Quotes by Zadie Smith

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A reality shaped around your own desires - there is something sociopathic in that ambition. more...

I love to dance, and sing - in the shower, not in public. Im too old to go raving, but my fondest memories are of that kind of thing - dancing, with lots of people, outside if possible. more...

No fiction, no myths, no lies, no tangled webs - this is how Irie imagined her homeland. Because homeland is one of the magical fantasy words like unicorn and soul and infinity that have now passed into language. more...

Learning how to be a good reader is what makes you a writer. more...

This is what a woman is: unadorned, after children and work and age, and experience-these are the marks of living. more...

You must live life with the full knowledge that your actions will remain. We are creatures of consequence. more...

When the male organ of a man stands erect, two thirds of his intelect go away. And one third of his religion. more...

Full stories are as rare as honesty. more...

Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories. more...

... don't ever underestimate people, don't ever underestimate the pleasure they receive from viewing pain that is not their own... Pain by itself is just Pain. But Pain + Distance can = entertainment, voyeurism, human interest, cinema verite, a good belly chuckle, a sympathetic smile, a raised eyebrow, disguised contempt. more...

When people use that stream of consciousness, it's kind of just a term they use for anything that looks slightly different on the page. more...

I'm always interested in the way people speak and move in their environment, in a very particular environment. I'm never interested in writing a kind of neutral, universal novel that could be set anywhere. To me, the any novel is a local thing always. more...

I'm just interested in women's friendships generally. It always seems to me, and this is just my pet theory, that women are kind of at the sharp end of capitalism one way or another. Mainly because they buy everything. In a practical sense, women buy most things. They're always comparing - to friends, to famous people, to other people. An obsessive act of comparison. more...

A lot of women, when they're young, feel they have very good friends, and find later on that friendship is complicated. It's easy to be friends when everyone's 18. It gets harder the older you get, as you make different life choices, as people say in America. A lot of women's friendships begin to founder. more...

The arena of women's lives is somewhat more intimate. If a woman goes out with an incredibly attractive man and they break up, that woman is not more attractive to men. It's completely irrelevant to them. That's an example of the way women's minds work. more...

I was brought up with the sense that I was absolutely no different from my brothers. I went to college thinking I was absolutely no different from the men in college. But that's not true. I'm fundamentally different. The problem was not being able to understand difference and equality at the same time. It's something that we can't seem to comprehend. You can't state difference and also state equality. We have to state sameness to understand equality. It's a mistake. more...

First rule of writing: When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else. more...

I'm a writer who never writes about sex. It's so far from my own fictional world. more...

It's a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word. more...

It's easy to confuse a woman for a philosophy more...

You're a library of me. more...

Where I come from," said Archie, "a bloke likes to get to know a girl before he marries her." "Where you come from it is customary to boil vegetables until they fall apart. This does not mean," said Samad tersely, "that it is a good idea. more...

The choices a writer makes within a tradition - preferring Milton to Moliere, caring for Barth over Barthelme - constitute some of the most personal information we can have about him. more...

It seems to me,' said Magid finally, as the moon became clearer than the sun, 'that you have tried to love a man as if he were an island and you were shipwrecked and you could mark the land with an X. It seems to me it is too late in the day for all that.' Then he gave her a kiss on the forehead that felt like a baptism and she wept like a baby. more...

It's still easier to find the correct Hoover bag than to find one pure person, one pure faith, on the globe. more...

We cannot be all the writers all the time. We can only be who we are. Which leads me to my second point: writers do not write what they want, they write what they can. more...

These days, it feels to me like you make a devil's pact when you walk into this country. You hand over your passport at the check-in, you get stamped, you want to make a little money, get yourself started... but you mean to go back! Who would want to stay? Cold, wet, miserable; terrible food, dreadful newspapers - who would want to stay? In a place where you are never welcomed, only tolerated. Just tolerated. Like you are an animal finally house-trained. more...

No matter what anyone says, suicide takes guts. It's for heroes and martyrs, truly vainglorious men. Archie was none of these. He was a man whose significance in the Greater Scheme of Things could be figured along familiar ratios: Pebble : Beach Raindrop : Ocean Needle : Haystack more...

It's got two aspects. The bit that involves the public life I could not really tolerate and cannot really tolerate. I just can't get used to the idea of being somebody unreal in people's minds. I can't live my life like that. more...

And it's just anathema to being a writer. It's not healthy. But in another way, when I'm writing, what it's about for me is being good on the page. None of that noise could change the way I feel about my writing. Which is not always particularly positive. more...

It made me feel that I had to work very hard, but I've always felt I had to work very hard to get my own approval. more...

The world is now multicultural the same way the world is round. It's not a selling point, it's not a 'quirky' feature, it's not a cynical marketing ploy, it's not an artistic statement, it's not even a plot device. It's a fact, like seedless grapes. more...

Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships, Language. Sensibility. more...

Life's not a video game, Felix- there aren't a certain number of points that send you to the next level. There isn't actually any next level. The bad news is that everybody dies at the end. Game Over. more...

She had that thing most people don't have - curiosity. She might not have always got the right answers, but she wanted to ask the questions. It's very hard if you are interested in ideas and all that, ideas and the philosophies of the past, it's very hard to find someone around here to really talk to. That's the tragedy of the thing really I mean, when you think about it. Certainly I can't find anyone around here to talk to anymore. And for a woman it's even harder you see. They can feel very trapped - because of the patriarchy. I do feel everyone needs to have these little chats now and then. more...

(Feedback) People become addicted to it. That's why journalism is so popular, because you want to hear, every day, what people think of what you just wrote. I think a little patience on that front can be good, too. more...

Life's not a video game, Felix- there aren't a certain number of points that send you to the next level. There isn't actually any next level. The bad news is that everybody dies at the end. Game Over. more...

(Feedback) People become addicted to it. That's why journalism is so popular, because you want to hear, every day, what people think of what you just wrote. I think a little patience on that front can be good, too. more...

Under every friendship there is a difficult sentence that must be said, in order that the friendship can be survived. more...

I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me. more...

He had her in his heart, but not always in his mind. more...

It's such a confidence trick, writing a novel. The main person you have to trick into confidence is yourself. This is hard to do alone. more...

She did what girls generally do when they don't feel the part: she dressed it instead. more...

Other people's words are so important. And then without warning they stop being important, along with all those words of yours that their words prompted you to write. Much of the excitement of a new novel lies in the repudiation of the one written before. Other people's words are the bridge you use to cross from where you were to wherever you're going. more...

Boys are just boys after all, but sometimes girls really seem to be the turn of a pale wrist, or the sudden jut of a hip, or a clutch of very dark hair falling across a freckled forehead. I'm not saying that's what they really are. I'm just saying sometimes it seems that way, and that those details (a thigh mole, a full face flush, a scar the precise shape and size of a cashew nut) are so many hooks waiting to land you. more...

They had nothing to say to each other. A five-year age gap between siblings is like a garden that needs constant attention. Even three months apart allows the weeds to grow up between you. more...

This, after all, was the month in which families began tightening and closing and sealing; from Thanksgiving to the New Year, everybody's world contracted, day by day, into the microcosmic single festive household, each with its own rituals and obsessions, rules and dreams. You didn't feel you could call people. They didn't feel they could phone you. How does one cry for help from these seasonal prisons? more...

She represents love, beauty, purity, the ideal female and the moon...and she's the mystere of jealousy, vengeance and discord, AND, on the other hand, of love, perpetual help, goodwill, health, beauty and fortune. more...

Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time. more...

A trauma is something one repeats and repeats, after all, and this is the tragedy of the Iqbals-that they can't help but reenact the dash they once made from one land to another, from one faith to another, from one brown mother country into the pale, freckled arms of an imperial sovereign. more...

And so it happened again, the daily miracle whereby interiority opens out and brings to bloom the million-petalled flower of being here, in the world, with other people. Neither as hard as she had thought it might be nor as easy as it appeared. more...

- You look fine. - Right. I look fine. Except I don't, said Zora, tugging sadly at her man's nightshirt. This was why Kiki had dreaded having girls: she knew she wouldn't be able to protect them from self-disgust. more...

The lady was old, the lady was ill. It didn't matter what the lady believed. more...

I don't ask myself what did I live for, said Carlene strongly. That is a man's question. I ask whom did I live for. more...

You don't have favourites among your children, but you do have allies. more...

The future's another country, man... And I still ain't got a passport. more...

Last year, when Zora was a freshman, sophomores had seemed altogether a different kind of human: so very definite in their tastes and opinions, in ther loves and ideas. Zora woke up this morning hopeful that a transformation of this kind might have visited her in the night, but, finding it hadn't, she did what girls generally do when they don't feel the part: she dressed it instead. more...

Sometimes you get a flash of what you look like to other people. more...

Jerome said, It's like, a family doesn't work anymore when everyone in it is more miserable than they would be if they were alone, You know? more...

The greatest lie ever told about love is that it sets you free. more...

Fate is a quantity very much like TV: an unstoppable narrative, written, produced and directed by somebody else. more...

This because it is never really very cold in England. It is drizzly, and the wind will blow; hail happens, and there is a breed of Tuesday in January in which time creeps and no light comes and the air is full of water and nobody really loves anybody, but still a decent jumper and a waxen jacket lined with wool is sufficient for every weather England's got to give. more...

Because immigrants have always been particularly prone to repetition - it's something to do with that experience of moving from West to East or East to West or from island to island. Even when you arrive, you're still going back and forth; your children are going round and round. There's no proper term for it - original sin seems too harsh; maybe original trauma would be better. more...

...despite all this, it is still hard to admit that there is no one more English than the Indian, no one more Indian than the English. There are still young white men who are angry about that; who will roll out at closing time into the poorly lit streets with a kitchen knife wrapped in a tight fist. But it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the nationalist, scared of infection, penetration, miscegenation, when this is small fry, peanuts, compared to what the immigrant fears - dissolution, disappearance. more...

It wasn't like the spare rooms of immigrants - packed to the rafters with all that they have ever possessed, no matter how defective or damaged, mountains of odds and ends - the stand testament to the fact that they have things now, where before they had nothing. more...

Rarely does one see a squirrel tremble. more...

She loved you in the morning because the day was new. more...

She hopes for nothing except fine weather and a resolution. She wants to end properly, like a good sentence. more...

The very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life. more...

Then you begin to give up the very idea of belonging. Suddenly this thing, this belonging,it seems like some long, dirty lie ... and I begin to believe that birthplaces are accidents, that everything is an accident. But if you believe that, where do you go? What do you do? What does anything matter? more...

The past is always tense, the future perfect. more...

Then he gave her a kiss on the forehead that felt like a baptism and she wept like a baby. more...

Any woman who counts on her face is a fool. more...

We cannot love something solely because it has been ignored. It must also be worthy of our attention. more...

...They cannot escape their history any more than you yourself can lose your shadow. more...

Time is how you spend your love. more...

It's a funny thing about rap, that when you say 'I' into the microphone, it's like a public confession. It's very strange. more...

Your mid-thirties is a good time because you know a fair amount, you have some self-control. more...

A lot of women, when they're young, feel they have very good friends, and find later on that friendship is complicated. It's easy to be friends when everyone's 18. more...

When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. more...

As far as I'm concerned, if you want to find out about the last day of WWII or the roots of the Indian Mutiny, get thee to a books catalogue. more...

Don't confuse honours with achievement. more...

Don't we all know why nerds do what they do? To get money, which leads to popularity, which leads to girls. more...

I don't keep any copies of my books in the house - they go to my mum's flat. I don't like them around. more...

I often worry that my idea of personhood is nostalgic, irrational, inaccurate. more...

I'm always a bit suspicious of writers who have the gift of the gab. more...

Nowadays, I know the true reason I read is to feel less alone, to make a connection with a consciousness other than my own. more...

People profess to have certain political positions, but their conservatism or liberalism is really the least interesting thing about them. more...

When I think of the books I love, there's always a little laughter in the dark. more...

Writing is my way of expressing - and thereby eliminating - all the various ways we can be wrong-headed. more...

Some people like just sitting down and being taken for a ride. That's a beautiful thing that fiction can do. But it's not the only thing. In television and film, people are ready to accept any kind of jump cut, but the slightest disturbance on the page ruffles their feathers. more...

Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay. more...

All my books are made up of other books. They're all deeply structured on other fiction, because I was a student in fiction and I didn't have much actual living to draw on. I suspect a lot of other people's novels are like that, too, though they might be slower to talk about it. more...

Any artist who aligns themselves with a politician is making a category error because what politicians do is not on a human scale, it is on a geopolitical scale. more...

I love to dance, and sing - in the shower, not in public. I'm too old to go raving, but my fondest memories are of that kind of thing - dancing, with lots of people, outside if possible. more...

It seems that if you put people on paper and move them through time, you cannot help but talk about ethics, because the ethical realm exists nowhere if not here: in the consequences of human actions as they unfold in time, and the multiple interpretive possibility of those actions. more...

Don't romanticise your 'vocation.' You can either write good sentences or you can't. There is no 'writer's lifestyle.' All that matters is what you leave on the page. more...

I can't add. I don't understand basic science. Or anything else. But I can read anything. I've always been able to, and I've always liked to. Even if I didn't understand it, I liked to. more...

I don't take notes. I don't have any notebooks. I keep on trying to do that because it seems like a very writerly thing to do, but my mind doesn't work that way. I tend to get the idea for a novel in a big splash. more...

I have an ambition to write a great book, but that's really a competition with myself. I've noticed that a lot of young writers, people in all media, want to be famous but they don't really want to do anything. I can't think of anything less worth striving for than fame. more...

I think I know a thing or two about the way people love, but I don't know anything about hatred, psychosis, cruelty. Or maybe I don't have the guts to admit that I do. more...

My feeling is, having lived in different classes, that people want equality of opportunity... that's the thing that makes me despair: the idea that people aren't given equality of opportunity. more...

Nabokov, who I loved more than any other writer when I was young, had such contempt for dialogue. When I was younger, I never wrote a word of dialogue because of him. I thought it was a childish part of a novel. more...

That's the thing about fiction writers: what seems alarming or particular or perverse about them is simply the shape of their brain - they cannot be otherwise. more...

The utterly fallacious idea at the heart of the pro-war argument is that it is the duty of the anti-war argument to provide an alternative to war. The onus is on them to explain just cause. more...

When I was 21, I wanted to write like Kafka. But, unfortunately for me, I wrote like a script editor for 'The Simpsons' who'd briefly joined a religious cult and then discovered Foucault. Such is life. more...

You know, you don't expect everyone to be as educated as everyone else or have the same achievements, but you expect at least to be offered at least some of the opportunities, and libraries are the most simple and the most open way to give people access to books. more...

Young people understand the world. They should be listened to on matters of politics and world organization. But they know nothing of their own lives. more...

English writing tends to fall into two categories - the big, baggy epic novel or the fairly controlled, tidy novel. For a long time, I was a fan of the big, baggy novel, but there's definitely an advantage to having a little bit more control. more...

I just realized quite early on that I'm not going to be the type who can write a novel every two years. I think you need to feel an urgency about the act. Otherwise, when you read it, you feel no urgency, either. So I don't write unless I really feel I need to, and that's a luxury. more...

Without the balancing context of everyday life, all you have is the news, and news by its nature is generally bad. more...

All novels attempt to cut neural routes through the brain, to convince us that down this road the true future of the novel lies. more...

English fiction was something I loved growing up, and it changed my life - it changed the trajectory of my life. more...

I suppose I often think of my writing as quite impersonal. But it turned out, when my father died, writing was exactly what I wanted to do. more...

If you love a young writer, maybe the best thing you can do is give them a little bit of space. more...

My short stories have always pushed twenty pages. That's no length for a short story to be. You either do them short like Carver or you stop trying. more...

Normally, young writers have all the time in the world and they don't always use it well. more...

Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you. more...

I like books that don't give you an easy ride. I like the feeling of discomfort. The sense of being implicated. more...

I noticed in America that if you write a book of any kind, you're made to be the representative of all the issues that might surround it. more...

I want to write without shame or pride or over-compensation in one direction or another. To write freely. more...

I wrote 'White Teeth' in the late nineties. I didn't really feel trepidatious about it. It was a different time. more...

I'm most honest about writing when I'm talking to family or friends, not to newspapers. more...

Like all readers, I want my limits to be drawn by my own sensibilities, not by my melanin count. more...

Oh yes, my generation liked to be in some pain when they read. The harder it was, the more good we believed it was doing us. more...

The lack of alternatives to an illegal action does not legitimise that action. more...

There is no bigger crime, in the English comic novel, than thinking you are right. more...

We cannot be all the writers all the time. We can only be who we are. more...

Working with great writers can be humbling and frightening, but it can also change you for good, forever. more...

World makers, social network makers, ask one question first: 'How can I do it?' more...

English, as a subject, never really got over its upstart nature. It tries to bulk itself up with hopeless jargon and specious complexity, tries to imitate subjects it can never be. more...

I just can't get used to the idea of being somebody unreal in people's minds. I can't live my life like that. And it's just anathema to being a writer. It's not healthy. more...

I think of reading like a balanced diet; if your sentences are too baggy, too baroque, cut back on fatty Foster Wallace, say, and pick up Kafka as roughage. more...

A lot of people seem to feel that joy is only the most intense version of pleasure, arrived at by the same road - you simply have to go a little further down the track. That has not been my experience. more...

Books are not brands. Some people are very willing to see themselves as a brand, but you can't be a certain type of writer to a certain type of person all the time. It will kill you. more...

I read Carver. Julio Cortazar. Amis's essays. Baldwin. Lorrie Moore. Capote. Saramago. Larkin. Wodehouse. Anything, anything at all, that doesn't sound like me. more...

I wouldn't write about people who are living and who are close to me, because I think it's a very violent thing to do to another person. And anytime I have done it, even in the disguise of fiction, the results have been horrific. more...

If you asked me if I wanted more joyful experiences in my life, I wouldn't be at all sure I did, exactly because it proves such a difficult emotion to manage. more...

It seems to me that we often commit ourselves wholly to something while knowing almost nothing concrete about it. Another word for that, I suppose, is 'faith.' more...

It's difficult to tell the truth about how a book begins. The truth, as far as it can be presented to other people, is either wholly banal or too intimate. more...

One thing you can't intend is how you will be read. I hear it said a lot that my books are about the 'search for identity', and this is said admiringly, as if I meant to encourage such a search. more...

The conflation of the simple in style with the morally prescriptive in character, and the complex in style with the amoral or anarchic in character, seems to me one of the most persistently fallacious beliefs held by English students. more...

There's constantly this melancholy about British hip-hop. People are always waiting for it to explode like American hip-hop, but it might just be that British hip-hop will always be as it is: an underground thing which will stay that way. more...

Unless you consider yourself some sort of human brand, which I don't, you have to deal with the fact that different people are going to like different aspects of your work. It's not consistent. I am not consistent. But I feel OK with that. more...

Some people-Samad for example-will tell you not to trust people who overuse the phrase "at the end of the day"-football managers, estate agents, salesmen of all kinds-but Archie's never felt that way about it. Prudent use of said phrase never failed to convince him that his interlocutor was getting to the bottom of things, to the fundamentals. more...

Pulchritude-beauty where you would least suspect it, hidden in a word that looked like it should signify a belch or a skin infection. more...

13.5 Mrs. Wolfe asks whether Mr. Iqbal expects her Susan to undertake compulsory headstands. 13.6 Mr. Iqbal infers that, considering Susan's academic performance and weight problems, a headstand regime might be desirable. more...

If religion is the opiate of the people, tradition is an even more sinister analgesic, simply because it rarely appears sinister. If religion is a tight band, a throbbing vein, and a needle, tradition is a far homelier concoction: poppy seeds ground into tea; a sweet cocoa drink laced with cocaine; the kind of thing your grandmother might have made. more...

He traced the genealogy of the feeling. more...

He was bookish, she was not; he was theoretical, she political. She called a rose a rose. He called it an accumulation of cultural and biological constructions circulating around the mutually attracting binary poles of nature/artifice. more...

In a whisper he began begging for-and, as the sun set, received-the concession people always beg for: a little more time. more...

Art is the Western myth, with which we both console ourselves and make ourselves. more...

You can feel bad... I mean, that's not illegal. more...

Oh, I know that. You know me, baby, I cannot be broken. Takes a giant to snap me in half. more...

I am very selfish, really. I lived for love. more...

He did not consider if or how or why he loved them. They were just love: they were the first evidence he ever had of love, and they would be the last confirmation of love when everything else fell away. more...

You say you want to talk, But you don't . You stonewall me. more...

It was a kiss from the past. more...

I'm not sure if you're the person for me any more. more...

But sometimes it's like you just meet someone and you just know that you're totally connected, and this person is, like, your brother - or your sister. Even if they don't, like, recognize it, you feel it. And in a lot of ways it don't matter if they do or they don't see that for what it is - all you can do is put the feeling out there. That's your duty. Then you just wait and see what comes back to you. That's the deal. more...

Our children will be born of our actions. Our accidents will become their destinies. Oh, the actions will remain. It is a simple matter of what you will do when the chips are down, my friend. When the fat lady is singing. When the walls are falling in, and the sky is dark, and the ground is rumbling. In that moment our actions will define us. And it makes no difference whether you are being watched by Allah, Jesus, Buddah, or whether you are not. On cold days a man can see his breath, on a hot day he can't. On both occasions, the man breathes. more...

But it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the nationalist, scared of infection, penetration, miscegenation, when this is small fry, peanuts, compared to what the immigrant fears - dissolution, disappearance. more...

Most of the cruelty in the world is just misplaced energy. more...

Don't romanticise your 'vocation'. You can either write good sentences or you can't. There is no 'writer's lifestyle'. All that matters is what you leave on the page. more...

Sometimes I think my whole professional life has been based on this hunch I had, early on, that many people feel just as muddled as I do, and might be happy to tag along with me on this search for clarity, for precision. I love that aspect of writing. Nothing makes me happier than to hear a reader say: that's just what I've always felt, but you said it clearly. more...

I remember so clearly, in the early days, if I had to do a piece of press, they'd phone for me and say, 'Oh, we're going to bring hair and makeup, it'll take about five hours.' And I said, 'Well, if it was Ian McEwan, would it take about five hours? Would there be hair and makeup? Cause if that's not the case, then don't bring the hair and makeup.' So, it's fascinating that they just assume: it's a young woman, she must want to be photographed for five hours. She must have nothing better to do than delight in trying on all your shoes. But it's not the case. more...

It's gotten to a point where everybody is concerned about their rights and nobody is concerned about their duties. more...

Work on a computer that is disconnected from the -internet. more...

Anyone over the age of thirty catching a bus can consider himself a failure. more...

Revelation is where all crazy people end up. It's the last stop on the nutso express. more...

Step back from your Facebook Wall for a moment: Doesn't it, suddenly, look a little ridiculous? Your life in this format? more...

And now the moment. Such a moment has a peculiar character. It is brief and temporal indeed, like every moment; it is transient as all moments are; it is past, like every moment in the next moment. And yet it is decisive, and filled with the eternal. Such a moment ought to have a distinctive name; let us call it the Fullness of Time. more...

The golden age of Luncheon Vouchers ended ten yearsago. For ten years Mickey had been saying, "The goldenage of Luncheon Vouchers is over." And that's what Archieloved about O'Connell's. Everything was remembered,nothing was lost. History was never revised orreinterpreted, adapted or whitewashed. It was as solid andas simple as the encrusted egg on the clock. more...

Make sure the lubricant is unscented. Don't join fashionable 'schools of thought.' Read everything. more...

It was in the air, or so it seemed to Kiki, this hatred of women and their bodies- it seeped in with every draught in the house; people brought it home on their shoes, they breathed it in off their newspapers. There was no way to control it. more...

A writer's duty is to register what it is like for him or her to be in the world. more...

But surely to tell these tall tales and others like them would be to spread the myth, the wicked lie, that the past is always tense and the future, perfect. more...

Try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would. more...

An essential part of power is the freedom not to think too deeply more...

The ideal reader cannot sleep when holding the writer he was meant to be with. more...

This is what divorce is: taking things you no longer want from people you no longer love. more...

Generally, women can't do this, but men retain the ancient ability to leave a family and a past. They just unhook themselves, like removing a fake beard, and skulk discreetly back into society, changed men. Unrecognizable. more...

For ridding oneself of faith is like boiling seawater to retrieve the salt-something is gained but something is lost. more...

You are never stronger...than when you land on the other side of despair. more...

I cannot believe homosexuality is that much fun. Heterosexuality certainly is not. more...

Each couple is its own vaudeville act. more...

I find it impossible to experience either pride or shame over accidents of genetics in which I had no active part. I'm not necessarily proud to be female. I am not even proud to be human-I only love to be so. more...

I do my best work under pressure, so I'll nick an artery, and my husband isn't allowed to stanch the bleeding till I've banged out a chapter. more...

Other people's words are so important. And then without warning they stop being important, along with all those words of yours that their words prompted you to write. Much of the excitement of a new novel lies in the repudiation of the one written before. Other people's words are the bridge you use to cross from where you were to wherever you're going. more...

The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer. more...

...maybe the whole Internet will simply become like Facebook: falsely jolly, fake-friendly, self-promoting, slickly disingenuous...." - Zadie Smith more...

Don't live in a way that makes you feel dead. more...

We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that there might be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time. more...

Sometimes, one wants to have the illusion that one is making ones own life, out of ones own resources. more...

Desire is never final, desire is imprecise and impractical [...] more...

In the end, your past is not my past and your truth is not my truth and your solution - is not my solution. more...

Every genuinely literary style, from the high authorial voice to Foster Wallace and his footnotes-within-footnotes, requires the reader to see the world from somewhere in particular, or from many places. So every novelist's literary style is nothing less than an ethical strategy - it's always an attempt to get the reader to care about people who are not the same as he or she is. more...

All tastes are expressions of belief. more...

The nineties, ecstatic decade! more...

People don't settle for people. They resolve to be with them. It takes faith. You draw a circle in the sand and agree to stand in it and believe in it. more...

I do my best work under pressure, so I'll nick an artery, and my husband isn't allowed to stanch the bleeding till I've banged out a chapter. more...

To a novelist, fluidity is the ultimate good omen; suddenly difficult problems are simply solved, intractable structural knots loosen themselves, and you come upon the key without even recognizing that this is what you hold. more...

Sometimes Allah punishes and sometimes men have to do it, and it is a wise man who knows if it's Allah's turn or his own. more...

She wore her sexuality with an older woman's ease, and not like an awkward purse, never knowing how to hold it, where to hang it, or when to just put it down. more...

Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand - but tell it. more...

(and Catholics give out forgiveness at about the same rate as politicians give out promises and whores give out) more...

The object of the passion is just an accessory to the passion itself. more...

When I write I am trying to express my way of being in the world. This is primarily a process of elimination: once you have removed all the dead language, the second-hand dogma, the truths that are not your own but other people's, the mottos, the slogans, the out-and-out lies of your nation, the myths of your historical moment - once you have removed all that warps experience into a shape you do not recognise and do not believe in - what you are left with is something approximating the truth of your own conception. more...

Asking why rappers always talk about their stuff is like asking why Milton is forever listing the attributes of heavenly armies. Because boasting is a formal condition of the epic form. And those taught that they deserve nothing rightly enjoy it when they succeed in terms the culture understands. more...

In my situation, every time I write a sentence, I'm thinking not only of the people I ended up in college with but my siblings, my family, my school friends, the people from my neighborhood. I've come to realize that this is an advantage, really: it keeps you on your toes. more...

You can't state difference and also state equality. We have to state sameness to understand equality. more...

The library was the place I went to find out what there was to know. It was absolutely essential. more...

The roots of rap are originally ghetto-ised or extremely working class. So when you're an artist who's making something which isn't how its mainstream appearance should be, there's always these strange questions of authenticity and what you have to do to be 'real' as a rapper. more...

Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand - but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied. more...

I like books that expose me to people unlike me and books that do battle against caricature or simplification. That, to me, is the heroic in fiction. more...

I recognize myself to be an intensely naive person. Most novelists are, despite frequent pretensions to deep socio-political insight. more...

I'm never interested in writing a kind of neutral, universal novel that could be set anywhere. To me, the novel is a local thing. more...

It might be useful to distinguish between pleasure and joy. But maybe everybody does this very easily, all the time, and only I am confused. more...

Desperation, weakness, vulnerability - these things will always be exploited. You need to protect the weak, ring-fence them, with something far stronger than empathy. more...

I lost many literary battles the day I read 'Their Eyes Were Watching God.' I had to concede that occasionally aphorisms have their power. I had to give up the idea that Keats had a monopoly on the lyrical. more...

I'm very attracted to exile literature - particularly Nabokov - exactly because the idea of being away from home for any serious length of time is so inconceivable to me. more...

I tap danced for ten years before I began to understand people don't make musicals anymore. All I wanted to do was be at MGM working for Arthur Freed or Gene Kelly or Vincent Minelli. Historical and geographical constraints made this impossible. Slowly but surely the pen became mightier than the double pick-up time step with shuffle. more...

Cambridge was a joy. Tediously. People reading books in a posh place. It was my fantasy. I loved it. I miss it still. more...

Can't a rapper insist, like other artists, on a fictional reality, in which he is somehow still on the corner, despite occupying the penthouse suite? more...

People with children will know this: when the childcare is over, it's over on the dot. You immediately have to go into child mode; there's no down time. more...

There is a kind of desperate need for somebody to tell everyone what to do, which I find really peculiar in America. And then when you tell them, they're not interested, because it's also a country where everybody's opinion is their opinion, and they really don't give a damn what you think. So it's a very odd experience. more...

You become a different writer when you approach a short story. When things are not always having to represent other things, you find real human beings begin to cautiously appear on your pages. more...

My life is black and white and mixed. My mother's a Rastafarian, my dad was a short white guy - it's not an affectation. It's also the lives of millions of people throughout the world. more...

Novels are not about expressing yourself, they're about something beautiful, funny, clever and organic. Self-expression? Go and ring a bell in a yard if you want to express yourself. more...

The idea that motherhood is inherently somehow a threat to creativity is just absurd. more...

I never attended a creative writing class in my life. I have a horror of them; most writers groups moonlight as support groups for the kind of people who think that writing is therapeutic. Writing is the exact opposite of therapy. more...

If you're going to write a good book, you have to make mistakes and you have to not be so cautious all the time. more...

Women often have a great need to portray themselves as sympathetic and pleasing, but we're also dark people with dark thoughts. more...

Do' romanticise your "vocation". You can either write good sentences or you ca'. There is no "writer's lifestyle". All that matters is what you leave on the page. more...

Sometimes I think my whole professional life has been based on this hunch I had, early on, that many people feel just as muddled as I do, and might be happy to tag along with me on this search for clarity, for precision. I love that aspect of writing. Nothing makes me happier than to hear a reader say: that's just what I"ve always felt, but you said it clearly. more...

You don't come to live here unless the delusion of a reality shaped around your own desires isn't a strong aspect of your personality. A reality shaped around your own desires - there is something sociopathic in that ambition. more...

I do my best work under pressure, so I"ll nick an artery, and my husband is' allowed to stanch the bleeding till I"ve banged out a chapter. more...

The really heroic thing about Nick Hornby is that he lives in north London and rarely leaves it... Every English writer needs their corner that is forever England - but only a few brave men choose to make that corner Highbury. more...

It reminds me that those of us who turn in disgust from what we consider an overinflated liberal-bourgeois sense of self should be careful what we wish for: our denuded networked selves don't look more free, they just look more owned. more...

The last page of [Lincoln in the Bardo] - without giving too much away - involves somebody entering somebody else. Not in a sexual way. But it says one of the simplest things you could ever say, which is that we must try and be inside each other. We must have some kind of feeling for each other and enter into each other's experience. more...

Novels and stories are sometimes very complex staging grounds to say, in fact, very simple things. Things impossible to say otherwise because they are repeated in so many exploitative contexts - adverts and TV shows and political speeches. more...

One thing you learn about the novel as a form is that it's always smarter than you are. more...

The novel leads you places that you never could have gotten to otherwise. more...

When I was young, I was very technical about these things. I didn't like to admit to any intimate relation with what I was writing. more...

It seems to me now that the deep structures [in writing] are often subconscious and set in childhood. more...

For me, [deep structures] might be something very simply to do with the split in my family. That's why I'm always thinking about opposites. It's so childish, really, but that might be simply what it is. more...

I never bought the idea of individual genius from which the novel spews forth. It's always an act of curation. more...

I know a lot of people who read and think: "George [Saunders] is so much fun." There's no denying you're fun to read, but as a writer I think of [George Saunders] as, in fact, not a fun and freewheeling type but really an obsessive control artist. more...

[George Saunders] is very precise about what he is doing. There isn't a thing left to chance. more...

There's a perception that novels can't usually allow for your kind of absolute attention to detail. more...

I was thinking about the generation before us, like John Barth and all of those pomo dudes who had that idea of, instead of hiding the structure and making it look organic and natural, we're going to put the structure on the outside. But most of the time, at least for me, all I could attend to [in Swing Time] was that act of structural self-consciousness. more...

The young people have a phrase for this now, which is "slay in your lane." That's a very important principle of writing. You have to work out what it is you can't do, obscure it, and focus on what works. more...

What interests me in [Lincoln in the Bardo] is a slight perverse balance between the sublime and the grotesque. Like you could have landed only on the sublime. But my argument is that the sublime couldn't exist without this other half. more...

For example, you have these grotesque, hilarious, profane ghosts in the book [Lincoln in the Bardo]. Even the concept of talking ghosts is, from an aesthetic point of view, grotesque. But you seem compelled by that risk in order to get to the other end of the equation. more...

It's not in good taste to have talking ghosts in a grown-up novel. more...

It has historically been a comfort for the bourgeois and that you can read the most extreme books and not change. You can read A Christmas Carol and not change in any way. more...

Something in me was changed by Lincoln in the Bardo, and the great sublime/grotesque risk of [George Saunders'] ghosts was a part of it. more...

I don't actually believe in the extension of consciousness after death. more...

I have a natural tendency to feel well about the world, I suppose, one way or another. But then there is the problem of pain. There are things like [Abraham] Lincoln's beloved little boy dying. more...

For me, George Saunders novel [Lincoln in the Bardo] is about a problem of pain. more...

To me, these kind of everyday miseries act as a fatal disqualifier. My sunniest beliefs are basically contingent on the fact that my child is not dying of cancer right now. more...

Those beliefs about the essential goodness or beauty of the world are fundamentally paper-thin bullshit. There's not an essential belief that isn't a contingent belief. It could all be destroyed in a second, at any second. And I have an issue with that. more...

I used to take that God's-eye view as a comfort when I was a child. I'd think, "Well, we couldn't find the world meaningful at all if it weren't for death." Of course, that is the smuggest and most intolerable of all perspectives because I'm not suffering from the death or the pain. more...

When I was 13, I really used to skip down the street, happy in thinking, "Oh, well, someone's suffering pain in order for me to feel this pleasure." more...

The belief that consciousness extends beyond death is surely to put more belief in the permanence of self, not less. That seems to me a comfort that you're allowing yourself. more...

I guess I've always written more from the opposite perspective, that kind of existentialist perspective which argues that existence precedes essence. And there really isn't anything essential in there - you're the product of your actions, which can always change. And they retrospectively make you one way or another. more...

I always remind myself that [ Jean-Paul] Sartre and [Simone] de Beauvoir didn't have children. And when you don't have children, it might be easier to believe that the child doesn't come with something. more...

150 years ago in [Charles] Dickens's time there was at least a sense of craft. So some of the things people had inside of them, they had the possibility of expressing in the making of things - even in a daily way with their clothes or their food. People made a good deal of both themselves. Now our daily lives are almost all consumption. Craft plays a tiny role. more...

Today, writing seems to me like an incredible luxury, almost a perversity, something which hardly exists in the world anymore, where you get to see the fruits of your actions in a daily way. more...

A lot of [George Saunders] early stories now feel prophetic. Take the recent election [of Donald Trump]. Historians in 100 years might write about it as being the first internet election, in which what happened was actually an expression in the real world of a virtual reality. And you've been writing about that subject for a while. more...

I know to argue against our online lives seems like the argument of the grumpy, old Luddite novelist, but I really always try to make the argument from the perspective of personal pleasure. more...

When I see my friends engaging in a Twitter war for an afternoon, I think that would destroy me for a month. more...

Surely there is something to be said for drawing a circle around our attention and remaining within that circle. But how large should this circle be? more...

Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet. more...

His mind was a small thing with big holes through which passions regularly seeped out. more...

Ryan's freckles were a join-the-dot's enthusiast's wet dream. more...

..and the devil won another easy hand in God's poker game. more...

... dressed all in yellow spreading warmth and the promise of sex. more...

... and catholics give out forgiveness at the same time politicians give out promises and whores give out. more...

Is there anything more likely to take the shine off an affair that when the lover strikes up a convivial relationship with the lovee's mother. more...

A past tense, future perfect kind of night. more...

But why do they always have to be laughing and making a song-and-dance about everything? I cannot believe homosexuality is that much fun. Heterosexuality certainly is not. more...

He talked and talked, the kind of talking you do to stave off the inevitable physical desire. The kind of talk that only increases it. more...

Because this is the other thing about immigrants: they cannot escape their history any more than you yourself can lose your shadow. more...

His death is like the soft down on the back of your hand, passing unnoticed in the firmest of handshakes, though the slightest breeze makes every damn one of the tiny hairs stand on end. more...

A carefully preserved English accent also upped the fear factor. more...

It was in the shady groves of dictionaries that Jack fell in love. more...

You don't have favorites among your children but you do have allies. more...

He traced the genealogy of the feeling more...

He was bookish, she was not; he was theoretical, she political. She called a rose a rose. He called it an accumulation of cultural and biological contructions circulating around the mutually attracting binary poles of nature/artifice. more...

It's such a confidence trick, writing a novel. The main person you have to trick into confidence is yourself. This is hard to do alone. more...

Are there other people who, when watching a documentary set in a prison, secretly think, as I have, 'Wish I had all that time to read'? more...

The end is simply the beginning of an even longer story. more...

Life's not a video game, Felix- there are' a certain number of points that send you to the next level. There is' actually any next level. The bad news is that everybody dies at the end. Game Over. more...

(Feedback) People become addicted to it. That's why journalism is so popular, because you want to hear, every day, what people think of what you just wrote. I think a little patience on that front can be good, too. more...


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