July 27, 2011

Again, Jean-Claude Carriere in This is not the end of the book:

“It’s important to clarify that a library is not necessarily made up of books that we’ve read, or even that we will eventually read. They should be books that we can read. Or that we may read. Even if we never do.”

And Christopher Hitchens in Hitch-22:

“I suspect that it doesn’t very much matter what one reads in the early years, once one has acquired the essential ability to read for pleasure alone…I wanted to be left alone with a pile of books of my own choice. And very gradually, and as it does, omnivorous reading began to become a little more discriminating.”


July 18, 2011

Jean-Claude Carriere, in This is not the end of the book:

“The first thing you learn when studying human stupidity is that you’re a fool. Obviously. You can’t blithely call others fools without realising that their stupidity is a mirror. A permanent, accurate, loyal mirror.”


July 6, 2011

I’m in a bit of a Hitchens mood recently (not a bad mood to be in). I’m nowhere near as well-spoken or as contrarian as he is, but I like to think that at my best I get into a little bit of both. Just finished The Quotable Hitchens, and next I’m finally getting into Hitch-22. Looking forward to it. So here are some collected bits of Hitch:

“…Much more probable, really, is the countertheory that man created God in his image. This would account for there being so many of Him…and also for His being such a son of a bitch.”

“Human life can and should be respected whether or not it is constituted by a creator with an immortal soul; to make the one position dependent on the other is to make the respect in some way contingent.”

“It’s one thing to be lucky: it’s another thing to admit that luck has been yours.”

“Orwell’s views have been largely vindicated by Time, so he need not seek any pardon on that score. But what he illustrates, by his commitment to language as the partner of truth, is that ‘views’ do not really count; that it matters not what you think, but how you think; and that politics are relatively unimportant, while principles have a way of enduring, as do the few irreducible individuals who maintain allegiance to them.”

“Poverty and underdevelopment are not God-given but are man-made, and can be unmade by man.”

“In order to be a ‘radical’ one must be open to the possibility that one’s own core assumptions are misconceived.”

“…one should strive to combine the maximum of impatience with the maximum of skepticism, the maximum of hatred of injustice and irrationality with the maximum of ironic self-criticism. This would mean really deciding to learn from history rather than invoking or sloganizing it.”

“I’m very happy by myself–I’m lucky in that way–if I’ve got enough to read and something to write about and a bit of alcohol for me to add an edge, not to dull it.”

“…however little one thinks of the Jewish tradition, it is surely insulting to the people of Moses to imagine that they had come this far under the impression that murder, adultery, theft, and perjury were permissible.”

“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”

“The enemies of intolerance cannot be tolerant, or neutral, without inviting their own suicide.”

“…’Tragedy’ is a term that ought not to be cheapened; especially in its original sense of the awful unintended consequences of human action. The pity and the terror are enhanced, of course, if the consequences are the result of human action that is idealistic.”

“The usual duty of the ‘intellectual’ is to argue for complexity and to insist that phenomena in the world of ideas should not be sloganized or reduced to easily repeated formulae. But there is another responsibility, to say that some things are simple and ought not to be obfuscated.”

Plus one more:

“On the whole, observe the same rule about gin martinis–and all gin drinks–that you would in judging female breasts: one is far too few, and three is one too many. Do try to eat the olives: they can be nutritious.”