Literary quips, observations, instructions, & warnings

When book chatter starts to seem shallow and monotonous — as it frequently does — I turn to the greats. Or, to paraphrase Mark Twain, these are old sayings, but there is nothing else the matter with them.

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” — Oscar Wilde (pictured above)

“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” — Somerset Maugham

“The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to their dream.” — Joan Didion

“A novel is like a gland pill – it nips off the cream of my hysterics and gets them running on track in a book where they belong instead of rioting all over my person.” — Dawn Powell

“Don’t trim your sails to every wind, just go ahead and write and see what happens. Don’t look at the market. Don’t look at the bestseller list to see what’s selling. That wouldn’t help anyway. You have to write what you write, or get out of the business.” — Kurt Vonnegut

“I think my great handicap is my insistence on freedom. I require it. So I cannot make the suave adjustments to a successful writer’s life — right people, right hospitality, right gestures, because I want to be free. So I am tied down and now in my middle years almost buried (as far as my career goes) by my freedom.” — Dawn Powell


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