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Jan 2023

4th January

‘Be your strong and simple words
Keen to wound as sharpened swords,
And wide as targes let them be,
With their shade to cover ye.
  ‘Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war,
‘And let Panic, who outspeeds
The career of armèd steeds
Pass, a disregarded shade
Through your phalanx undismayed.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Mask of Anarchy, Written on the occasion of the massacre at Manchester (1819)

11th January

There was nothing Algie enjoyed more than the apt quotation, whether delivered by himself or another. It gave him a momentary sensation that the world had come right; that some instant of perfect harmony had been achieved by two minds meeting, possibly across centuries.

Shirley Hazzard, 'Nothing in Excess', People in Glass Houses (1967)

18th January

'We are suited to each other - yes, notwithstanding the difference of age, and a thousand other differences, we are suited to each other. This possibility of a friendship between youth and age is one of the rewards Heaven grants to the early and late cultivation of the understanding and of the affections. Late as it is with me in life, I have not, thank God, survived my affections'.

Maria Edgeworth, Patronage (1815)

25th January

WICKES: If you were asked to compile a list of the books that have been most important to you, not only as a writer but also in your thinking, what would be the first half dozen?

LE GUIN: I tried to do it, and it goes on and on. It’s insufferably boring, because I’ve read all my life, and I read everything.

Ursula K. Le Guin, Interview by George Wickes and Louise Westling, Northwest Review, vol. 20, nos. 2 and 3 1982, in The Last Interview: and Other Conversations (2019)

Feb 2023

1st February

Little as Catherine was in the habit of judging for herself, and unfixed as were her general notions of what men ought to be, she could not entirely repress a doubt, while she bore with the effusions of his endless conceit, of his being altogether completely agreeable. It was a bold surmise... but... the extreme weariness of his company, which crept over her before they had been out an hour, and which continued unceasingly to increase till they stopped in Pulteney Street again, induced her, in some small degree... to distrust his powers of giving universal pleasure.

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1817)

8th February

[T]he best art is like life. You need the dull bits to better appreciate the climaxes.

John Crace, Digested week The Guardian, 27 Jan 2023

15th February

Or must I be content with discontent
As larks and swallows are perhaps with wings?
And shall I ask at the day's end once more
What beauty is, and what I can have meant
By happiness? And shall I let all go,
Glad, weary, or both?

Edward Thomas, The Glory (1917)

22nd February

Was Mrs. Wilcox one of the unsatisfactory people—there are many of them—who dangle intimacy and then withdraw it? They evoke our interests and affections, and keep the life of the spirit dawdling round them. Then they withdraw. When physical passion is involved, there is a definite name for such behaviour—flirting—and if carried far enough it is punishable by law. But no law—not public opinion even—punishes those who coquette with friendship, though the dull ache that they inflict, the sense of misdirected effort and exhaustion, may be as intolerable.

EM Forster, Howards End (1910)

Mar 2023

1st March

Neither then nor afterwards did I fear anything so much as my own self. What that contained was a terror to me. Things of flesh and blood, brutal and murderous as they might be, could always be taken by the hand and fraternized with.... Dreams and visions exercised a far more potent spell. Nigh to them lay madness and utter impotence of self-control.

The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds: A Critical Edition (2016)

8th March

A murderous November’s day was trying to get under the door with hacksaw and icepick

Streets uttered the slurred speech of leaves torn from a madman’s diary

Passers-by were beaten up and iced by a wind that coughed like a devilish old thief, in rags and scampering on diamond toenails.

Rosemary Tonks, Opium Fogs (1963)

15th March

[I]t might well happen to most of us dainty people that we were in the thick of the battle of Armageddon without being aware of anything more than the annoyance of a little explosive smoke and struggling on the ground immediately about us.

George Eliot, Daniel Deronda (1876)

22nd March

[T]his world, Vinnie thinks now, is not English literature. It is full of people over fifty who will be around and in fairly good shape for the next quarter-century: plenty of time for adventure and change, even for heroism and transformation. Why, after all, should Vinnie become a minor character in her own life?

Alison Lurie, Foreign Affairs (1985)

29th March

To be a translator was to be a shadow, and if you were lucky, no one noticed you until your work was done, if at all. In that, the translator’s work was like that of the detective: You stayed one step behind the one who did it, the original author, gathering clues and collecting meanings, until you had the written body of evidence. Then you wove the words into a testimony of other words that created a new and watertight narrative.

Barbara Wilson, Love Dies Twice (2022)

Apr 2023

5th April

Just because something is positive or uplifting doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have depth or seriousness. You know, I think a lot of people might have trouble grasping that[.]

Marian Keyes, ‘We want to read about people falling in love’: Curtis Sittenfeld and Marian Keyes on the romcom revival, Guardian Saturday, 1 Apr 2023

12th April

Although the author does not write unkindly about men the reader is left wondering if they are really worthwhile companions for the heroines.

Margaret Crosland, Beyond the Lighthouse: English women novelists in the twentieth century (1981)

19th April

If I can’t be thin, I can at least be fit. It’s not a perfect solution. But then with age you learn that there really is no perfect.

Jay Rayner, These new weight-loss drugs are tempting - but here’s why I won’t use them The Guardian: Happy Eater 13 April 2023

26th April

Jane Cleveland was forty-one, an age that may bring with it compensations unsuspected by the anxious woman of twenty-nine

Barbara Pym, Jane and Prudence (1953)

May 2023

3rd May

To find unmet friends, one must be a reader, and not an infrequent one.... Reading.... is either an early acquired passion or not: there is no in-between about it, no catching up in one's later years.

Carolyn G Heilbrun, The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty (1997)

10th May

I have no idea if this woman is really losing her looks... but she is certainly right in saying that I have no idea of what it is like. One of the few advantages to not being beautiful is that one usually gets better-looking as one gets older; I am, in fact, at this very moment gaining my looks.

Nora Ephron, Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women (1975)

17th May

Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility (1811)

24th May

It is possible for a writer to make, or re-make at least, for a reader, the primary pleasures of eating, or drinking, or looking on, or sex.... They do not habitually elaborate on the equally intense pleasure of reading.

AS Byatt, Possession (1990)

31st May

I do not need psycho-analysis to be told that I have a special rage against women who expoit their beauty and their sorrows and get away with it. "It isn't fair," is my hot argument; I suppose, ever so simply, because I feel I have never got away with it myself; though my fury against what "isn't fair" extends well beyond the home region; you can rely on the low ominous growl in my voice as I remark that someone is a Get-away-with-murder Girl.

GB Stern, Another Part of the Forest (1941)

Jun 2023

7th June

I was so jazzed up I didn't care whether I would break my neck or ever see Jeff again - or the great Kahoona. I stood, high like on a mountain peak and dove down, but I stood it. The only sound in the vast moving green was the hissing of the board over the water. A couple of times it almost dropped away under my feet, but I found it again and stood my ground, 'Shoot it, Gidget. Shoot the curl!'

Frederick Kohner, Gidget (1957)

14th June

Writers spend much time - sometimes too much time - striving for originality of diction. You can communicate perfectly well with many people, indeed often better, if you stick largely to a common canned language, and draw from a common source

Margaret Drabble, The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws (2009)

21st June

[T]he state of rapture I experience when I read a wonderful book is one of the main reasons I read, but it doesn't happen every time or even every other time, and when it does happen, I'm truly beside myself.

Norah Ephron, 'On Rapture, in I Feel Bad About My Neck, and other thoughts on being a woman (2006)

28th June

She was a woman who, out of a usual combination of sensitivity to others' feelings and moral cowardice would put herself endlessly out of order in order not to offend sensibilities or trample down firmly held beliefs

AS Byatt, The Virgin in the Garden (1978)

Ju1 2023

5th July

Is it dismaying that so many films continue to fail the [Bechdel] test?
What’s really dismaying now is the way so many movies cynically try to take shortcuts and feature strong female characters - but they just have a veneer of strength and they’re still not fully developed characters.

Alison Bechdel, Interview: ‘The Bechdel test was a joke... I didn’t intend for it to become a real gauge’, The Observer New Review, 2 July 2023

12th July

Laura... felt that her behaviour was unlike that of other people, and, curiously enough, although she was perfectly ready to suppose herself utterly different to every other woman on earth in disposition, outlook, and mentality, she intensely disliked the thought of diverging from the normal in her conduct of life.

EM Delafield, The Way Things Are (1927)

19th July

Ada Salter wanted to pull down the fabric of Edwardian capitalism. In the pursuit of her dream, the people of Bermondsey got slides, trees, and foxgloves. Great visions breed vital victories in the here and now.

Ben Wilson, review of Niall Kishtainy, The Infinite City: Utopian Dreams on the Streets of London (2023), in Literary Review, July 2023

26th July

But, if challenged, lost his sure grip on pipe and future. A cloud of confused indignation would then rise from him, like dust from an old book whose covers have been banged together for cleaning.

Shirley Hazzard, Transit of Venus (1980)

Aug 2023

2nd August

[Y]et she could, without magic, compel them to yield to her authority simply by having a plan and the knowledge to form it. It was a pleasant feeling[.]

Roz Kaveney, Revelations: Rhapsody of Blood, Volume Five: A Novel of the Fantastic (2023)

9th August

Margaret realised the chaotic nature of our daily life, and its difference from the orderly sequence that has been fabricated by historians. Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere. With infinite effort we nerve ourselves for a crisis that never comes.... The tragedy of preparedness has scarcely been handled, save by the Greeks. Life is indeed dangerous, but not in the way morality would have us believe. It is indeed unmanageable, but the essence of it is not a battle. It is unmanageable because it is a romance, and its essence is romantic beauty. Margaret hoped that for the future she would be less cautious, not more cautious, than she had been in the past.

EM Forster, Howards End (1910)

16th August

She was happier now, because the children were making a fuss of her, suggesting remedies and so on. She would stay up, and show them she could be plucky and cheerful even with rheumatism. A definite thing, like illness or pain, always put her on her mettle; it was so easy to be brave when people knew you had something to be brave about, and so hard when they didn't.

Rose Macaulay, Dangerous Ages (1921)

23rd August

The rapid triviality of her life is exhausting, but it keeps her from thought. She has successfully numbed all introspection, all reflection. Her life glitters with surfaces. It has no darkness and no depths. This is the way she likes it.

Margaret Drabble, The Witch of Exmoor (1996)

30th August

[S]he had a very strong feeling (still to be analysed and substantiated) that young Mrs Watergate's curiosity was due, not like hers, to a passionate interest in human affairs, so much as to a need of establishing her subtle superiority; or, in some cases, her right to a grievance.

EBC Jones, The Wedgwood Medallion (1923)

Sep 2023

6th September

He was getting angry and she wondered whether he was really feeling deeply upon the subject of talk or whether he was using it as a disguise for the real cause of an emotion he could not repress.

Romer Wilson, If All These Young Men (1919)

13th September

Instead of fighting for immaculate classification and impenetrable boundaries, let us strive to maintain a community that understands diversity as a gift, sees anomalies as precious, and treats all basic principles with a healthy dose of scepticism.

Gayle S Rubin, 'Of Catamites and Kings: Reflections on Butch, Gender, and Boundaries' (1992) in Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader (2011)

20th September

He was one of those people who are hopelessly inefficient through an excess of goodwill - he never liked to say no, was always promising to do things that conflicted with other things that he had already promised to do, could never leave a conversation or a room for fear of hurting other people's feelings, and thus was frequently late and frequently causing offence.

Margaret Drabble, The Realms of Gold (1975)

27th September

There was much debate about the social effect of broadcasting with fears that the wireless would keep people from attending concerts and plays or reading books. The Headmaster of Rugby School lamented that instead of solitary thought, people would listen in to what was said to millions of other people, which could not be the best things. There was little appreciation of the way in which radio could expand audiences to the benefit of all media and increase the number of readers.

Michael Carney and Kate Murphy, Hilda Matheson: A Life of Secrets and Broadcasts (2023)

Oct 2023

4th October

The next day Chanu did not go to work. He stayed at home and in the way. Nazneen began, bit by bit, to restore order to the flat. The girls attacked each chore that she set them with unusual vigour. Chanu directed operations and philosophized about the nature of housework.

Monica Ali, Brick Lane (2003)

11th October

The truth is, many things are worth doing only in the most slovenly, half-hearted fashion possible, and many other things are not worth doing at all.

Barbara Ehrenreich, 'The Cult of Busyness' (1985), in Had I Known: Collected Essays (2020)

18th October

This I believe to be a very common experience with women writers--they are impeded by the exteme conventionality of the other sex. For though men sensibly allow themselves great freedom in these respects, I doubt they realise or can control the extreme severity with which they condemn such freedom in women.

Virginia Woolf, 'Professions for Women', in The Death of the Moth and other essays (1942)

25th October

Generally speaking, anyone who expressed any desire to improve the lot of the exploited and injured, or proposed any remedy for the mortal sickness of acquisitive society, was regarded by the Conservative class as the vilest of criminals, an untouchable, an outcast, in short--a "Bolshevik." George [Lansbury]. himself, had been imprisoned by the Tories in the days when he was a Poplar Guardian, and therefore, like so many heroes of the class-struggle, a "gaol-bird."

Douglas Goldring, The Nineteen Twenties: A General Survey and some Personal Memories (1945)

Nov 2023

1st November

[R]ecently I have realised that one form of nagging has completely taken me in for years, and that is the form of nagging that expresses itself in sneers at the women's papers which concern themselves specifically with household matters. They are considered 'trash.'.... Those who write for them are condemned. Often I have been patted on the head by kind old gentlemen who have congratulated me that I have been among the women journalists who have lifted from women the reproach of being unable to write anything but Aunt Peg's Recipes in Home Twitters.

Rebecca West, 'On a Form of Nagging', published in Time and Tide 31 Oct 1924, reprinted in Dale Spender (ed.), Time and Tide Wait for No Man (1984)

8th November

In the middle rose the castle, solid, impregnable, And there beyond them, again, the sea, and little white sails free in the wind, in the sunlight. Why did not Psyche look up, and see all that glittering expanse? How could her heart not rise, if she were to look up? Why did she sit there so dumbly, so inelegantly, so much of a heap, so intent upon the earth? She should look up, and move, and go. The castle of love was a prison, a fortress, a tomb, how could she not appreciate her luck in being locked out, in being safe here in the open air? Let her rise and go.

Margaret Drabble, The Middle Ground (1980)

15th November

It astonishes me how quickly people forget even recent history, and how much they are willing to project current attitudes back as a fictive chronological sequence.

Gayle S Rubin, 'Sexual Traffic: Interview with Gayle Rubin by Judith Butler' (1994) in Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader (2011)

22nd November

I suspect that genuine novelty is usually crude and/or silly, and that it occurs in bad or in undistinguished work, Far from being original or truly revolutionary, great work - even good work - is apt to be the last or the next-to-last of something, the use of collective creations as a sort of jumping-off place. Critics are apt to hail second- or third-stage work as "new"[.]

Joanna Russ, 'The Wearing Out of Genre Materials' (1971) in The Country You Have Never Seen: Essays and Reviews (2007)

29th November

[S]tuff from other people's books gets into us just as our own experience does, and like actual experience gets composted and transmuted and transformed by the imagination, and comes forth entirely changed, our own, growing out of our own mind's earth.

Ursula K Le Guin, 'The Question I Get Asked Most Often' in The Wave in the Mind: Talkes and Essays and the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (2004)

Dec 2023

6th December

About his ordinary bearing there was a certain fling, a fearless expectation of success, a confidence in his own powers and integrity much fortified by contempt for petty obstacles or seductions of which he had had no experience.

George Eliot, Middlemarch (1872)

13th December

Well, I care that there's a war in Indochina, and I demonstrate against it; and I care that there's a women's liberation movement, and I demonstrate for it. But I also go to the movies incessantly, and have my hair done once a week, and cook dinner every night, and spend hours in front of the mirror trying to make my eyes look symmetrical, and I care about those things, too. Much of my life goes irrelevantly on, in spite of larger events.

Nora Ephron. 'Introduction', Wallflower at the Orgy (1970)


20th December

I remember the first time--it wasn't so long ago--I turned the last page of a novel and it came over me that love as a metaphor was over....It's the wrong catalyst. It doesn't complicate the issue, it reduces it.

Vivian Gornick, The End of the Novel of Love (1997)

27th December

Our sense of what is important in queer scholarship should not be distorted by the glitter of the current, the trendy, and the new. I want us to think about longer processes that have shaped the present and in which the present is deeply rooted. Any scholarly project can benefit from an accumulation of knowledge that can be evaluated, validated, criticized, updated, polished, improved, or used to provide new trails to investigate. We need to be more conscious about including the older material in the contemporary canon of Queer Studies.

Gayle S Rubin, 'Geologies of Queer Studies' (2003) in Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader (2011)


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History of Sexuality Women's History Stella Browne Archival matters Books
Interwar Progressives Science Fiction and Fantasy Random Links of Interest
Victoriana Quirky Stuff