Quotes by Ian Mcewan

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It is photography itself that creates the illusion of innocence. Its ironies of frozen narrative lend to its subjects an apparent unawareness that they will change or die. It is the future they are innocent of. Fifty years on we look at them with the godly knowledge of how they turne dout after all - who they married, the date of their death - with no thought for who will one day be holding photographs of us. more...

...falling in love could be achieved in a single word-a glance. more...

She bent her finger and then straightened it. The mystery was in the instant before it moved, the dividing moment between not moving and moving, when her intention took effect. It was like a wave breaking. If she could only find herself at the crest, she thought, she might find the secret of herself, that part of her that was really in charge. She brought her forefinger closer to her face and stared at it, urging it to move. It remained still because she was pretending... . And when she did crook it finally, the action seemed to start in the finger itself, not in some part of her mind. more...

The cost of oblivius daydreaming was always this moment of return, the realigment with what had been before and now seemed a little worse. Her reverie, once rich in plausible details, had become a passing silliness before the hard mass of the actual. It was difficult to come back. more...

Nothing was to be lost by beginning at the beginning... more...

Finally he spoke the three simple words that no amount of bad art or bad faith can every quite cheapen. She repeated them, with exactly the same slight emphasis on the second word, as though she were the one to say them first. He had no religious belief, but it was impossible not to think of an invisible presence or witness in the room, and that these words spoken aloud were like signatures on an unseen contract. more...

What idiocy, to racing into this story and its labyrinths, sprinting away from our happiness among the fresh spring grasses by the oak. more...

I watched our friends' wary, intelligent faces droop at our tale. Their shock was a mere shadow of our own, resembling more the goodwilled imitation of that emotion, and for this reason it was a temptation to exaggerate, to throw a rope of superlatives across the abyss that divided experience from its representation by anecdote. more...

Twenty years ago I might have hired a professional listener, but somewhere along the way I had lost faith in the talking cure. A genteel fraud in my view. more...

The world should take note: not everything is getting worse. more...

From this new and intimate perspective, she learned a simple, obvious thing she had always known, and everyone knew; that a person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn, not easily mended. more...

I've never had a moment's doubt. I love you. I believe in you completely. You are my dearest one. My reason for life. Cee more...

Let his name be cleared and everyone else adjust their thinking. He had put in time, now they must do the work. His business was simple. Find Cecilia and love her, marry her and live without shame. more...

And she did not miss his presence so much as his voice on the phone. Even being lied to constantly, though hardly like love, was sustained attention; he must care about her to fabricate so elaborately and over such a long stretch of time. His deceit was a form of tribute to the importance of their marriage. more...

He had never before felt so self-consciously young, nor experienced such appetite, such impatience for the story to begin. more...

Find you, love you, marry you, and live without shame. more...

You can tell a lot from a person's nails. When a life starts to unravel, they're among the first to go. more...

In Leon's account of his life, no-one was mean-spirited, no-one schemed or lied or betrayed; everyone was celebrated at least in some degree... Leon turned out to be a spineless, grinning idiot. more...

It is shaming sometimes how the body will not, or cannot, lie about emotions. Who, for decorum's sake, has ever slowed his heart, or muted a blush? more...

But it was too interesting, too new, too flattering, too deeply comforting to resist, it was a liberation to be in love and say so, and she could only let herself go deeper. more...

But how to do feelings? All very well to write "She felt sad", or describe what a sad person might do, but what of sadness itself, how was that put across so it could be felt in all its lowering immediacy? Even harder was the threat, or the confusion of feeling contradictory things. more...

Without a revolution of the inner life, however slow, all our big designs are worthless. The work we have to do is with ourselves if we're ever going to be at peace with each other...the good that flows from it will shape our societies in an unprogrammed, unforeseen way, under the control of no single group of people or set of ideas. more...

She sleepwalked from moment to moment, and whole months slipped by without memory, without bearing the faintest imprint of her conscious will. more...

We knew so little about eachother. We lay mostly submerged, like ice floes with our visible social selves projecting only cool and white. Here was a rare sight below the waves, of a man's privacy and turmoil, of his dignity upended by the overpowering necessity of pure fantasy, pure thought, by the irreducible human element - Mind. more...

When he thought of her, it rather amazed him, that he had let that girl with her violin go. Now, of course, he saw that her self-effacing proposal was quite irrelevant. All she had needed was the certainty of his love, and his reassurance that there was no hurry when a lifetime lay ahead of them. Love and patience- if only he had had them both at once- would surely have seen them both through. more...

The luxury of being half-asleep, exploring the fringes of psychosis in safety. more...

It troubles him to consider the powerful currents and fine-tuning that alter fate, the close and distant influences, the accidents of character and circumstance. more...

one could drown in irrelevance. more...

The evasions of her little novel were exactly those of her life. Everything she did not wish to confront was also missing from her novella-and was necessary to it. more...

But to do its noticing and judging, poetry balances itself on the pinprick of the moment. Slowing down, stopping yourself completely, to read and understand a poem is like trying to acquire an old-fashioned skill.... more...

However, withered, I still feel myself to be exactly the same person I've always been. Hard to explain that to the young. we may look truly reptilian, but we're not a separate tribe. more...

This is how the entire course of a life can be changed: by doing nothing. more...

Watching him during the first several minutes of his delivery, Cecilia felt a pleasant sinking sensation in her stomach as she contemplated how deliciously self-destructive it would be, almost erotic, to be married to a man so nearly handsome, so hugely rich, so unfathomably stupid. He would fill her with his big-faced children, all of them loud, boneheaded boys with a passion for guns and football and aeroplanes. more...

It wasn't only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you. more...

Nothing that can be, can come between me and the full prospect of my hopes. more...

How easily this unthinking family love was forgotten. more...

How can a novelist achieve atonement when with her absolute power of deciding outcomes, she is also god? more...

She returned his gaze, struck by the sense of her own transformation, and overwhelmed by the beauty which a lifetime havit had taught her to ignore. more...

In a story you only had to wish, you only had to write it down and you could have the world...It seemed so obvious now that it was too late: a story was a form of telepathy. By means of inking symbols onto a page, she was able to send thoughts and feelings from her mind to her reader's. It was a magical process, so commonplace that no one stopped to wonder at it. Reading a sentence and understanding it were the same thing; as with the crooking of a finger, nothing lay between them. There was no gap during which the symbols were unraveled. more...

come back, come back to me more...

And now she was back in the world, not one she could make, but the one that had made her, and she felt herself shrinking under the early evening sky. She was weary of being outdoors, but she was not ready to go in. Was that really all there was in life, indoors or out? Wasn't there somewhere else for people to go? more...

These were everyday sounds magnified by darkness. And darkness was nothing - it was not a substance, it was not a presence, it was no more than an absence of light. more...

There's a taste in the air, sweet and vaguely antiseptic, that reminds him of his teenage years in these streets, and of a general state of longing, a hunger for life to begin that from this distance seems like happiness. more...

It was not generally realized that what children mostly wanted was to be left alone. more...

There are these rare moments when musicians together touch something sweeter than they've ever found before in rehearsals or performance, beyond the merely collaborative or technically proficient, when their expression becomes as easy and graceful as friendship or love. This is when they give us a glimpse of what we might be, of our best selves, and of an impossible world in which you give everything to others, but lose nothing of yourself. more...

It is quite impossible these days to assume anything about people's educational level from the way they talk or dress or from their taste in music. Safest to treat everyone you meet as a distinguished intellectual. more...

No one knows anything, really. It's all rented, or borrowed. more...

Who you get, and how it works out- there's so much luck involved, as well as the million branching consequences of your conscious choice of a mate, that no one and no amount of talking can untangle it if it turns out unhappily. more...

When its gone, you'll know what a gift love was. you'll suffer like this. So go back and fight to keep it. more...

She lay in the dark and knew everything. more...

The cost of oblivious daydreaming was always this moment of return, the realignment with what had been before and now seemed a little worse. more...

True intelligence requires fabulous imagination. more...

Atheists have as much conscience, possibly more, than people with deep religious conviction, and they still have the same problem of how they reconcile themselves to a bad deed in the past. It's a little easier if you've got a god to forgive you. more...

One has to have the courage of one's pessimism. more...

One important theme is the extent to which one can ever correct an error, especially outside any frame of religious forgiveness. All of us have done something we regret - how we manage to remove that from our conscience, or whether that's even possible, interested me. more...

Now, I'm an atheist. I really don't believe for a moment that our moral sense comes from a god. more...

The end of secrecy would be the end of the novel - especially the English novel. The English novel requires social secrecy, personal secrecy. more...

I wouldn't mind being the lead guitarist in an incredibly successful rock band. However, I don't play the guitar. more...

It is not the first duty of the novelist to provide blueprints for insurrection, or uplifting tales of successful resistance for the benefit of the opposition. The naming of what is there is what is important. more...

It should simply be an empirical matter whether the climate is changing or not and whether we're responsible. But the various sides of the debate have now become so tribal that it's no longer a matter of changing our views as more information comes in. more...

It's good to get your hands dirty a bit and to test how you see things at a given point. And it's very pleasing after writing something like 'Atonement' or 'On Chesil Beach,' which are historical, to get involved in some plausible re-enactment of the here and now. more...

What I've discovered and really confirmed to myself is that opera really likes loud colours, and you need something bold, something savage, unpredictable, passionate. You can't really run a two-hour opera round some muted murmuring. more...

Perhaps the greatest reading pleasure has an element of self-annihilation. To be so engrossed that you barely know you exist. more...

Not being boring is quite a challenge. more...

I want to live in a place where strangers rush to help someone in distress. more...

What is it precisely, that feeling of 'returning' from a poem? Something is lighter, softer, larger - then it fades, but never completely. more...

You could say that all novels are spy novels and all novelists are spy masters. more...

I don't hold grudges. more...

Novelists have to be adept at controlling the flow of information, and, most crucially, they have to be in charge of the narrative. more...

Reading reviews makes you thin-skinned. It's like waves washing layers off your skin. more...

You can spin stories out of the ways people understand and misunderstand each other. more...

I always used to deny this, but I guess what I'm really saying is that I was writing to shock... And I dug deep and dredged up all kinds of vile things which fascinated me at the time. more...

I think of novels in architectural terms. You have to enter at the gate, and this gate must be constructed in such a way that the reader has immediate confidence in the strength of the building. more...

Something is missing in our culture. We can't quite celebrate the scientific literary tradition. more...

What reader wants to be told what attitude to strike? more...

I apologize for being obvious, but every time I watch the curtain come down on even a halfway decent production of a Shakespeare play I feel a little sorrowful that I'll never know the man, or any man of such warm intelligence. more...

Could it ever be explained, how matter becomes conscious? more...

I like to think that each book I start is a completely new departure But I've learned that whatever you do, readers will have no difficulty assimilating it into what you've done before. more...

It's the essence of a degenerating mind periodically, to lose all sense of continuous self, and therefore any regard for what others think of your lack of continuity. more...

This is the pain-pleasure of having newly adult children; they're innocent and ruthless in forgetting their sweet old dependence. more...

I did not kill my father, but I sometimes felt I had helped him on his way. And but for the fact that it coincided with a landmark in my own physical growth, his death seemed insignificant compared to what followed. more...

Screenwriting is an opportunity to fly first class, be treated like a celebrity, sit around the pool and be betrayed. more...

What is lawful is not always identical to what is right. more...

I believe the novella is the perfect form of prose fiction. It is the beautiful daughter of a rambling, bloated ill-shaven giant (but a giant who's a genius on his best days). more...

He was looking at her with amused suspicion. There was something between them, and even she had to acknowledge that a tame remark about the weather sounded perverse. more...

When they kissed she immediately felt his tongue, tensed and strong, pushing past her teeth, like some bully shouldering his way into a room. Entering her. more...

He knew these last lines by heart and mouthed them now in the darkness. My reason for life. Not living, but life. That was the touch. And she was his reason for life, and why he must survive. more...

Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destory? more...

She loved him, though not at this particular moment. more...

Had it taken her this long to discover that she lacked some simple mental trick that everyone else had, a mechanism so ordinary that no one ever mentioned it, an immediate sensual connection to people and events, and to her own needs and desires? All these years she had lived in isolation within herself and, strangely, from herself, never wanting or daring to look back. more...

Briony began to understand the chasm that lay between an idea and its execution more...

We go on our hands and knees and crawl our way towards the truth more...

How can a novelist achieve atonement when, with her absolute power of deciding outcomes, she is also God? There is no one, no entity or higher form that she can appeal to, or be reconciled with, or that can forgive her. There is nothing outside her. In her imagination she has set the limits and the terms. No atonement for God, or novelists, even if they are atheists. It was always an impossible task, and that was precisely the point. The attempt was all. more...

It was common enough, to see so much death and want a child. Common, therefore human, and he wanted it all the more. When the wounded were screaming, you dreamed of sharing a little house somewhere, of an ordinary life, a family line, connection. more...

How guilt refined the methods of self-torture, threading the beads of detail into an eternal loop, a rosary to be fingered for a lifetime. more...

She had lolled about for three years at Girton with the kind of books she could equally have read at home-Jane Austen, Dickens, Conrad, all in the library downstairs, in complete sets. How had that pursuit, reading the novels that others took as their leisure, let her think she was superior to anyone else? more...

The anticipation and dread he felt at seeing her was also a kind of sensual pleasure, and surrounding it, like an embrace, was a general elation-it might hurt, it was horribly inconvenient, no good might come of it, but he had found out for himself what it was to be in love, and it thrilled him. more...

She would simply wait on the bridge, calm and obstinate, until events, real events, not her own fantasies, roe to her challenge, and dispelled her insignificance. more...

And though you think the world is at your feet, it can rise up and tread on you. more...

I'll wait for you. Come back. The words were not meaningless, but they didn't touch him now. It was clear enough - one person waiting for another was like an arithmetical sum, and just as empty of emotion. Waiting. Simply one person doing nothing, over time, while another approached. Waiting was a heavy word. more...

I'm holding back, delaying the information. I'm lingering in the prior moment because it was a time when other outcomes were still possible. more...

It marked the beginning and, of course, an end. At that moment a chapter, no, a whole stage of my closed. Had I known, and had there been a spare second or two, I might have allowed myself a little nostalgia. more...

Finally, you had to measure yourself by other people - there really was nothing else. every now and then, quite unintentionally, someone taught you something about yourself. more...

A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended. more...

There did not have to be a moral. She need only show separate minds, as alive as her own, struggling with the idea that other minds were equally alive. It wasn't only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding, above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you. And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an equal value. That was the only moral a story need have. more...

She wanted to leave, she wanted to lie alone face down on her bed and savor the vile piquancy of the moment, and go back down the lines of branching consequences to the point before the destruction began. She needed to contemplate with eyes closed the full richness of what she had lost, what she had given away, and to anticipate the new regime. more...

A story was a form of telepathy. By means of inking symbols onto a page, she was able to send thoughts and feelings from her mind to her reader's. It was a magical process, so commonplace that no one stopped to wonder at it. more...

That love which does not build a foundation on good sense is doomed. more...

Was everyone else really as alive as she was?...If the answer was yes, then the world, the social world, was unbearably complicated, with two billion voices, and everyone's thoughts striving in equal importance and everyone's claim on life as intense, and everyone thinking they were unique, when no one was. more...

Wasn't writing a kind of soaring, an achievable form of flight, of fancy, of the imagination? more...

Not everything people did could be in a correct, logical order, especially when they were alone. more...

It wasn't torpor that kept her - she was often restless to the point of irritability. She simply liked to feel that she was prevented from leaving, that she was needed. more...

He's never quite got the trick of conversation, tending to hear in dissenting views, however mild, a kind of affront, an invitation to mortal combat. more...

All she had needed was the certainty of his love, and his reassurance that there was no hurry when a lifetime lay ahead of them. more...

The primitive thinking of the supernaturally inclined amounts to what his psychiatric colleagues call a problem, or an idea, of reference. An excess of the subjective, the ordering of the world in line with your needs, an inability to contemplate your own unimportance. In Henry's view such reasoning belongs on a spectrum at whose far end, rearing like an abandoned temple, lies psychosis. more...

What can it be about low temperatures that sharpens the edges of objects? more...

By measuring individual human worth, the novelist reveals the full enormity of the State more...

All this happiness on display is suspect... If they think - and they could be right - that continued torture and summary executions, ethnic cleansing and occasional genocide are preferable to an invasion, they should be sombre in their view. more...

Self-consciousness is the destroyer of erotic joy. more...

Observing human variety can give pleasure, but so too can human sameness. more...

But what really happened? The answer is simple: the lovers survive and flourish. more...

Narrative tension is primarily about withholding information, more...

The moment you lose curiosity in the world, you might as well be dead. more...

When we go on about the big things, the political situation, global warming, world poverty, it all looks really terrible, with nothing getting better, nothing to look forward to. But when I think small, closer in-you know, a girl I've just met, or this song we'regoing to do with Chas, or snowboarding next month, then it looks great. So this is going to be my motto - think small. more...

When there are no consequences, being wrong is simply a diversion. more...

When anything can happen, everything matters. more...

He saw that no one owned anything really. It's all rented, or borrowed. Our possessions will outlast us, we'll desert them in the end. more...

No emergency was ever dealt with effectively by democratic process. more...

At that moment, the urge to be writing was stronger than any notion she had of what she might write. more...

...beauty, she had discovered occupied a narrow band. Ugliness, on the hand, had infinite variation. more...

He would work through the night and sleep until lunch. There wasn't really much else to do. Make something, and die. more...

No one knew about the squirrel's skull beneath her bed, but no one wanted to know. more...

i'm going mad, i told myself. let me not be mad. more...

was it possible that i was, in the modern term, in denial? more...

Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion and the beginning of morality more...

Dearest Cecilia, You'd be forgiven for thinking me mad, the way I acted this afternoon. The truth is I feel rather light headed and foolish in your presence, Cee, and I don't think I can blame the heat. more...

These memories sustained him, but not so easily. Too often they reminded him of where he was when he last summoned them. They lay on the far side of a great divide in time, as significant as B.C. and A.D. Before prison, before the war, before the sight of a corpse became a banality. more...

This commonplace cycle of falling asleep and waking, in darkness, under private cover, with another creature, a pale soft tender mammal, putting faces together in a ritual of affection, briefly settled in the eternal necessities of warmth, comfort, safety, crossing limbs to draw nearer - a simple daily consolation, almost too obvious, easy to forget by daylight. more...

He never believed in fate or providence, or the future being made by someone in the sky. Instead, at every instant, a trillion trillion possible futures; the pickiness of pure chance and physical laws seemed like freedom from the scheming of a gloomy god. more...

Rebecca Goldstein is a rare find among contemporary novelists: she has intellectual muscle as well as a tender emotional reach. more...

Novels help us to resist the temptation to think of the past as deficient. more...

For the professors in the academy, for the humanities generally, misery is more amenable to analysis: happiness is a harder nut to crack. more...

For children, childhood is timeless. It is always the present. Everything is in the present tense. Of course, they have memories. Of course, time shifts a little for them and Christmas comes round in the end. But they don't feel it. Today is what they feel, and when they say 'When I grow up,' there is always an edge of disbelief - how could they ever be other than what they are? more...

London in the '70s was a pretty catastrophic dump, I can tell you. We had every kind of industrial trouble; we had severe energy problems; we were under constant terrorist attack from Irish terrorist groups who started a bombing campaign in English cities; politics were fantastically polarized between left and right. more...

By concentrating on what is good in people, by appealing to their idealism and their sense of justice, and by asking them to put their faith in the future, socialists put themselves at a severe disadvantage. more...

My father's drinking was sometimes a problem. And a great deal went unspoken. He was not particularly acute or articulate about the emotions. But he was very affectionate towards me. more...

When I began I thought that literature was contained within a bubble that somehow floated above the world commented upon by newspapers. But I became more and more interested in trying to include some of that world within my work. more...

Scientists do stand on the shoulders of giants, just as do writers. Conversely, in the arts we do make discoveries. We do refine our tools. So I am arguing with, or at least playing with, the idea that art never improves. more...

The best way to tell people about climate change is through non-fiction. There's a vast literature of outstanding writing on the subject. more...

At the risk of sounding like Virginia Woolf, I could live on 700 a year. more...

I don't believe there's any inherent darkness at the center of religion at all. I think religion actually is a morally neutral force. more...

Politics is the enemy of the imagination. more...

A twenty-one-year-old writer is likely to be inhibited by a lack of usable experience. Childhood and adolescence were something I knew. more...

I actually find novels that are determined to be funny at every turn quite oppressive. more...

I don't really believe in evil at all. more...

I often don't read reviews. more...

I was an intimate sort of child who never spoke up in groups. I preferred close friends. more...

I'm quite good at not writing. more...

I've yet to meet somebody who said, 'Your stories are so revolting I couldn't read them.' more...

If I could write the perfect novella I would die happy. more...

In my experience an appreciative letter from a fellow writer means a lot. more...

Oh, I've become immune to the Booker. I think we need something a little more like the Pulitzer prize, where there isn't this great race. more...

Some people are tied to five hundred words a day, six days a week. I'm a hesitater. more...

The moment you have children and a mortgage you want things to work; you're locked into the human project and you want it to flourish. more...

We overvalue the arts in relation to the sciences. more...

My parents were keen for me to have the education they themselves never had. They weren't able to guide me towards particular books, but they encouraged me to read, which I did, randomly and compulsively. more...

You enter a state of controlled passivity, you relax your grip and accept that even if your declared intention is to justify the ways of God to man, you might end up interesting your readers rather more in Satan. more...

As regards literary culture, it fascinates me that it has been so resilient to the Union. For example, when T.S. Eliot wanted to become poet in these lands, it wasn't as an English poet, it was an Anglian poet he wanted to be. more...

How often one reads a contemporary full-length novel and thinks quietly, mutinously, that it would have worked out better at half or a third the length. more...

I put it to you that there are no British poets, there are no British novelists. I have heard myself described as one, but I think really I'm an English novelist; there are Scottish poets and Scottish novelists. more...

When people have supernatural beliefs I think they should be respected but there is no reason why they need to impose them on others. more...

Dying in unfamiliar surroundings miles away from home, it cannot possibly be good. There is a great sadness about that I think. more...

I read in announcements of deaths 'peacefully in his sleep' and I wonder how many of those are true. Maybe they are just conventional. I hope they are true whenever I read it of someone. [But] I would rather be awake. Peacefully awake, brim full of some calming drug that was seeing me out of the door, having said my farewells. more...

None of us really either know the circumstances of our death or are likely to exert as much control over it as we would like to, but we can certainly have a little more say in it if we are terminally ill than we have at the moment. That's the element of dignity, but sure, life is very hard to organise even when you are fit and healthy. more...

I do have a very strong sense that most of the terrible things in life happen suddenly and unpredictably, and certainly can sweep you off in different directions, and that is always of interest to a novelist. more...

My biggest fear, I think falling from a great height. If I want to keep myself awake at night I imagine I'm on the top of the North or South Tower in 9/11, wondering whether I'm going to be burnt to death or I'm going to jump. And I think I would burn to death. And yet I'm impressed by the fact that hundreds didn't. more...

I would rather be physically disabled obviously than mentally. I would rather be paraplegic than nuts. And it is a terrifying prospect and actually the longer we live the more likely it is that that's how we will go and that's a very painful thing to contemplate. more...

I couldn't think about novels at all. It seemed the only writing that was appropriate to that horrendous event was journalism, reportage. And, in fact, I think the profession rose quite honorably to the task. Novelists require a slower turnover, I mean, in time. more...

I think the novel, its business is the investigation of human nature. more...

In the first half of the 20th Century, we lived through human disasters on a scale unimaginable. The Holocaust was once suggested would be the end of not only civilization, but art, too. more...

My needs were simple I didn't bother much with themes or felicitous phrases and skipped fine descriptions of weather, landscapes and interiors. I wanted characters I could believe in, and I wanted to be made curious about what was to happen to them. Generally, I preferred people to be falling in and out of love, but I didn't mind so much if they tried their hand at something else. It was vulgar to want it, but I liked someone to say 'Marry me' by the end. more...

And feeling clever, I've always thought, is just a sigh away from being cheerful. more...

There was, in my view, an unwritten contract with the reader that the writer must honour. No single element of an imagined world or any of its characters should be allowed to dissolve on an authorial whim. The invented had to be as solid and as self-consistent as the actual. This was a contract founded on mutual trust. more...

Daylight seemed then to be the physical manifestation of common sense. more...

I was the basest of readers. All I wanted was my own world, and myself in it, given back to me in artful shapes and accessible form. more...

I turned the pages so fast. And I suppose I was, in my mindless way, looking for a something, version of myself, a heroine I could slip inside as one might a pair of favourite shoes. more...

What was it with men, that they found elementary logic so difficult? more...

Novels without female characters were a lifeless desert. more...

Four or five years - nothing at all. But no one over thirty could understand this peculiarly weighted and condensed time, from late teens to early twenties, a stretch of life that needed a name, from school leaver to salaried professional, with a university and affairs and death and choices in between. I had forgotten how recent my childhood was, how long and inescapable it once seemed. How grown up and how unchanged I was. more...

Love doesn't grow at a steady rate, but advances in surges, bolts, wild leaps, and this was one of those. more...

At the back of my mind I had a sense of us sitting about waiting for some terrible event, and then I would remember that it had already happened. more...

The trouble with being a daydreamer who doesn't say much is that the teachers at school, especially those who don't know you very well, are likely to think you're rather stupid. Or, if not stupid, then dull. No one can see the amazing things that are going on in your head. more...

Let the guilty bury the innocent, and let no one change the evidence more...

It was thought, perception, sensations that interested her, the conscious mind as a river through time, and how to represent its onward roll, as well as all the tributaries that would swell it, and the obstacles that would divert it. If only she could reproduce the clear light of a summer's morning, more...

Arguing with a dead man in a lavatory is a claustrophobic experience. more...

Writers are said to have superstitions and little rituals. Readers have them too. more...

It was always the view of my parents...that hot weather encouraged loose morals among young people. more...

Oblivion seemed the only reasonable option. more...

Shall there be womanly times? Or shall we die? more...

Looking after children is one of the ways of looking after yourself. more...

I've always thought cruelty is a failure of imagination. more...

When people ask, "Is there any advice you'd give a young writer?," I say write short stories. They afford lots of failure. Pastiche is a great way to start. more...

Someone once asked me "If your life could be extended to 150 and you could start another career, would you?" And I said "No, thanks, I think I'll stick at this." more...

I'm not against religion in the sense that I feel I can't tolerate it, but I think written into the rubric of religion is the certainty of its own truth. And since there are 6,000 religions currently on the face of the earth, they can't all be right. And only the secular spirit can guarantee those freedoms and it's the secular spirit that they contest. more...

By measuring individual human worth, the novelist reveals the full enormity of the State's crime when it sets out to crush that individuality. more...

It is shaming sometimes how the body will not, or cannot, lie about emotions. Who, for decorum's sake, has ever slowed his heart, or muted a blush? more...

No one knew about the squirrel's skull beneath her bed, but no one wanted to know. more...

Dearest Cecilia, You"d be forgiven for thinking me mad, the way I acted this afternoon. The truth is I feel rather light headed and foolish in your presence, Cee, and I do' think I can blame the heat. more...

It was thought, perception, sensations that interested her, the conscious mind as a river through time, and how to represent its onward roll, as well as all the tributaries that would swell it, and the obstacles that would divert it. If only she could reproduce the clear light of a summer's morning, more...

I"ll wait for you. Come back. The words were not meaningless, but they did' touch him now. It was clear enough - one person waiting for another was like an arithmetical sum, and just as empty of emotion. Waiting. Simply one person doing nothing, over time, while another approached. Waiting was a heavy word. more...

...the world she ran through loved her and would give her what she wanted and would let it happen. more...

Above all, she wanted to look as though she had not given the matter a moment's thought, and that would take time. more...

In a language as idiomatically stressed as English, opportunities for misreadings are bound to arise. By a mere backward movement of stress, a verb can become a noun, an act a thing. To refuse, to insist on saying no to what you believe is wrong, becomes at a stroke refuse, an insurmountable pile of garbage. more...

I like to think that it isn't weakness or evasion, but a final act of kindness, a stand against oblivion and despair, ... more...

A story lives transformed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken more...

Especially difficult when the first and best unconscious move of a dedicated liar is to persuade himself he's sincere. And once he's sincere, all deception vanishes. more...

Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short and wear shirts and boots because it's okay to be a boy; for girls it's like promotion. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading. more...

If life was a dream, then dying must be the moment when you woke up. It was so simple it must be true. You died, the dream was over, you woke up. That's what people meant when they talked about going to heaven. It was like waking up. more...

Something has happened, hasn't it? ... It's like being up close to something so large you don't even see it. Even now, I'm not sure I can. But I know it's there. more...

In that shrinking moment he discovered that he had never hated anyone until now. It was a feeling as pure as love, but dispassionate and icily rational. more...

We know so little about each other. We lie mostly submerged, like ice floes, with our visible social selves projecting only cool and white. more...

Cecilia wondered, as she sometimes did when she met a man for the first time, if this was the one she was going to marry, and whether it was this particular moment she would remember for the rest of her life - with gratitude, or profound and particular regret. more...

Be wary of too much calm, particularly in your mid-fifties. more...

It was thought, perception, sensations that interested her, the conscious mind as a river through time, and how to represent its onward roll, as well as all the tributaries that would swell it, and the obstacles that would divert it. If only she could reproduce the clear light of a summer's morning, more...

He who hesitates is not only lost, but miles from the next exit. more...

There are ways in which art can have a longer reach than politics... more...

I like to think that each book I start is a completely new departure But I"ve learned that whatever you do, readers will have no difficulty assimilating it into what you"ve done before. more...

In a nuclear age, and in an age of serious environmental degradation, apocalyptic belief creates a serious second order danger. The precarious logic of self-interest that saw us through the Cold War would collapse if the leaders of one nuclear state came to welcome, or ceased to fear mass death. more...

Most of humanity gets by without reading novels or poetry, and no one would deny the richness of their thoughts. more...

Reading groups, readings, breakdowns of book sales all tell the same story: when women stop reading, the novel will be dead. more...

I believe the novella is the perfect form of prose fiction. more...

At the risk of sounding like Virginia Woolf, I could live on 700 a year. more...

I like to think that each book I start is a completely new departure But I've learned that whatever you do, readers will have no difficulty assimilating it into what you've done before. more...

The trouble with being a daydreamer who does' say much is that the teachers at school, especially those who do' know you very well, are likely to think you're rather stupid. Or, if not stupid, then dull. No one can see the amazing things that are going on in your head. more...


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