my three sons as they find their places in this world.

From Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise

“The way I see it, nothing in life is a rehearsal. It’s not preparation for anything else. There’s no getting ready for it. There’s no waiting for the real part to begin. Not ever. This is it.”

I haven’t read this book yet, but based on the quotes friends are posting on blogs and Goodreads, I’m going to love it. A reminder to live each moment phrased in a way that appeals to my theater loving soul.

From Norman Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

“So many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.”

Related to the quotes above, a clever quote full of hope. This was my favorite Goodreads Quote of the Day this week and immediately took me back to when I taught this book to a gifted reader during my short grammar school stint. I somehow never read this book as a child and was completely charmed by Juster’s brilliance with satire that worked for both young readers and a jaded adult like me.

From Ruth Ozeki, My Year of Meats

“To a Japanese person, Wal-Mart is awesome, the capitalist equivalent of the wide open spaces and endless horizons of the American geographical frontier. All this for the taking!”

Ozeki has a marvelous way of making me look at modern life in a new way. I love the image of Wal-Mart as an endless horizon, all for our taking. In this book she is contrasting cultures (another thing she does so well), but also driving at simple human truths. I just love her writing…

…which led me to look back on quotes I loved from another of her books, A Tale for the Time Being.

 “Sometimes when she told stories about the past her eyes would get teary from all the memories she had, but they weren’t tears. She wasn’t crying. They were just the memories, leaking out. ”

From Mary Miller, The Last Days of California

“Why didn’t I feel things the way others felt them? It wasn’t that I didn’t care about people. It was more like I couldn’t really believe they were real.”

In this passage Miller cuts right to the heart of her character’s insecurities and reminded me so much of those teenage days when I believed I was so different from everyone else. The world, and the people in it, existed only in relation to me. I didn’t love this book as a whole, but I loved some of Miller’s observations about growing up.

 

I’d love to know what lines have caught your attention.