“Characters in fiction are seldom made out of whole cloth. A little of this person and something of that one and whatever else the novelist’s imagination suggests is how they come into being. The novelist hopes that by avoiding actual appearances and actual names (which are so much more convincing than the names he invents for them), by making tall people short and red-headed people blond, that sort of thing, the sources of the composite character will not be apparent.” – William Maxwell, “The Front and the Back Parts of the House”

“The view after seventy is breathtaking. What is lacking is someone, anyone, of the older generation to whom you can turn when you want to satisfy your curiosity about some detail of the landscape of the past. There is no longer any older generation. You have become it, while your mind was mostly on other matters.” – William Maxwell, “The Man in the Moon” (emphasis in original)

“Their mother had taught them that you can ask anybody anything, but it can’t always be, ‘Do I know you?’ That you had arms to bar yourself from people. That you had to watch what you touched after you had already gone ahead and touched some other thing first. That the most pestering thing on a man was the thing that kept playing tricks with how long it actually was.” – Gary Lutz, “People Shouldn’t Have to Be the Ones to Tell You”

“It’s so silly, and really it’s my own stupid fault. Ed’ll kill me, not for the money but like they say for the principle. You know. He thinks I’m a terrible slob that way, he’s a great one for believing in foreseeable actions. I lost the Buick last year, and the year before that I lost the baby in the parking lot. God, how I hate people of principle. All the persecutors of the world have been people of principle.” – Cynthia Ozick, “The Suitcase” (emphasis in original)

“That baby should follow baby is God’s trick on us, but surely we too can have a trick on God? If we fabricate with our syllables an immortality passed from the spines of the old to the shoulders of the young, even God cannot spite it. If the prayer-load that spilled upward from the mass graves should somehow survive! If not the thicket of lamentation itself, then the language on which it rode.” – Cynthia Ozick, “Envy; or, Yiddish in America”

“I had no idea that three-quarters of the material I would need for the rest of my writing life was already at my disposal. My father and mother. My brothers. The cast of larger-than-life characters—affectionate aunts, friends of the family, neighbors white and black—that I was presented with when I came into the world. The look of things. The weather. Men and women long at rest in the cemetery but vividly remembered. The Natural History of home: the suede glove on the front-hall table, the unfinished game of solitaire, the oriole’s nest suspended from the tip of the outermost branch of the elm tree, dandelions in the grass. All there, waiting for me to learn my trade and recognize instinctively what would make a story or sustain the complicated cross-weaving of longer fiction.” – William Maxwell, “Preface,” All the Days and Nights

“If I avoid metaphor, and if I have to think of a reason why, it may be that I don’t want to distract from the one thing that I’m concentrating on, and a metaphor immediately does that. It introduces some completely, even incongruous, other image and world. And it can work very beautifully, but maybe I don’t want to leave the scene of what I’m describing.” – Lydia Davis, (interviewed by Andrea Aguilar and Johanne Fronth-Nygren in Paris Review)

“Perhaps a revolution can overthrow autocratic despotism and profiteering or power-grabbing oppression, but it can never truly reform a manner of thinking; instead, new prejudices, just like the old ones they replace, will serve as a leash for the great unthinking mass.” – Immanuel Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?” (trans. Ted Humphrey)

“Nobody knows what should be done, in spite of all the talk. The young ones get mad because they’ve no money to spend. Their whole life depends on spending money, and now they’ve got none to spend. That’s our civilisation and our education: bring up the masses to depend entirely on spending money, and then the money gives out.” – D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

“It is the way our sympathy flows and recoils that really determines our lives. And here lies the vast importance of the novel, properly handled. It can inform and lead into new places the flow of our sympathetic consciousness, and it can lead our sympathy away in recoil from things gone dead. Therefore, the novel, properly handled, can reveal the most secret places of life: for it is in the passional secret places of life, above all, that the tide of sensitive awareness needs to ebb and flow, cleansing and freshening.” – D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (emphasis in original)

“In one’s dealings with the young it behoves one to display the scientific spirit, to exhibit the principles of enlightenment—not only for purposes of mental discipline, but on the human and individual side, in order not to wound them or indirectly offend their political sensibilities; particularly in these days, when there is so much tinder in the air, opinions are so frightfully split up and chaotic, and you may so easily incur attacks from one party or the other, or even give rise to scandal, by taking sides on a point of history.” – Thomas Mann, Disorder and Early Sorrow (trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter)