Novels

All humanity is passion; without passion, religion, history, novels, art would be ineffectual.

One hundred years after its invention, film art still occupies a marginal place in academic circles. The very activity of watching television is routinely dismissed as inherently inferior to the activity of reading, regardless of content. But narrative beauty is independent of medium. Oral tales, pictorial stories, plays, novels, movies, and television shows can all range from the lame and sensationalist to the heartbreaking and illuminating. We need every available form of expression and all the new ones we can muster to help us understand who we are and what we are doing.

Novels teach the youthful mind to sigh after happiness that never existed.

Do not fear to put novels into the hands of young people as an occasional holiday experiment, but above all, good poetry in all kinds - epic, tragedy, lyric. If we can touch the imagination, we serve them; they will never forget it.

The present era grabs everything that was ever written in order to transform it into films, TV programmes, or cartoons. What is essential in a novel is precisely what can only be expressed in a novel, and so every adaptation contains nothing but the non-essential. If a person is still crazy enough to write novels nowadays and wants to protect them, he has to write them in such a way that they cannot be adapted, in other words, in such a way that they cannot be retold.

For the Age has itself become vulgar, and most people have no idea to what extent they are themselves tainted. The bad manners of all parliaments, the general tendency to connive at a rather shady business transaction if it promises to bring in money without work, jazz and Negro dances as the spiritual outlet in all circles of society, women painted like prostitutes, the efforts of writers to win popularity by ridiculing in their novels and plays the correctness of well-bred people, and the bad taste shown even by the nobility and old princely families in throwing off every kind of social restraint and time-honored custom: all of these go to prove that it is now the vulgar mob that gives the tone.

Good novels are not written, they are rewritten. Great novels are diamonds mined from layered rewrites.

At least half the mystery novels published violate the law that the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable.

The solution, once revealed, must seem to have been inevitable. At least half of all the mystery novels published violate this law.

I wonder if we are all wrong about each other, if we are just composing unwritten novels about the people we meet?

A certain class of novels may with propriety be called fables.

Not to know the end of the tale filled me with a sense of emptiness, loss. I hungered for the sharp, frightening, breathtaking, almost painful excitement that the story had given me, and I vowed that as soon as I was old enough I would buy all the novels there were and read them to feed that thirst for violence that was in me, for intrigue, for plotting, for secrecy, for bloody murders. So profoundly responsive a chord had the tale struck in me that the threats of my mother and grandmother had no effect whatsoever. They read my insistence as mere obstinacy, as foolishness, something that would quickly pass; and they had no notion how desperately serious the tale had made me. They could not have known that Ella's whispered story of deception and murder had been the first experience in my life that had elicited from me a total emotional response. No words or punishment could have possibly made me doubt. I had tasted what to me was life, and I would have more of it, somehow, someway.

Reading was like a drug, a dope. The novels created moods in which I lived for days.

Foolish people laugh at those readers a century ago who wept over the novels of Dickens. Is it a sign of superior intellect to read anything and everything unmoved, in a grey, unfeeling Limbo?

I feel that what is wrong with scores of modern novels which show literary quality, but which are repellent and depressing to the spirit is not that the writers have rejected a morality, but that they have one which is unexamined, trivial, and lopsided. They have a base concept of life; they bring immense gusto to their portrayals of what is perverse, shabby, and sordid, but they have no clear notion of what is Evil; the idea of Good is unattractive to them, and when they have to deal with it, they do so in terms of the sentimental or the merely pathetic. Briefly, some of them write very well, but they write from base minds that have been unimproved by thought or instruction. They feel, but they do not think. And the readers to whom they appeal are the products of our modern universal literacy, whose feeling is confused and muddled by just such reading, and who have been deluded that their mental processes are indeed a kind of thought.

The novels and poems which proceed from writers in the grip of this barren pessimism are of the kind which make narrow moralists fume, and use words like decadence; the writers rejoice, because making narrow moralists (who are usually frightened people) hop with rage is a sign that they have hit a mark, and they do not understand how poor and easy a mark it is.

Thus, the poet's word is beginning to strike forcefully upon the hearts of all men, while absolute men of letters think that they alone live in the real world.

In love, unlike most other passions, the recollection of what you have had and lost is always better than what you can hope for in the future.

In the choice of a lover a woman places more importance on how other women view him than on how she herself sees him.

Let me enjoy the earth no less because the all-enacting light that fashioned forth its loveliness had other aims than my delight.