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Previous weeks' quotations

2005

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Jan 2005

5th January

When a number of women nod their heads and smile and sigh that some man is just a great child, it can always be deduced that he has been assiduous in the performance of specifically adult activities.

Rebecca West, Survivors in Mexico (2003)

12th January

She felt that the hidden flaw in her relations with men was her inability to treat a delusion of superiority as if it were a moral principle.

Ellen Glasgow, Barren Ground (1925)

[No quotation for 19th January]

26th January

Why do perfectly intelligent people end up working in environments that don't suit them? It's often because the explicit values of an organisation have nothing to do with the real values - they may even be the reverse.

Jenni Russell, 'Work It Out', The Guardian, 26 Jan 2005

Feb 2005

2nd February

None of them were particularly happy and all of them had very mixed-up sex lives. But it is thanks to such extraordinary individualists that our lives are considerably enriched, our laws changed, our literature defined, our liberty endorsed.

Henrietta Garnett, review of Barbara Caine, Bombay to Bloomsbury: A Biography of the Strachey Family, in Literary Review, February 2005

9th February

A Rune for the very bored: When very bored recite: 'It was during the next twenty minutes that there occurred one of those tiny incidents which revolutionize the whole course of our life and alter the face of history. Truly we are the playthings of enormous fates.'

'Palinurus' (Cyril Connolly), The Unquiet Grave (1944)

16th February

What I would suggest is more time wasting, less stimulation. We need time to lie fallow like we did in childhood, so we can recuperate. Rather than be constantly told what you want and be pressurised to go after it, I think we would benefit greatly from spells of vaguely restless boredom in which desire can crystallise.

Adam Phillips, interview about Going Sane, The Observer Magazine, 13 Feb 2005

23rd February

Friendship is one of those areas full of hidden assumptions and unspoken rules. We only discover that our friendship doesn't mean what we think it does when those assumptions clash.

There is no agreement about what friendship involves, or what to do if it goes sour.

Jenni Russell, What Are Friends For, The Guardian 24 Jan 2005

Mar 2005

[No quotations for 2nd or 9th March]

16th March

Knowledge is never there in your hand, never complete and waiting to be eaten: knowledge is like a garden, always growing, changing, in-the-making.

Sara Maitland, 'Choosing Paradise' in On Becoming a Fairy Godmother (2003)

23rd March

Soon the momentum would start to take over; after that, he could rely on the fact that the desire of almost everyone in the world to talk about themselves was huge, insatiable, and if you let them go on talking about themselves for long enough they would tolerate, even welcome, almost any questions you might ask

Maggie Helwig, Between Mountains (2004)

30th March

'You'll forgive and forget?'
'I'll forgive and forget'
But even with 'forget', a mental reservation remains: for the whole business of whatever-has-been-done is perforce registered in your mind. And after you have eliminated personal retaliation, registration is still bound to exist: This person (though you have forgiven him) is capable of doing such and such a thing; therefore, in future let your actions sensibly take this fact into consideration; you have here a bit of territory covered for future reference.

G B Stern, Monogram (1936)

Apr 2005

6th April

Supposing it was true that Lorna, regarded soberly and dispassionately, was a vain, hypocritical, super-rayfeened bitch: had these shortcomings prevented them from having twenty years of good times together? Maybe it was the difference in their faults rather than the similarity of their virtues that bound them together.

Dawn Powell, The Locusts Have No King (1948)

13th April

'You are not a woman. You may try -- but you can never imagine what it is to have a man's force of genius in you, and yet to suffer the slavery of being a girl.... [T]his is what you must be; this is what you are wanted for; a woman's heart must be of such a size and no larger, else it must be pressed small, like Chinese feet; her happiness is to be made as cakes are, to a fixed receipt.'

George Eliot, Daniel Deronda (1876)

20th April

Joe Smith's trumpet fills behind Bessie Smith's vocalese certainly smack of deep-seated problems but they are radically different from those Miss Smith is suffering, as if two patients in a doctor's surgery were swapping symptoms without listening to a word the other has to say.

Timothy d'Arch Smith, Peepin' in a Seafood Store: some pleasures of rock music (1992)

27th April

She had never been lovely or silly or selfish; she had always been a grand sensible type.... It did not occur to him that Ruth might have had to struggle with the temptations which beset a grand sensible type; the temptation to be hard, to be bossy, to neglect the sacramental side of church-going in favour of good works, to think that she knew everything.

Stella Gibbons, Shadow of a Sorcerer (1955)

May 2005

4th May

I have always noticed that the true maestro gives an impression of leisure and laziness in performing his feat.

T H White, The Goshawk (1955)

11th May

I thought the capacity to abstract from one's own experience and create symbolic language to make those abstractions concrete was the major force of human creativity.

Jill Ker Conway, A Woman's Education (2001)

18th May

By him, as by most men, it was given against a girl for everything when once she had betrayed a morsel of forbidden knowledge.

Ethel Colburn Mayne, 'Desertsurges', in Things That No One Tells (1910)

25th May

The more ideal the conception of a human function, the more resentment and suspicion it arouses: we are entirely accustomed, in the consideration of maternity, to this jolting between soul and damnation.

Mary Ellmann, Thinking about Women (1968)

Jun 2005

1st June

[A] relationship that neither would have contemplated in England was beginning to establish itself. Harriet was becoming used to the limitations of Bella's conversation and did not give it much attention. Bella was easy, if unstimulating, company, and Harriet was glad, in the prevailing strangeness, of a companion from a familiar world.

Olivia Manning, The Great Fortune (1960)

8th June

[S]omething I've learned after twenty-five years is that all the people I assumed were consummate insiders also felt like outsiders.

Gina Barreca, Babes in Boyland: A Personal History of Co-education in the Ivy League (2005)

15th June

There were all her feelings for him, sharp and defined, one as true as the other. And there was this other, this hatred, just as real as the rest. She could have done her feelings up in little packets and given them to Stanley. She longed to hand him that last one, for a surprise. She could see his eyes as he opened that....

Katherine Mansfield, 'Prelude' in Bliss and other stories (1920)

22nd June

It isn't the tragedies or triumphs that dig into the soul, it's the embarrassments.

Dawn Powell, diary entry for 25 Jan 1961, The Diaries of Dawn Powell, 1931-1965, edited by Tim Page (1995)

29th June

Arrogance would like always to be the benefactor, and will not see that it is not only more gracious and blessed to receive well than to give, but also infinitely more difficult.

G B Stern, Benefits Forgot (1949)

Ju1 2005

6th July

[M]anhood tells a social tale as much as one written in nucleic acids and must, with all that it implies, be constructed. Once the foundations of the male state are laid, what rises from them has little to do with DNA

Steve Jones, Y: The Descent of Man (2003)

13th July

Sandra had an eerie way of using silences to communicate: what she didn't say was always more important.

Mary Woronov, Snake (2000)

20th July

His means of living with a situation was to put its dangers behind him. Her method was to keep them in view so that they might not come upon her unawares. She lived in a state of preparedness that brought acute stress.

Olivia Manning, The Spoilt City (1962)

27th July

[T]o expect every committee meeting to be productive, or to expect every conversation to be meaningful, is to leave no space for the routine out of which meaning grows.

Amanda Cross, No Word From Winifred (1986)

Aug 2005

3rd August

Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,
Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike
As if we had them not.

William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure (c. 1604)

10th August

There was a vexing incident in which a source of salmonella contamination went undetected for weeks in the kitchens... because the medical staff thought the stomach cramps and diarrhea of the graduate women were neurotic in origin.

Jill Ker Conway, True North: A Memoir (1994)

17th August

Later life of woman is beginning of friendship and enjoying female companionship--indeed missing it if one is domestically tied to old husband.

Dawn Powell, diary entry for 24 Feb 1950, The Diaries of Dawn Powell, 1931-1965, edited by Tim Page (1995)

24th August

A lot of cookery writers claim that as long as you have good ingredients you can't go wrong. It 's not true. If you're not a good cook you still won't become one however good the ingredients. I would rather have someone who knows how to cook very well using a supermarket broiler chicken than someone who isn't very good cooking a poulet de Bresse.

Simon Hopkinson, 'This Much I Know', interview in The Observer, 21 Aug 2005

31st August

We see a man doing what we would ordinarily think of as feminine, sitting still, and manage to think of it as masculine because a man is doing it.

Mary Ellmann, Thinking about Women (1968)

Sep 2005

7th September

[T]o be so powerful that you need do nothing, and so helpless that you can do nothing, are just about interchangeable states.

Men like to think themselves Emperors; women often feel they're more like babies.

Katharine Whitehorn, 'King Baby', Observations (1970)

14th September

She wanted a union of mutual devotion while he saw marriage merely as a frame to hold an indiscriminate medley of relationships that, as often as not, were too capacious to be contained.

Olivia Manning, The Battle Lost and Won (1978)

21st September

It next happened that Denry began to suffer from the ravages of a malady which is almost worse than failure - namely, a surfeit of success.

Arnold Bennet, The Card (1911)

28th September

It struck him that he had never seen a woman so pleased with herself; this satisfaction was so tremendously out of proportion to its cause that you were attracted by it and not by the appearance itself.

Dawn Powell, The Locusts Have No King (1948)

Oct 2005

5th October

Her bad moments she could fight through by herself, but the glad ones--they were intolerable burdens when they had to be borne alone.

G B Stern, See-Saw (1914)

12th October

'Take my camel, dear,' said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass. The camel, a white Arabian Dhalur (single hump) from the famous herd of the Ruola tribe, had been a parting present, its saddlebags stuffed with low-carat gold and flashy orient gems, from a rich desert tycoon who owned a Levantine hotel near Palmyra. I always thought it to my aunt's credit that, in view of the camel's provenance, she had not named it Zenobia, Longinus, or Aurelian, as lesser women would have done; she had, instead, always called it, in a distant voice, my camel, or the camel.

Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond (1956)

19th October

'A well-educated sense of humour will save a woman when Religion, Training and Home influence fail; and we may all need salvation sometimes'

Rudyard Kipling, 'A Second-Rate Woman' (1888) in Under the Deodars collected in Wee Willie Winkie (1895)

26th October

It is time historians abandoned the spinning wheel as the ultimate icon of women's work, and in pursuit of a more inclusive analysis of work in the house [Ulrichs] suggests an alternative symbol - the pocket.

Amanda Vickery, The Gentlewoman's Daughter (1998)

Nov 2005

2nd November

[P]resently the woman looks around and sees that the man is not with her. He is some considerable distance behind her, not feeling very well. There has been drained from him the strength which his forefathers derived from the subjection of women; and the woman is amazed, because tradition has taught her that to be a man is to be strong. There is no remedy for this disharmony. As yet it seems that no present she can make him out of her liberty can compensate him for his loss of what he gained from her slavery.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1942)

9th November

Sometimes the energy in a book contradicts its apparent message. The first time I thought about this was when I read Dostoevsky's The Devils and found myself invigorated and optimistic when in fact a more pessimistic story can hardly be imagined.

Doris Lessing, Time Bites: Views and Reviews (2004)

16th November

Lately, Alan usually refused any offer of assistance at first, but soon corrected himself, asking for various objects and services. On other occasions he would wait longer, until she was somewhere else in the house and in the middle of some other activity, and then he would call for help.

Alison Lurie, Truth and Consequences (2005)

23rd November

The expert on 18th century furniture studied the 20th century walling and made his own judgement.... When the real judge added up the points and announced the winners his placings were in the same order.

The point of this saga is that if your eye is experienced in recognising quality in one form of art it is often able to do so in another. And surely dry stone walling is an art.

Deborah Devonshire, Counting My Chickens, and other home thoughts (2001)

30th November

Light verse is a product of civilization, for it is a sign of civilization to be able to treat serious things gracefully.

Penelope Fitzgerald, 'Evoe's Choice' (1972), in A House of Air: Selected Writings (2003)

Dec 2005

7th December

Men forgave genius, or a succes d'estime in a woman, but her financial advantage infuriated them. Women forgave success in business but never forgave success with men.

Dawn Powell, The Locusts Have No King (1948)

14th December

The time with Marion was over. That small flawless friendship stretched itself, yawned, curled itself up and fell quietly asleep. Without pain it died in its sleep to be drifted over and over with many falls of leaves.

P Y Betts, People Who Say Goodbye : Memories of Childhood (1989)

21st December

She is amused to find that she experiences a mixture of jealousy and possessiveness, as she watches him from afar. She knows that she has no right to either of these emotions. And they do not go very deep, which is why she is able to find them so pleasurable.

Margaret Drabble, The Red Queen (2004)

28th December

Even if the other one could be at their most maddening - as all husbands and wives are bound to be in a day-to-day, live situation - there was the feeling that the other one was there: a permanent area of trust and confidence. This kind of relationship has little to do with romantic love; it can develop just as strongly in an arranged marriage.

Naomi Mitchison, All Change Here: Girlhood and Marriage (1975)

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