In the sweaty, passionate, filthy embrace, in all of its delicious and time-dissolving power, in the midst of that embrace there is no difference, no separation between the spiritual and the profane. But it’s reached through the profane rather than through the spiritual, at least in my canon. That is the portal, that is the door into the whole affair. In that moment there is no separation, there is no spirit and flesh, there’s no conflict, there never was.

Leonard Cohen

Miss Manners refuses to allow society to seek its own level. Having peered through her lorgnette into the abyss, she can guess how low that level will be.

Judith Martin

She calls a spade a delving instrument.

Rita Mae Brown

Behavior influences consciousness. Right behavior means right consciousness. Our attitude here and now influences the entire environment: our words, actions, ways of holding and moving ourselves, they all influence what happens around us and inside us. The actions of every instant, every day, must be right. . . . Every gesture is important. How we eat, how we put on our clothes, how we wash ourselves, how we go to the toilet, how we put our things away, how we act with other people, family, wife, work. How we are — totally — in every single gesture.

Taisen Deshimaru

The power of the word includes the power to name, misname, rename, manipulate, twist into desired shape not only matter but mind.

Thomas Fitzsimmons

I personally think we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.

Jane Wagner

It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself up out of the dark abyss of pish and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.

H. L. Mencken on Harding’s inaugural address

We defend ourselves with descriptions and tame the world by generalizing.

Iris Murdoch

Today the discredit of words is very great. Most of the time the media transmit lies. In the face of an intolerable world, words appear to change very little. State power has become congenitally deaf, which is why — but the editorialists forget it — terrorists are reduced to bombs and hijacking.

John Berger

Once when I was in Elaine de Kooning’s studio, at a time when the metal sculptor Herbert Ferber occupied the studio immediately above, there came through the floor a most horrible crashing and banging. “What in the world is that?” I asked, and Elaine said, “Oh, that’s Herbert thinking.”

Donald Barthelme

A teacher asks the boy what two plus two equals. “Four,” the child responds. “Very good, Robert.” “Very good!” the child says indignantly. “Very good! It’s perfect.”

Quoted in Richard Kehl’s Silver Departures

In order to swim one takes off all one’s clothes. In order to aspire to the truth one must undress in a far more inward sense, divest oneself of all one’s inward clothes — of thoughts, conceptions, selfishness — before one is sufficiently naked.

Søren Kierkegaard

Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.

Ernest Hemingway

I always wanted to write a book that ended with the word mayonnaise.

Richard Brautigan

Truthful words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not truthful. Good words are not persuasive; persuasive words are not good.


I am so wise I had my mouth sewn shut.

John Berryman