Michael Chabon quotes:

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  • Drunk, Jane spoke as though she were Nancy Drew. I was a fool for a girl with a dainty lexicon.

  • The First Amendment has the same role in my life as a citizen and a writer as the sun has in our ecosystem.

  • The things I keep going back to, rereading, maybe they say more about me as a reader than about the books. Love in the Time of Cholera, Pale Fire.

  • It took Marvel Comics years to begin to put together any worthwhile superheroines. The first crop was, to a gal, embarrassingly disappointing. They had all the measly powers that fifties and sixties male chauvinism could contrive to bestow on a superwoman.

  • Moby Dick - that book is so amazing. I just realized that it starts with two characters meeting in bed; that's how my book begins, too, but I hadn't noticed the parallel before, two characters forced to share a bed, reluctantly.

  • I love Richard Yates, his work, and the novel, Revolutionary Road. It's a devastating novel.

  • I found one remaining box of comics which I had saved. When I opened it up and that smell came pouring out, that old paper smell, I was struck by a rush of memories, a sense of my childhood self that seemed to be contained in there.

  • My Saturday Night. My Saturday night is like a microwave burrito. Very tough to ruin something that starts out so bad to begin with.

  • Childhood is a branch of cartography.

  • I'm never going to be a Tom Clancy. And I wouldn't really want to be - not that I have anything against him, and I wish him continued success - because that's not why I'm writing novels. I'm doing it because I have to. I feel like I have to, anyway.

  • That's a big trunk," James said, as we jammed in the leathery old case that looked so much like the black heart of some leviathan. "It fits a tuba, three suitcases, a dead dog, and a garment bag almost perfectly." "That's just what they used to say in the ads," I said...

  • Every time another review comes out I let out a deep breath.

  • I have a deadline. I'm glad. I think that will help me get it done.

  • Jerome Charyn is one of the most important writers in American literature and one of only three now writing whose work makes me truly happy to be a reader.

  • I wanted to give readers the feeling of knowing the characters, a mental image.

  • That's the best thing about writing, when you're in that zone, you're porous, ready to absorb the solution.

  • But there was nothing at all safe about marriage. It was a doubtful enterprise, a voyage in an untested craft, across a hostile ocean, with a map that was a forgery and with no particular destination but the grave.

  • Fathering imposed an obligation that was more than your money, your body, or your time, a presence neither physical nor measurable by clocks: open-ended, eternal, and invisible, like the commitment of gravity to the stars.

  • Rueful, bittersweet, funny, written with tenderness and bite, Merrill Feitell's stories, like so many classic short stories, are made from the plain and painful stuff of this world, and haunted by the possibility, and the impossibility, of a better one.

  • They lay there for a few seconds, in the dark, in the future, listening to the fabulous clockwork of their hearts and lungs, and loving each other

  • All at once he feels weary of ganefs and prophets, guns and sacrifices and the infinite gangster weight of God. He's tired of hearing about the promised land and the inevitable bloodshed required for its redemption.

  • The rest of Sitka's homicides are so-called crimes of passion, which is a shorthand way of expressing the mathematical product of alcohol and firearms.

  • Man makes plans . . . and God laughs.

  • The devolution of American culture takes another great step forward

  • Poor little librarians of the world, those girls, secretly lovely, their looks marred forever by the cruelty of a pair of big dark eyeglasses!

  • A father is a man who fails every day.

  • I was conscious, then, of a different ache, deeper and more sharp than the feeling of bereavement that a hangover will sometimes uncover in the heart.

  • He was through with this conversation. As a rule, they tended to avoid questions like How sane are we? and Do our lives have meaning? The need for avoidance was acute and apparent to both of them.

  • Regret, hurt, bereavement, loss, to permit the flow of even one tear at the upwelling of such feelings was to imperil ancient root systems and retaining walls. Mudslide and black avalanche would result and drown him."

  • I'd spent my whole life waiting to awake on an ordinary morning in the town that was destined to be my home, in the arms of the woman I was destined to love, knowing the people and doing the work that would make up the changing but essentially invariable landscape of my particular destiny."

  • For me, the goal is always to write a novel that I myself would like to read. People frequently ask me what my favorite book is, and in effect, there's always a capital-F Favorite, capital-B Book that I would like to write myself someday. I try to go for that ideal of writing the best, most entertaining, most beautifully written book that I possibly can.

  • The first and last duty of the lover of the game of baseball," Peavine's book began, "whether in the stands or on the field, is the same as that of the lover of life itself: to pay attention to it. When it comes to the position of catcher, as all but fools and shortstops will freely acknowledge, this solemn requirement is doubled.

  • I saw a lot of lousy movies and watched a ton of crappy television and read a bunch of utterly forgettable books and comics and listened to hours of junk music as a kid. And I'm still drawing profitably in my own art on some of the tawdry treasure I stored up in those years.

  • I was thinking, too, of Superman and his fortress of solitude.

  • [I]n 1938, Superman appeared. He had been mailed to the offices of National Periodical Publications from Cleveland, by a couple of Jewish boys who had imbued him with the powers of a hundred men, of a distant world, and of the full measure of their bespectacled adolescent hopefulness and desperation.

  • In later years, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier's greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini.

  • With patience and calm, persistence and stoicism, good handwriting and careful labeling, they would meet persecution, indignity, and hardship head-on.

  • Louis Pasteur said, 'Chance favors the prepared mind.' If you're really engaged in the writing, you'll work yourself out of whatever jam you find yourself in.

  • Every universe, our own included, begins in conversation. Every golem in the history of the world, from Rabbi Hanina's delectable goat to the river-clay Frankenstein of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, was summoned into existence through language, through murmuring, recital, and kabbalistic chitchat -- was, literally, talked into life.

  • I smoked and looked down at the bottom of Pittsburgh for a little while, watching the kids playing tiny baseball, the distant figures of dogs snatching at a little passing car, a miniature housewife on her back porch shaking out a snippet of red rug, and I made a sudden, frightened vow never to become that small, and to devote myself to getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

  • What smells strongly of crap to one generation - Victorian penny dreadfuls, the music of the Archies, the Lone Ranger radio show, blaxploitation films of the seventies - so often becomes a fruitful source of inspiration, veneration, and study for those to come, while certified Great and Worthy Art molders and fades on its storage rack, giving off an increasingly powerful whiff of naphthalene.

  • Misogyny comes naturally to a young man in his late teens; it is a function of the powerful homosocial impulses that flower along Fraternity Row, that drove the mod movements of the middle sixties and late seventies, that lie at the heart of every rock band formed by men of that age.

  • It drains the bars and cafes after hours, concentrates the wicked and the guilty along its chipped Formica counter, and thrums with the gossip of criminals, policemen, shtarkers,and schlemiels, whores and night owls ... three or four floaters, solitaries, and drunks between benders lean against the sparkly resin counter, sucking the tea from their shtekelehs and working the calulations of their next big mistake.

  • See you in the funny papers," he said. Jaunty, he reminded himself; always jaunty. In my panache is their hope for salvation.

  • All male friendships are essentially quixotic: they last only so long as each man is willing to polish the shaving-bowl helmet, climb on his donkey, and ride off after the other in pursuit of illusive glory and questionable adventure.

  • The little boy had wandered away from his mother, tacking across the grass to the play structure. His mother watched him go, proud, tickled, unaware that every time they toddled away from you, they came back a little different, ten seconds older and nearer to the day when they left you for good. Pearl divers in training, staying under a few seconds longer every time.

  • Love great first lines and paragraphs. From The Yiddish Policemen's Union:Nine months Landsman's been flopping at the Hotel Zamenhof without any of his fellow residents managing to get themselves murdered. Now somebody has put a bullet in the brain of the occupant of 208, a yid who was calling himself Emanuel Lasker.

  • It takes a sour woman to make a good pickle.

  • Gibson Goode to Archy: "You're just being stubborn now. Stubbornness in the service of a mistaken notion is a vanity and a sin.

  • Every future we imagine is transformed inexorably into a part of our children's understanding of their past, of the assumptions their parents and grandparents could not help but make.The Killer Hook

  • Take care-there is no force more powerful than that of an unbridled imagination.

  • A smile opened, thin as a paper cut, in the bottom of Flowers's face.

  • Joe is the hero and Sammy is the sidekick. That's how I feel about it.

  • Zugzwang. It's when you have no good moves. But you still have to move.

  • He was through with this conversation. As a rule, they tended to avoid questions like "How sane are we?" and "Do our lives have meaning?" The need for avoidance was acute and apparent to both of them.

  • He looked so profoundly disappointed in me that I wondered for a moment if he was someone I knew.

  • I was afraid that I had made a profound, irrevocable mistake, and that, as in a fantastic tale, if I did not find something firm and magical to grab a hold of right that moment we would both be swallowed up by a noisome gang of black shapes and evil black birds.

  • When I finish a first draft, it's always just as much of a mess as it's always been. I still make the same mistakes every time.

  • The two dozen commonplace childhood photographs - snowsuit, pony, tennis racket, looming fender of a Dodge - were an inexhaustible source of wonder for him, at her having existed before he met her, and of sadness for his possessing nothing of the ten million minutes of that black-and-white scallop-edged existence save these few proofs.

  • People keep saying, 'Oh, you're getting all these great reviews, that must make you really happy.' I guess it does, but mostly it's just a relief.

  • And then the man reminded Max, with a serious but suave and practiced air, that freedom was a debt that could be repaid only by purchasing the freedom of others.

  • But the first lie in the series is the one you make with the greatest trepidation and the heaviest heart.

  • I hate to see great works of literature ghettoized, whereas others that conform to the rules, conventions, and procedures of the genre we call literary fiction get accorded greater esteem and privilege. I also have a problem with how books are marketed, with certain cover designs and typefaces. They're often stamped with an identity that has nothing to do with their effect on the reader.

  • Undressing her was an act of recklessness, a kind of vandalism, like releasing a zoo full of animals, or blowing up a dam.

  • Anything good that I have written has, at some point during its composition, left me feeling uneasy and afraid. It has seemed, for a moment at least, to put me at risk.

  • That was all very nice of them. They didn't have to do anything because I wasn't officially involved at all.

  • I was surprised that my wife thought it was a good idea, then again with my agent, another woman, then my editor, another woman - in spite of the fact that all three of them reacted positively I still have this fear.

  • As soon as I read that, it clicked: that's my theater of war. It was exciting to think that I could write about World War Two from a totally new place.

  • I wasn't involved, except to the degree that they sent me drafts of the script as the writer turned them in. They asked me at one point to write a memo about what I thought of it.

  • It was an incredible resource. I'd sit with a big stack of bound New Yorkers in the library and read through, especially the 'Talk of the Town' sections.

  • Comic books were just the means for me to tell the story.

  • What's going to be hard for me is to try to divorce myself as much as possible from what I wrote. I'll have to approach it simply as raw material and try to craft a film script out of it.

  • . . .I really ought to have recognized it for what it was and, perhaps, to have stopped right there - for it was nostalgia, and what inspires nostalgia has been dead a long time

  • ... and because it was a drunken perception, it was perfect, entire, and lasted about half a second.

  • ... But he believed that every great love was in some measure a terrible mistake.

  • ...Landsman doesn't buy that. Bina never stopped wanting to redeem the world. She just let the world she was trying to redeem get smaller and smaller until at one point, it could be bounded in the hat of a hopeless policeman.

  • [Comics] were viewed as the literary equivalent of bubblegum cards, meant to be poked into the spokes of a young mind where they would produce a satisfying but entirely bogus rumble of pleasure.

  • [My dad] didn't do much apart from the traditional winning of bread. He didn't take me to get my hair cut or my teeth cleaned; he didn't make the appointments. He didn't shop for my clothes. He didn't make my breakfast, lunch, or dinner. My mom did all of those things, and nobody ever told her when she did them that it made her a good mother.

  • A delicate, inexorable lattice of inferences began to assemble themselves, like a crystal, in the old man's mind, shivering, catching the light in glints and surmises.

  • A hope fulfilled is already half a disappointment.

  • A true storyteller is really good at writing himself into a corner and then finding a way out of that corner

  • All literature, highbrow or low, from the Aeneid onward, is fan fiction....Through parody and pastiche, allusion and homage, retelling and reimagining the stories that were told before us and that we have come of age loving--amateurs--we proceed, seeking out the blank places in the map that our favorite writers, in their greatness and negligence, have left for us, hoping to pass on to our own readers--should we be lucky enough to find any--some of the pleasure that we ourselves have taken in the stuff that we love: to get in on the game. All novels are sequels; influence is bliss.

  • All novels are sequels; influence is bliss.

  • All the preparation in the world doesn't avail you if you can't make that imaginative leap and put yourself in the position of the characters you've created, to imagine what it's like to be somebody else.

  • Along the way, he or she discovers that the world has been broken for as long as anyone can remember. Everyone, sooner or later, gets a thorough schooling in brokenness. The question becomes what to do with the pieces?

  • Art is a form of exploration, of sailing off into the unknown alone, heading for those unmarked places on the map. If children are not permitted-not taught-to be adventurers and explorers as children, what will become of the world of adventure, of stories, of literature itself?

  • As for comics, one has only to turn to the characteristic output of Marvel Comics, for the period from about 1961 to about 1975, to find not an expression of base and cynical impulses but of good, old-fashioned liberal humanism of a kind that may strike us today, God help us, as quaint, but which nevertheless appealed, in story after story, to ideals such as tolerance, technological optimism, and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others.

  • As long as she was falling in love with me, I might as well start making her promises I didn't intend to keep.

  • Bina rolls her eyes, hands on her hips, glances at the door. Then she comes over and drops her bag and plops down beside him. How many times, he wonders, can she have enough of him, already, and still have not quite enough?

  • Bina, thank you. Bina, listen, this guy. His name wasn't Lasker. This guy-' She puts a hand to his mouth. She has not touched him in three years. It probably would be too much to say that he feels the darkness lift at the touch of her fingertips against his lips. But it shivers, and light bleeds in among the cracks.

  • Childhood, at its best, is a perpetual adventure, in the truest sense of that overtaxed word: a setting forth into trackless lands that might have come to existence the instant before you first laid eyes on them.

  • Do what you gotta do and stay fly

  • Dr. Roboy, in Litvak's measured view, had a vice common to believers: He was all strategy and no tactics. He was prone to move for the sake of moving, too focused on the goal to bother with the intervening sequence.

  • Entertainment is a sacred pursuit when done well. When done well, it raises the quality of human life.

  • Every day is like a kid's drawing, offered to you with a strange mix of ceremoniousness and offhand disregard, yours for the keeping. Some of the days are rich and complicated, others inscrutable, others little more than a stray gray mark on a ragged page. Some you manage to hang on to, though your reasons for doing so are often hard to fathom. But most of them you just ball up and throw away.

  • Every generation loses the Messiah it has failed to deserve.

  • Every golden age is as much a matter of disregard as of felicity.

  • Every Messiah fails, the moment he tries to redeem himself.

  • For me, nostalgia is an involuntary emotion. I think it's just a natural human response to loss.

  • Forget about what you are escaping from. Reserve your anxiety for what you are escaping to.

  • He comes to this other world and he has to reinvent himself. Again, it felt natural, even though I'd been working really hard trying to come up with something.

  • He had no idea of how long his life would one day seem to have gone on; how daily present the absence of love would come to feel. "Just watch me," he said.

  • He is by nature a vegetarian but would never consider giving up meat.

  • He took a step toward her, than another, tentatively, gathering all his strength, as though about to throw a heavy switch that would, if his calculations were correct, bring light to a hundred cities and ten thousand darkened rooms. He was going to ask her to dance - that was all.

  • He was a fugitive, lurking soul, James Leer. He didn't belong anywhere, but things went much better for him in places where nobody belonged.

  • Horror grows impatient, rhetorically, with the Stoic fatalism of Ecclesiastes. That we are all going to die, that death mocks and cancels every one of our acts and attainments and every moment of our life histories, this knowledge is to storytelling what rust is to oxidation; the writer of horror holds with those who favor fire. The horror writer is not content to report on death as the universal system of human weather; he or she chases tornadoes. Horror is Stoicism with a taste for spectacle.

  • I can imagine anything except having no imagination.

  • I don't mean to make a big deal out of sobriety, by the way. Of all the modes of human consciousness available to the modern consumer I consider it to be the most overrated.

  • I don't care what is written," Meyer Landsman says. "I don't care what supposedly got promised to some sandal-wearing idiot whose claim to fame is that he was ready to cut his own son's throat for the sake of a hare-brained idea. I don't care about red heifers and patriarchs and locusts. A bunch of old bones in the sand. My homeland is in my hat. It's in my ex-wife's tote bag.

  • I don't do a lot of foisting, because when it comes to books I don't really like to be foisted upon.

  • I don't have a problem with many uses of the word genre, just certain ones. I have the most trouble when these labels are used to prevent discussion, to prevent a work from being taken seriously as literature. When we say "genre," we generally mean "something crappy," something that would be sold in an airport.

  • I don't think you could teach someone to be a genius, but you can certainly teach them to not make rookie mistakes and to look at writing the way a writer looks at writing, and not just the way a reader looks at writing. There are a lot of techniques and skills that can be taught that will be helpful to anybody, no matter how gifted they are, and I think writing programs can be very good for people.

  • I feel that in the past, my style has shown itself to be capable of handling dark and light in the same paragraph, or even in the same sentence. That's something I almost take for granted. I think it was more a concern to get the details right and persuasively recreate the world I was trying to write about.

  • I have a collection of mid-century, small-press science fiction and fantasy hardcovers that is my most focused and dedicated collection. Everything else I tend more to acquire or amass than collect. I have vinyl records I listen to all the time when I work. But I don't collect records. I just buy records where the price seems right and it's music I actually listen to.

  • I have a good memory for words, and when I come upon a word I don't know, I remember it, or try to - it's almost like a tic.

  • I have confused ideas of deity, heavily influenced by mind-altering years of reading science fiction, that do not often trouble me, but one thing I know for certain, and have known since the age of five or six, is that I really can't stand the God of Abraham. In fact, I consider him to constitute the pattern to which every true asshole I have ever known in my life has pretty well conformed.

  • I knew that I shouldn't have, but I did it all the same; and there you have my epitaph, or one of them, because my grave is going to require a monument inscribed on all four sides with rueful mottoes, in small characters, set close together.

  • I love the internet and it has been incredibly useful and I have made discoveries that have been immeasurably crucial to my work [writing] - things I don't know how I ever would have found out otherwise, that are perfect, just what I need for whatever I'm doing.

  • I might spend 100 pages trying to get to know the world I'm writing about: its contours, who are my main characters, what are their relationships to each other, and just trying to get a sense of what and who this book is about. Usually around that point of 100 pages, I start to feel like I'm lost, I have too much material, it's time to start making some choices. It's typically at that point that I sit down and try to make a formal outline and winnow out what's not working and what I'm most interested in, where the story seems to be going.

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