‘The people that I tend to have speaking in my books have a momentary emergence, like someone getting out of the sea and standing on a rock for a minute and sort of looking around, and for whatever reason they can see where they are. They can see themselves and they can see what’s around them and say what it is. The times that one can do that in life—it’s probably not that many.’

– Rachel Cusk, The Art of Fiction No. 246, The Paris Review

‘Peggy, who had been living with her parents all along, decided not to do so anymore. She said that she was sick of them. She said it as if her parents were a style of dressing she had outgrown. I had never heard anyone speak of their parents in this way; I never even knew you could make them seem trivial, trinketlike, mere pests. I was not sure whether to admire her or feel sorry for her because she hadn’t got parents whose personalities were on a larger scale, parents whose presence you are reminded of with each breath you take.’

– Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

‘One day I was a child and then I was not. Everyone told me this: You are no longer a child. I had started to menstruate, I grew breasts, tufts of hair appeared under my arms and between my legs. I grew taller all of a sudden, and it was hard to manage so much new height all at once. One day I was living silently in a personal hell, without anyone to tell what I felt, without even knowing that the feelings I had were possible to have; and then one day I was not living like that at all. I had begun to see the past like this: there is a line; you can draw it yourself, or sometimes it gets drawn for you; either way, there it is, your past, a collection of people you used to be and things you used to do. Your past is the person you no longer are, the situations you are no longer in.’

– Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

‘That day I decided to go and buy a camera. Mariah had given me a book of photographs, because in the museum were some photographs I particularly liked. They were photographs of ordinary people in a countryside doing ordinary things, but for some reason that was not at all clear to me the people and the things they were doing looked extraordinary – as if these people and these things had not existed before.’

– Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

‘I did not like Sundays, and this one was not an exception. I could not believe this feeling about Sundays had followed me halfway across the world. I could not explain it, this feeling. What exactly was Sunday meant to be? Always on that day I felt such despair I would have been happy to turn into something as useful as a dishrag. When I was at home, in my parents’ house, I used to make a list of all the things that I was quite sure would not follow me if only I could cross the vast ocean that lay before me; I used to think that just a change in venue would banish forever from my life the things I most despised. But that was not to be so. As each day unfolded before me, I could see the sameness in everything; I could see the present take shape – the shape of my past.’

– Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

‘Mariah says, “I have Indian blood in me,” and underneath everything I could swear she says it as if she were announcing her possession of a trophy. How do you get to be the sort of victor who can claim to be the vanquished also?’

– Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

‘What a surprise this was to me, that I longed to be back in the place that I came from, that I longed to sleep in a bed I had outgrown, that I longed to be with people whose smallest, most natural gestures would call up in me such a rage that I longed to see them all dead at my feet.’

– Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

‘People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.’

– Iris Murdoch

‘Geometry attempts to recapture the orderly movement from an infinite formlessness to an endless interconnected array of forms, and in recreating this mysterious passage from One to Two, it renders it symbolically visible.

From both the metaphysical and natural points of view it is false to say that in order to arrive at two, you take two ones and put them together. One only need look at the way in which a living cell becomes two. For One by definition is singular, it is Unity, therefore all inclusive. There cannot be two Ones. Unity, as the perfect symbol for God, divides itself from within itself, thus creating Two: the ‘self’ and the ‘me’ of God, so to speak; the creator unity and the created multiplicity.’

– Robert Lawlor, Sacred Geometry

‘What they (the geometers) really seek is to get sight of those realities which can be seen only by the mind.’

Plato, Republic, VII

‘The implicit goal of this (classical) education was to enable the mind to become a channel through which the ‘earth’ (the level of manifested form) could receive the abstract, cosmic life of the heavens. The practice of geometry was an approach to the way in which the universe is ordered and sustained. Geometric diagrams can be contemplated as still moments revealing a continuous, timeless, universal action generally hidden from our sensory perception. Thus a seemingly common mathematical activity can become a discipline for intellectual and spiritual insight.’

– Robert Lawlor, Sacred Geometry

‘What is God? He is length, width, height and depth.’

– St Bernard of Clairvaux, On Consideration

‘All our senses function in response to the geometrical differences inherent in the stimuli they receive. When we smell a rose we are not responding to the chemical substances of its perfume, but instead to the geometry of their molecular construction. Any chemical substance that is bonded together in the same geometry as that of a rose will smell as sweet.’

– Robert Lawlor, Sacred Geometry

“When you’re an artist you’re searching for freedom. You’ll never find it cos there ain’t any freedom, but at least you’ve searched for it. In fact, art could be called The Search.”

– Alice Neel

‘I remember how I finished the story “A Butterfly on F Street.” I was seeing a therapist at the time, in 1990 or ’91, because I was in a depressive mood. And I came back on the subway to Rosslyn, where I would take the bus to my apartment in Arlington. All of a sudden the final part of the story just came to me for some reason. I wasn’t even thinking about the story when I got on the subway, then all of a sudden I was thinking about it and it unfolded – just like that. Maybe that’s why I don’t really lash my back and worry about not working. I figure it it’s going to come to you, it’ll come to you. If I had pushed myself for some sort of proper ending, I don’t think I would have had the ending that’s there in the story now.’

– Edward P. Jones, The Art of Fiction No. 222, The Paris Review

‘Isaac Bashevis Singer said, “There’s no great art in confusing the reader.” That’s one of the laws you live by. Make it plain. Make it plain all the way through. Starting from “Once upon a time.” The emotions are indeed there, but you need not express them with neon lights.’

– Edward P. Jones, The Art of Fiction No. 222, The Paris Review

‘When you know you’ve hit the right notes, you just sit there and read the same paragraphs over and over and over again. It’s always a good idea to stop right there for the day, because if you continue, you might run out of whatever it is that made you hit those notes.’

– Edward P. Jones, The Art of Fiction No. 222, The Paris Review

But the truth is, you can never leave home. You take it with you; it’s under your fingernails; it’s in the hair follicles; it’s in the way you smile; it’s in the ride of your hips, in the passage of your breasts; it’s all there, no matter where you go. You can take on the affectations and the postures of other places and even learn to speak their ways. But the truth is, home is between your teeth. Everybody’s always looking for it: Jews go to Israel; black Americans and Africans in the Diaspora go to Africa; Europeans, Anglo-Saxons go to England and Ireland; people of Germanic background go to Germany. It’s a very queer quest.’

– Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Review

‘There is, I hope, a thesis in my work: we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. That sounds goody-two-shoes, I know, but I believe that a diamond is the result of extreme pressure and time. Less time is crystal. Less than that is coal. Less than that is fossilized leaves. Less than that it’s just plain dirt. In all my work, in the movies I write, the lyrics, the poetry, the prose, the essays, I am saying that we may encounter many defeats—maybe it’s imperative that we encounter the defeats—but we are much stronger than we appear to be and maybe much better than we allow ourselves to be. Human beings are more alike than unalike. There’s no real mystique. Every human being, every Jew, Christian, backslider, Muslim, Shintoist, Zen Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, every human being wants a nice place to live, a good place for the children to go to school, healthy children, somebody to love, the courage, the unmitigated gall to accept love in return, someplace to party on Saturday or Sunday night, and someplace to perpetuate that God. There’s no mystique. None. And if I’m right in my work, that’s what my work says.’

– Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Review

‘Sometimes I make a character from a composite of three or four people, because the essence in any one person is not sufficiently strong to be written about. Essentially though, the work is true though sometimes I fiddle with the facts. Many of the people I’ve written about are alive today and I have them to face.’

– Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Review

‘When I’m writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound. I really love language. I love it for what it does for us, how it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and the delicacies of our existence. And then it allows us to laugh, allows us to show wit. Real wit is shown in language. We need language.’

– Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Review

‘I look at some of the great novelists, and I think the reason they are great is that they’re telling the truth. The fact is they’re using made-up names, made-up people, made-up places, and made-up times, but they’re telling the truth about the human being—what we are capable of, what makes us lose, laugh, weep, fall down, and gnash our teeth and wring our hands and kill each other and love each other.’

– Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Reveiw

‘I thought early on if I could write a book for black girls it would be good because there were so few books for a black girl to read that said this is how it is to grow up. Then, I thought, I’d better, you know, enlarge that group, the market group that I’m trying to reach. I decided to write for black boys and then white girls and then white boys.’

– Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Review

‘Oh my God, I’ve lived a very simple life! You can say, Oh yes, at thirteen this happened to me and at fourteen . . . But those are facts. But the facts can obscure the truth, what it really felt like. Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They get older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth. Not superficial costs—anybody can have that—I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like. I’m just telling a very simple story.’

– Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction Interview, The Paris Review 

‘In her blue dress, in which she had not taken Paris by storm, and her wool coat, Ruth felt shabby and obedient. The girl wore trousers and a pullover, the man a well-cut suit of tweed. A great desire for change came over Ruth and a great uncertainty as to how this might be brought about. For she knew, obscurely, that she had capacities as yet untried but that they might be for ever walled up unless her circumstances changed.’

– Anita Brookner, A Start in Life