“ ‘Every cynic is a romantic’? Well. A romantic is just a cynic for whom, as yet, the nickel hasn’t dropped. You can’t get your heart broke if you don’t give a shit. A ‘fool’s paradise’ is a perfect redundancy. The paradise, whether it’s love or success, consists not in its, no doubt, pleasant attributes, but in the fool’s ignorance of their transiency. You can’t live in paradise, unless you’re a fool. Your time there runs out, join the cynics.” – David Mamet, Chicago (emphases in original)

“Mrs. Smith runs out into the street shrieking and screaming, ‘Spare the children, spare the children, dear God in heaven, couldn’t you at least do something to make them stop and spare the children!’ Suddenly there is all of a sudden a bolt of lightning and thundering and here is what God answers the woman. He says to her, ‘Show business is show business.’ “ – Gordon Lish, Extravaganza

“We looked into each other’s eyes for a long while. Oh! what power a woman’s eye has! How it agitates us, how it invades our very being, takes possession of us, and dominates us! How profound it seems, how full of infinite promises! People call that looking into each other’s souls! Oh! monsieur, what humbug! If we could see into each other’s souls, we should be more careful of what we did.” – Guy de Maupassant, “In the Spring” (trans. McMaster, et al.)

“Monsieur, beware of love! It is lying in ambush everywhere; it is watching for you at every corner; all its snares are laid, all its weapons are sharpened, all its guiles are prepared! Beware of love! Beware of love! It is more dangerous than brandy, bronchitis or pleurisy! It never forgives and makes everybody commit irreparable follies.” – Guy de Maupassant, “In the Spring” (trans. McMaster, et al.)

“People need rules and boundaries, and if society doesn’t provide them in sufficient measure, the estranged individual may drift into something deeper and more dangerous. Terrorism is built on structure. A terrorist act is a structured narrative played out over days or weeks or even years if there are hostages involved. What we call the shadow life of terrorists or gun runners or double agents is in fact the place where a certain clarity takes effect, where definitions matter, and both sides tend to follow the same set of rules.” – Don DeLillo (interviewed by Adam Begley, The Art of Fiction No. 135)

“One must have heroes, which is to say, one must create them. And they become real through our envy, our devotion. It is we who give them their majesty, their power, which we ourselves could never possess. And in turn, they give us some back. But they are mortal, these heroes, just as we are. They do not last forever. They fade. They vanish. They are surpassed, forgotten—one hears of them no more.” – James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime

“Certain things I remember exactly as they were. They are merely discolored a bit by time, like coins in the pocket of a forgotten suit. Most of the details, though, have long since been transformed or rearranged to bring others of them forward. Some, in fact, are obviously counterfeit; they are no less important. One alters the past to form the future. But there is a real significance to the pattern which finally appears, which resists all further change. In fact, there is the danger that if I continue to try, the whole concert of events will begin to fall apart in my hands like old newspaper. I can’t bear to think of that. The myriad past, it enters us and disappears. Except that within it, somewhere, like diamonds, exist the fragments that refuse to be consumed. Sifting through, if one dares, and collecting them, one discovers the true design.” – James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime

“I took up with a nice lad I met on the bridge and we were married in due time under a shed on the place where his family lived high in the mountains. A fine Sunday this was, with relatives in to play the accordion. Oh, the songs I heard that day! I was so happy. We killed and consumed numerous chickens.” – Leon Rooke, “Saloam Frigid With Time’s Legacy While Mrs. Willoughby Bight-Davies Sits Naked Through The Night On A Tree Stump Awaiting The Lizard That Will Make Her Loins Go Boom-Boom”

“Moral law is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in favor of the weak. Historical law subverts it at every turn. A moral view can never be proven right or wrong by any ultimate test. A man falling dead in a duel is not thought thereby to be proven in error as to his views. His very involvement in such a trial gives evidence of a new and broader view. The willingness of the principals to forego further argument as the triviality which it in fact is and to petition directly the chambers of the historical absolute clearly indicated of how little moment are the opinions and what great moment the divergences thereof. For the argument is indeed trivial, but not so the separate wills made manifest. Man’s vanity may well approach the infinite in capacity but his knowledge remains imperfect and howevermuch he comes to value his judgements ultimately he must submit them before a higher court. Here there can be no special pleading. Here are considerations of equity and rectitude and more right rendered void and without warrant and here are the views of the litigants despised. Decisions of life and death, of what shall be and what shall not, beggar all questions of right. In elections of these magnitudes are all lesser ones subsumed, moral, spiritual, natural.” – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

“Suppose two men at cards with nothing to wager save their lives. Who has not heard such a tale? A turn of the card. The whole universe for such a player has labored clanking to this moment which will tell if he is to die at that man’s hand or that man at his. What more certain validation of a man’s worth could there be? This enhancement of the game to its ultimate state admits no argument concerning the notion of fate. The selection of one man over another is a preference absolute and irrevocable and it is a dull man indeed who could reckon so profound a decision without agency or significance either one. In such games as have for their stake the annihilation of the defeated the decisions are quite clear. This man holding this particular arrangement of cards in his hand is thereby removed from existence. This is the nature of war, whose stake is at once the game and the authority and the justification. Seen so, war is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.” – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

“Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself but rather in the value of that which is put at hazard. Games of chance require a wager to have meaning at all. Games of sport involve the skill and strength of the opponents and the humiliation of defeat and the pride of victory are in themselves sufficient stake because they inhere in the worth of the principals and define them. But trial of chance or trial of worth all games aspire to the condition of war for here that which is wagered swallows up game, player, all.” – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

“The universe is no narrow thing and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other part. Even in this world more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way. For existence has its own order and that no man’s mind can compass, that mind itself being but a fact among others.” – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

“The truth about the world is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning.” – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

“The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day. He loves games? Let him play for stakes.” – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

“Far out on the desert to the north dustspouts rose wobbling and augered the earth and some said they’d heard of pilgrims borne aloft like dervishes in those mindless coils to be dropped broken and bleeding upon the desert again and there perhaps to watch the thing that had destroyed them lurch onward like some drunken djinn and resolve itself once more into the elements from which it sprang. Out of that whirlwind no voice spoke and the pilgrim lying in his broken bones may cry out and in his anguish he may rage, but rage at what? And if the dried and blackened shell of him is found among the sands by travelers to come yet who can discover the engine of his ruin?” – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

“The architects that preceded us in ceaseless labor, life after life, built on the inherited acropolis of law a constitutional structure ever-changing, ever enduring, unfinished, in parts neglected and decaying, obdurate yet imagined. Their legacy resides in the methods by which, case by case, generation by generation, the barriers of law channel the tumults of politics and power toward justice and equality, and away from violence and cruel oppression. Their genius was to deliver to us a temple whose innermost chamber contains a question. They could not decide for us, but they could give us the ways our decisions are assessed and explained. Having mastered the ways of the law that they taught us, we must in the end find our own answers to the awesome questions that mastery poses but cannot resolve. Someday, if we’re lucky, our descendants will struggle as we do with such decisions. Will they make them according to law or will they sell, or barter, or give them away to those who are only too happy to decide without having to explain?” – Philip C. Bobbitt, “Impeachment: A Handbook”

“A man’s at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he don’t want to. Rightly so. Best not to look in there. It aint the heart of a creature that is bound in the way that God has set for it. You can find meanness in the least of creatures, but when God made man the devil was at his elbow. A creature that can do anything. Make a machine. And a machine to make the machine. And evil that can run itself a thousand years, no need to tend it.” – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

“No two mornings are ever quite the same. Some are cold and dark and rainy, and some—a great many, in fact—are like the beginning of the world. First the idea of morning comes, and then, though it is still utterly dark and you can’t see your hand in front of your face, a rooster crows, and you’d swear it was a mistake, because it is another twenty minutes before the first light, when the rooster crows again and again, and soon after that the birds begin, praising the feathered god who made them. With their whole hearts, every single bird in creation. And then comes the grand climax. The sky turns red, and the great fiery ball comes up over the eastern horizon. After which there is a coda. The birds repeat their praise, one bird at a time, and the rooster gives one last, thoughtful crow, and the beginning of things comes to an end.” – William Maxwell, “The lamplighter”