So Many Books Quotes

A Commonplace Book

Is that what writing amounts to? The voice your ghost would have, if it had a voice?

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

Perfection exacts a price, but it’s the imperfect who pay it.

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

She released now, like and injured bird, a smile that took off from her mouth, fluttered badly in the air, and sank unnoticed somewhere on the rug. A pot of coffee was percolating slowly on my small electric range. She gave up smiling — for Lent, I thought.

—~Alfred Hayes, In Love

Your only vice, I thought, is yourself. The worst of all. The really incurable one.

—~Alfred Hayes, In Love

I suppose no evening is ever again like the very first evening, the initial gestures, hesitant and doubtful and overintense, ever again what they were, for nothing we want ever turns out quite the way we want it, love or ambition or children, and we go from disappointment to disappointment, from hope to denial, from expectation to surrender, as we grow older, thinking or coming to think that what was wrong was the wanting, so intense it hurt us, and believing or coming to believe that hope was our mistake and expectation our error, and that everything the more we want it the more difficult the having it seems to be.

—~Alfred Hayes, In Love

A frightening thought had been growing in me. I’d always assumed that I was the central character in my own story but now it occurred to me that I might in fact be only a minor character in someone else’s.

Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban

If someone were to buy me, have me shipped in a tin with air-holes, what would I be a specimen of?

Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban

Too-latenes, I realized, has nothing to do with age. It’s a relation of the self with the moment. Too-lateness is potentially every moment. Or not, depending on the person and the moment. Perhaps there even comes a time when it’s no longer too late for anything. Perhaps, even, most times are too early for most things, and most of life has to go by before it’s time for almost anything and too late for almost nothing. Nothing to lose, the present moment to gain, the integration with long-delayed Now.

Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban

There must be a lot of people in the world being wondered about by people who don’t see them anymore.

Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban

Because it would be part of what I know, part of what I have to tell, that I understand something, not everything, but something, of what it is to be alone. In this way. And that there must be others who are and have always been alone. In this way.


Those for whom there was, first dimly, then more bright, then dimly again, a possibility. Which, though dimly, perhaps still exists, but which they know, have somehow always known, would never come to anything. They were never, how can I put this, going to be part of life. It is as though, going through a landscape, through the seasons, in the same general direction as everybody else, they never quite made it to the road. Through the years, humanity, like a tide of refugees or pilgrims, shoeless and in rags, or in Mercedes, stations wagons, running shoes, were traveling on, joined by others, falling by the way. And we, joined though we may be, briefly, by other strays, or by road travelers on their little detours, nonetheless never quite joined the continuing procession, of life and birth, never quite found or made it to the road.

—Renata Adler, Pitch Dark