Category Archives: Quotations

For Writers, the Story Chooses You

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsWhen asked how he came up with his stories, American short-story writer Raymond Carver (1938-1988) responded, “Ideally the story chooses you, the image comes and then the emotional frame. You don’t have a choice about writing the story. I think that writers reach a point where they realize most areas of experience are not available to them—through lack of interest, lack of knowledge, lack of emotional involvement. I would be quite incapable of writing a story about young politicians, or even old politicians, or lawyers, or the world of high finance and fashion. There’s a filter at work which says this is or is not a story. And maybe there will be some little something, the germ of an idea, which will strike some kind of chord and begin to grow. I think a story ideally comes to the writer; the writer shouldn’t be casting the net out, searching for something to write about.”

From Conversations with Raymond Carver by Raymond Carver


The World Breaks Every One… Many are Strong at the Broken Places

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsThe world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.

The quotation is taken from this passage from A Farewell to Arms (1929) by American novelist and journalist Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961): “If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

The world eventually broke Hemingway. At the age of 61, he died of a self-inflicted wound to the head using a double-barreled shotgun. Sadly, there were several suicides in the Hemingway family, which the press dubbed the “Hemingway Suicide Curse.” Hemingway’s father, Dr. Clarence Hemingway shot himself in the head with a .32 Smith and Wesson revolver back in 1928. Ernest’s brother, Leicester Hemingway, also a writer, committed suicide in 1982 with a gunshot to the head. Ursula Hemingway, Ernest’s sister, died of a drug overdose in 1966. Ernest’s granddaughter, Margaux Hemingway, a model, died of overdose in 1996. The Ernest Hemingway Memorial, located in Sun Valley, Idaho, displays a eulogy to the famous author, one that he himself had written for a friend a few decades earlier, written in his distinctive, simple style: “Best of all he loved the fall / the leaves yellow on cottonwoods / leaves floating on trout streams / and above the hills / the high blue windless skies / …Now he will be a part of them forever.”


I Am the Culmination of a Lifetime of Reading

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Who I am, what I am, is the culmination of a lifetime of reading, a lifetime of stories. And there are still so many more books to read. I’m a work in progress.”

American author Sarah Addison Allen, the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, and The Girl Who Chased the Moon.


Best Quotes About Truth

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsIn the world inundated with a stream of lies from politicians, fake news, and alternative facts — truth has been the greatest casualty. It is no wonder then, that the term for the study of truth, alethiology, is so rarely known or used. Why study an endangered species? After all, New York attorney and legal advisor to President Trump, Rudy Giuliani recently claimed on the NBC show “Meet the Press” (August 19, 2018), “truth isn’t truth.” WTF? But perhaps Giuliani was unwittingly channeling German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who in The Will to Power (1901) wrote: “There is no truth, only interpretations.” (That is a paraphrase of the actual quotation: “‘There are only facts’—I would say, no, facts is precisely what there is not, only interpretations.”)

But in a civilized society, truth does matter. It is the foundation for every field of study, for a democracy, for diplomacy between nations, and significantly — for personal relationships. So forget about the politicians teaching us about truth — for real insights into truth, let us turn to some of the greatest minds:

Johan Wolfgang von Goethe: “It is easier to perceive error than to find truth, for the former lies on the surface and is easily seen, while the latter lies in the depth, where few are willing to search for it.”

Epictetus: “The people have a right to the truth as they have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “Falsehood has an infinity of combinations, but truth has only one mode of being.”

Winston Churchill: “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The greatest homage we can pay truth is to use it.”

Mark Twain: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

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To Live is to Suffer, to Survive is to Find Meaning in Suffering

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in suffering.”

This quote is mistakenly attributed to German philologist, Latin and Greek scholar, and philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900), considered one of the most influential philosophers in modern intellectual history and Western philosophy. If you have googled the quotation, you realize how ubiquitous it is — it appears in hundreds of books, blogs, and merchandise (like posters) — mostly misattributed to Nietzsche. So much for fact-checking in the Google Era. Sure, it makes sense — Nietzsche certainly wrote about suffering. In fact, there is a passage that comes close; in On the Genealogy of Morals (1887) he wrote: “Man, the bravest animal and most prone to suffer, does not deny suffering as such: he wills it, he even seeks it out, provided he is shown a meaning for it, a purpose of suffering.” (p. 120, Cambridge edition, translated by Carol Diethe; p. 144, Penguin edition, translated by Michael Scarpitta).

But the actual source of that quotation is Victor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist who founded logo therapy. The quotation is from his profoundly insightful and bestselling work, Man’s Search for Meaning (1946), originally published as From Death-Camp to Existentialism (1959). In the 1946 edition, Frankl wrote: “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in suffering. If there is a meaning in life at all then there must be meaning in suffering. Suffering is an inevitable part of life — without suffering life cannot be complete.” (p. 106, translated by Ilse Lasch).

Imagine the conversation that Nietzsche and Frankl would have had if they had lived in similar times and met.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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The Wisdom of Supercentenarians

alex atkins bookshelf booksEach year, Americans spend close to $1 billion on over 30,000 different self-help books, seeking guidance to life’s challenges or simply finding inspiration to live the “good life.” But who are the wisest people, the real experts on life? As Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie) and Karl Pillemer (30 Lessons for Living) have discovered, the best persons to ask about persevering through hard times, living a life with fulfillment and without regret, and learning to love authentically are the people who have already done it themselves — what Millenials refer to as “oldies.” Invariably, those who have lived longer have also learned longer — with age comes experience and the wisdom gained from reflecting on that experience.

For truly timeless wisdom, let us turn to a very select group of oldies — supercentenarians: people who are older than 110 years. According to the Gerontology Research Group, as of this writing, there are only 35 supercentenarians alive today: 33 are female, and only 2 are male; their average age is 113 years. Over the years, in various interviews, these remarkable human beings have shared their secret for a good and long life. Basically, if you want to live past 110 years, you have to subscribe to the philosophy of “Don’t worry, he happy.” I know — easier said than done. Here are some of the highlights (name followed by age):

Jeanne Calment (122, died 1997): “If you can’t do anything about it, don’t worry about it.”

Sarah Knauss (119, died 1999): She explained that not letting things upset her was her secret to long life.

Marie-Louise Febronie Meilleur (117, died 1998): “Hard work could never kill a person.”

Violet Brown (117, died 2017): “Hard work; I was a cane farmer. I would do every work I could manage to help myself.”

Emma Morano (117, died 2017): “Being single” and getting to bed early each day.

Maria Capovilla (116, died 2006): Her daughter said, “She always had a very tranquil character and she does not get upset by anything.”

Susannah Muscat Jones (116, died 2016): “I have no secret. I just live with my family. That’s the only thing I can say. My family makes me happy.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Letters to a Young Poet
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For further reading: www.businessinsider.com/the-secrets-to-long-life-according-to-the-oldest-people-in-the-world-2016-12
http://www.grg.org/Adams/TableE.html
http://www.dailyinfographic.com/lessons-from-oldest-people-ever-recorded?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DailyInfographic+%28Daily+Infographic%29


Seekers of the American Dream Performed Prodigies of Courage

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsBeneath the American faith in the future lie two main concepts, one material, the other at least potentially spir­itual. The first is what James Truslow Adams called the American Dream. It is the hope of a better life than older lands and ages ever afforded: more security, more comfort, more money, wider horizons. No one should sneer at this concept just because it is necessarily material, for seekers of the American Dream performed prodigies of courage. Often they performed them unselfishly, thinking of their children rather than themselves. Willa Cather, looking at Nebraska, concluded that the earliest generation was truly heroic. “The generation that subdued the wild land and broke up the virgin prairies,” she wrote, was an army of rugged men and women who “inspire respect and compel admiration.” Their resourcefulness matched their courage. Beginning in the utter poverty of sod houses, they could look out at the end of their days on broad stretches of fertility and say, “We made this, with our backs and hands.”

Excerpt from the essay, “Forces That Will Change America” form Think Magazine (1959) by American historian and journalist Allan Nevins.


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