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Previous weeks' quotations

2008

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Jan 2008

2nd January

[N]o doubt about it, ideas about what women can do, and do well, have changed. And what women mind has changed. Male behaviour, from the caddish to the outright violent, that until recently was accepted without demurral is seen today as outrageous by many women who not so long ago were putting up with it themselves and who would still protest indignantly if someone described them as feminists.

Susan Sontag, 'A Photograph is Not an Opinion. Or Is It?' (1999), in Where the Stress Falls: essays (2003)

9th January

But let her get him well started on that perfectly safe, and at the same time perfectly fascinating theme of his own ego, and there will be no silence. Amazing strength, though.

G B Stern, 'Man - Without Prejudice (Rough Notes), in Man, Proud Man, edited by Mabel Ulrich (1932)

16th January

Obviously we're all trying to fix ourselves because change at the social level is stalled, precisely because the female condition is so tangled and contradictory at the moment: social freedom has expanded while actual independence is as constrained as ever.

Laura Kipnis, The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability (2007)

23rd January

[H]e seems, as a historian, to be happy in his own skin. That is to say, he loves making tentative suggestions, he derives a proper enjoyment from getting things right, but he is not over-anxious to prove what can't be proved.

Bard times: James Fenton on rows over Rowse , Guardian Review, 19 Jan 2008

30th January

Emily pushed her hair behind her ears. 'But I'm not sure, Cee, that there is a correct way for people to oppose the system. All these people were produced by the system, all have found their own needs and ways of resisting or opposing it. I agree that some of those ways are extremely undesirable. But who has the right answer, if there is one?'

L Timmel Duchamp, Blood in the Fruit (2008)

Feb 2008

6th February

The contemporary work I praised (and used as a platform to relaunch my ideas about art-making and consciousness) didn't detract from the glories of what I admired far more. Enjoying the impertinent energy and wit of a species of performance called Happenings did not make me care less about Aristotle and Shakespeare. I was--I am--for a pluralistic, polymorphous culture.

Susan Sontag, 'Thirty Years Later...' (1995), in Where the Stress Falls: essays (2003)

Opticians, apparently, are not a litigious class, but they must often have been sorely tempted to protest. In film after film the suggestion has been made that a pair of spectacles will cut down any heroine's love-life. Again and again a plain girl has blossomed into a tearing beauty by the simple device of taking off her glasses. She simply smashes the nasty things, and steps out towards romance without a blink; better-dressed, clearer-skinned, head held high, and sight totally unaffected.

C A Lejeune. 'Come Now, Voyager' (Review of Now, Voyager), 1943, in Chestnuts in her Lap, 1936-1947 (1948)

20th February

She is the same in everything; if the perfect apartment is finally found for her, she laments that there isn't a good butcher nearby. She has the capacity for making everyone or at least me feel helplessly at fault, apologetic, as though one were the personal ruler of these arbitrary external conditions.

Mary McCarthy to Hannah Arendt, 14 Jun 1958, in Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy 1949-1975 , edited by Carol Brightman (1996)

27th February

[T]he daughter of the Bulgarian Emperor Terteri, till lately Milutin's wife.... was to be filed for reference, to be brought out or forgotten as political expediency was served.... [S]he proved to what a limited degree it is possible, without falling into the most savage irony, to describe women as the protected sex.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1942)

Mar 2008

5th March

Contemporary art often plays to the part of us that is very uncomfortable with not being sure, that cannot maintain a state of 'don't know'. The over-prioritising of meaning gets in the way of just experiencing the art in a more sensual way. Judging quality purely from an intuitive emotional response needs more confidence and experience than just working it out like a crossword clue.

Grayson Perry, answering the question 'Are we now post-postmodern?' 50 arts secrets revealed - Art The Observer, 2 Mar 2008

[There was no quotation for 12 March]

19th March

The whole point of his walks was this smashing through in big boots past NO ENTRY notices and anti-trespasser signs. And it took me quite a long time before I realised that when Sticking plunged straight across the corner of Mr Butts's orchard, disturbing the chickens, what he was saying was "the land is for the people", as if in some way he was more people than old Mr Butts.

Stephen Potter, Supermanship (1958)

26th March

Conversation turns upon Lady B. and everyone says she is really very kind-hearted, and follows this up by anecdotes illustrating all her less attractive qualities.... Fell much more at home after this, and conscious of new bond of union cementing entire party. Sidelight thus thrown upon human nature regrettable, but not to be denied.

E M Delafield, Diary of a Provincial Lady (1930)

Apr 2008

2nd April

When men decide that a woman has character and will be all right, they usually also decide that there is no need to worry about her feelings.

Stella Gibbons, Here Be Dragons (1956)

9th April

Q Does everyone have a novel in them?
ALK: [A L Kennedy] They have all kinds of things in them - liver, spleen, perhaps recklessly inserted lightbulbs. Whether you want any of those things to be removed and then sold to strangers is the question.

50 arts secrets revealed The Observer, 2 Mar 2008

16th April

I had found myself attending more plays than I had done for a very long time. Most of them were rigorously modern dramas requiring all the actors to say 'cunt' repeatedly, this being considered the worst swearword possible and therefore cast-iron proof that the author was young, rebellious and hadn't told his parents what time he'd be back that evening.

Lauren Henderson, The Strawberry Tattoo (1999)

23rd April

Too many folks might convert to feminist thought if they knew firsthand the powerful and passionate positive transformation it would create in every area of their sexual lives. It is better for patriarchy to try and make us believe that the only real sex available to feminist women who like men must be negotiated using the same old patriarchal modes of seduction that are perpetually unsatisfying to all women.

bell hooks, 'Talking sex: beyond the patriarchal phallic imaginary' in Outlaw Culture: resisting representations (1994)

30th April

[B]eing fulfilled by a man, through him, requires her to reserve a space for him to inhabit, given content to, illustrate.

The devaluation and demystification of man does not mean that this empty space is now at woman's disposal, ready to be newly furnished, a beckoning new territory. No -- it is bare and uncultivated, without models or concepts, without images or myths.

Christina Thürmer-Rohr, Vagabonding: Feminist Thinking Cut Loose (1987/1991)

May 2008

7th May

Anyhow most of us agreed that he couldn't possibly say he was sent down for the thing he was sent down for, because however frank the self-revelation, no-one could ever possibly put that particular thing in a book, discreditable as it was in a way so uniquely combining the unpleasant and the uninteresting.

Stephen Potter, Supermanship (1958)

14th May

But suppose revolutions were merely smashes-up that hadn't very much to do with real progress either way, and that the new age dawned anywhere where people could get free enough to work out new ideas.

H G Wells, Christina Alberta's Father (1925)

[No quotations for 21 and 28 May]

Jun 2008

4th June

It is well known, of course, that a sufficiently intense commitment to navel-gazing can result in something universal.

Stephen Poole, review of Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown by Lorna Martin, in Guardian Weekend Review, 31 May 2008

11th June

It is not beauty nor strength nor goodness that hearts go to so much as attention. To know that another human being thinks of us, esteems us above all our secret estimates, has a steadfast and consuming need of us, is the supreme reassurance of life.

H G Wells, Joan and Peter: The story of an education (1918)

[No quotation for 18 June]

25th June

My childhood had no narrative: it was all just a combination of air and no air: waiting for life to happen, the body to get big, the mind to grow fearless. There were no stories, no ideas, not really, not yet.

Lorrie Moore, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? (1994)

Ju1 2008

2nd July

[T]o formulate such rights is to raise the question whether there so much as exists anything that can be called 'erotic rights'. The right to joy cannot be claimed in the same way as one claims the right to put a voting paper in a ballot box. A human being's erotic aptitudes can only be developed where the right atmosphere for them exists, and where the attitudes of both persons concerned are in harmonious sympathy.

Havelock Ellis, 'The Love-Rights of Women', in Little Essays of Love and Virtue (1922)

9th July

[J]ealousy is the complaint of the incomplete self. The woman who is acting the principal part on her own ambitious play is unlikely to weep because she is not playing the principal part in some man's no more ambitious play

Rebecca West, 'The Fool and the Wise Man', The New Freewoman, 1 Oct 1913 in The Young Rebecca: Writings of Rebecca West, 1911-17 (edited by Jane Marcus) (1982)

16th July

An adept at innuendo, she practised it for pleasure when it was not needed for business, and innocent underservants had fancied themselves and their families guilty of unsuspected crimes when Sarah went about her peculiar way of satisfying her curiosity. If not meaning to be unkind can constitute humaneness, Sarah was humane.

E H Young, Jenny Wren(1932)

23rd July

There is generally held to be a deceitful and manipulative element to cunning but being considerate requires exactly the same mental processes, only for nicer ends.

Guy Browning, How to ... be cunning, Guardian Weekend, 19 Jul 2008

[No quotation for 30th July]

Aug 2008

6th August

[S]he belonged to that most ill-used sisterhood, some of them wives, some of them mothers, and all of them lovers, who really believe that there is in the mere quality of manhood something magnificent and worthy to be served.

Margery Allingham, Flowers for the Judge (1936)

13th August

People do not on the whole break their customs and morality and face the disapproval of their peer group for something as unimportant as intersexual love.

Naomi Mitchison, Solution Three (1975)

20th August

This is the nature of safety in the measured world - you can be certain of the presence of danger, but you can never guarantee its absence. No measurement quite trusts itself down to zero, down to absolute lack. All that the dials and lights and delicate reactions can tell you is that the instruments recognize no peril.

Maggie Helwig, Girls Fall Down (2008)

27th August

One always envied Sissy Spacek her telekinetic abilities in Carrie, not because they enabled her to burn all her nasty classmates to death (though there is that too), but because she could make boys who shouted rude comments at her fall off their bikes. Men have no idea how annoying they can be.

Anne Billson, Spoilers: Selected Film Reviews 1989-2001 (2008)

Sep 2008

3rd September

Mrs Austin was kind; sympathy and friendliness oozed from her every pore; and yet she was enjoying the tragedy with all the shameful delight of the under-entertained.

Margery Allingham, Flowers for the Judge (1936)

10th September

A god became a private eye, and an old myth became a new. Jimmy believed in progress. It's always the legends that cannot or will not change that wither and fade away. Faced with being just another minor deity in a long line of godlings, with no fixed role or future in the modern world, Jimmy had cheerfully embraced a different destiny.

Simon R Green, Drinking Midnight Wine (2001)

17th September

I can't remember whether you said you liked Barbara Pym.... I do like her very much, the incidents look so trivial that there's nothing in them and then you suddenly realise how much she's said.

Penelope Fitzgerald to Maryllis Conder, [c. 1980s], in So I Have Thought of You: The Letters of Penelope Fitzgerald (2008)

24th September

He is a master of the important art of acceptance. He is wonderful. Sometimes I think I hate him because he is so wonderful.

Christine Billson You Can Touch Me (1961)

Oct 2008

1st October

I wonder why most of the critics want every form of art to be painful and a sort of dreary duty, like eating rice pudding when one is a child?

Edith Sitwell to H G Wells, 11 May 1926

8th October

She was often quiet, and others had always taken that as a sign of dignity and maturity. She was sharp-tongued, and people thought she was confident. Nobody knew how frightened and shy she was.

Rona Jaffe, Class Reunion (1979)

15th October

The amazing and almost incredible thing about this story is the way clues kept rolling in unsolicited.... I suppose that the explanation is that the world is full of clues to everything, and that if a man's mind is sharp-set on any quest, he happens to notice and take advantage of what otherwise he would miss.

John Buchan, The Power-House (1916)

22nd October

Why was fabulousness important? The world was a scary, sad place and adornment was one of the only ways she knew to make herself and the people around her forget their troubles.

Francesca Lia Block, Necklace of Kisses (2005)

29th October

Like most people with too many books, I acquired them as the British acquired their empire, by alternate fits of necessity and absentmindedness.

Peter Washington, review of Margaret Willes, Reading Matters: Five Centuries of Discovering Books (2008), in Literary Review, Nov 2008

Nov 2008

[No quotation for 5th November]

12th November

They had lost their youth, their firm flesh, their juiciness, their arrogance, and their ignorant seductiveness. Men no longer looked at them. Heads did not turn; there were no anticipatory smiles when they appeared. They had given up the security of knowing that men thought they were forces to be reckoned with, if only on the level of lust. Now they had become real forces. They were, for better or worse, real people.

Rona Jaffe, The Room-Mating Season (2003)

[No quotation for 19th November]

26th November

She knew at last that she had found what she had been seeking. She saw that gaiety, that kindliness, that valour of the spirit, beckoning her on from a serene old age.

Winifred Holtby, South Riding (1936)

Dec 2008

3rd December

Yet it is the masculine values that prevail.... And these values are inevitably transferred from life to fiction. This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room.

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1928)

10th December

A good sort, Joan, poor Charlie was thinking; a thoroughly decent sort. One did not, of course, think of her as belonging to the same sex as Evie.

Stella Gibbons, The Weather at Tregulla (1962)

17th December

Gwendolen's history is admirably typical--as most things are with George Eliot: it is the very stuff that human life is made of. What is it made of but the discovery by each of us that we are at the best but a rather ridiculous fifth wheel to the coach, after we have sat cracking our whip and believing that we are at least the coachman in person ? We think we are the main hoop to the barrel, and we turn out to be but a very incidental splinter in one of the staves. The universe forcing itself with a slow, inexorable pressure into a narrow, complacent, and yet after all extremely sensitive mind, and making it ache with the pain of the process--that is Gwendolen's story.

Henry James, Daniel Deronda: A Conversation, Atlantic Monthly 38.230 (December 1876)

24th December

Often I wonder whether I would be able to suffer for my principles if the need came, and it strikes me as a matter of the highest importance. That should not be so. I should ask myself with far greater urgency whether I have done anything possible to carry those principles into effect, and how I can attain power to make them absolutely victorious.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1942)

31st December

[H]ers was the pleasant fatigue that comes of work well done. When at night in bed she went over the events of the day, it was with a modest yet certain satisfaction at this misunderstanding disentangled, that problem solved, some other help given in time of need. Her good deeds soothed her pillow.

Winifred Holtby, South Riding (1936)

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