Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Richard Powers

American Novelist and Computer Professional, Winner of National Book Award for Fiction with "The Echo Maker"

"Science is not about control. It is about cultivating a perpetual condition of wonder in the face of something that forever grows one step richer and subtler than our latest theory about it. It is about reverence, not mastery."

"A common misconception among homeowners when it comes to home remodeling and renovation is that cost equals value. However, not every renovation or remodeling effort will pay off at closing."

"Early detection enables persons to benefit most from available medications that can help slow the progress of symptoms, and psychological and social interventions that can ease the journey for families. And it enables individuals to exercise self-determination related to future care, and legal and financial issues."

"Evil is the refusal to see one's self in others."

"I don't mind arguing with myself. It's when I lose that it bothers me."

"Art is a way of saying what it means to be alive, and the most salient feature of existence is the unthinkable odds against it. For every way that there is of being here, there are an infinity of ways of not being here. Historical accident snuffs out whole universes with every clock tick. Statistics declare us ridiculous. Thermodynamics prohibits us. Life, by any reasonable measure, is impossible, and my life, this, here, now, infinitely more so. Art is a way of saying, in the face of all that impossibility, just how worth celebrating it is to be able to say anything at all."

"Maybe happiness is like a virus. Maybe it's one of those bugs that sits for a long time, so we don't even know that we are infected."

"For a moment, looking felt like something that happened to you rather than something you did. Not 'Are you who I think you are?' Am I who you think I am?"

"On the ride back south, she tapped all the anger-management tricks they'd given her in job training. They played across her windshield like PowerPoint slides. Number One: It's not about you. Number Two: Your plan is not the world's. Number Three: The mind can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."

"Synapses in motion tend to stay in motion. Synapses at rest tend to stay at rest."

"Librarian is a service occupation. Gas station attendant of the mind."

"Terrorists still prefer car bombs, you know. A car bomb still has a lot impact than a cyber-attack. But there is always the possibility that somebody could make some kind of dramatic statement by bringing down some aspect of the infrastructure."

"Still, history is the long process of outsourcing human ability in order to leverage more of it."

"The morning was glorious, one of those crystalline, dry, blue, fall days when the temperature hovers right at anticipation."

"Time passes, as the novelist says. The single most useful trick of fiction for our repair and refreshment: the defeat of time. A century of family saga and a ride up an escalator can take the same number of pages. Fiction sets any conversion rate, then changes it in a syllable. The narrator"

"The web: yet another total disorientation that becomes status quo without anyone realizing it."

"When you're sure of what you're looking at, look harder."

"We're entering a whole new era now. America has suffered a terrorist attack of historic proportions, and now we're going to go after the perpetrators. Cyber-attacks may be inevitable... Physical and cyber-attacks in conjunction could cause panic across a whole economic sector."

"What was acrophobia anyway, if not the half-acknowledged desire to jump?"

"All the different ways we know the world all come from the brain, and they all depend on each other to make sense."

"All we can ever do is lay a word in the hands of those who have put one in ours."

"A book is still atemporal. It is you, in silence, hearing voices in your head, unfolding at a time that has nothing to do with the timescale of reading. And for the hours that we retreat into this moratorium, with the last form of private and silent human activity that isn't considered pathological, we are outside of time."

"Everything interests me."

"For me it's connection-the pleasure of an expansive, long-ranging dinner conversation with people who do all sorts of things and being able to come back to that night, night after night, and pick up threads and follow them. There's a voyeuristic pleasure, there's a synthetic pleasure, but primarily it's the pleasure of being able to live in a frame of time that the rest of life conspires to annihilate."

"And you, fallen Wendy, eviscerated by the eternal recurrence of it all, hear Peter snarl at you for growing guilty and big and old..."

"For me, university was just awful because it was closing one door after the other of all these candy shops of professional possibilities."

"I happen to believe that the deepest value of fiction is that, in its very fictiveness, it is the one arena where we can, at least temporarily, take apart and refuse to compete within the terms that the rest of existence insists on. Market value may come to drive out all other human values, except, perhaps, in the country of invented currency, the completely barter-driven economy of the imagination. Fiction, when it remembers its innate priority over other human transactions, can deal not in price but in worth. And that seems to me an act filled with political potential, as well as with pleasure."

"I like to travel and connect."

"I keep a quotes journal - of every sentence that I've wanted to remember from my reading of the past 30 years."

"I really like science because it seems to be that place where you get the big picture, everything connects."

"I picked up an old microscope at a flea market in Verona. In the long evenings, in my imitation of life science, I set up in the courtyard and examined local specimens. Pointless pleasure, stripped of ends. The ancient contadino from across the road, long since convinced that we were mad, could not resist coming over for a look. I showed him where to put his eye. I watched him, thinking, this is how we attach to existence. We look through awareness?s tube and see the swarm at the end of the scope, taking what we come upon there for the full field of sight itself."

"I think that if the novel's task is to describe where we find ourselves and how we live now, the novelist must take a good, hard look at the most central facts of contemporary life - technology and science."

"I used to work for 12 or 14 hours at a time but the digital age has made such happy immersions almost impossible."

"I would say the flip side to my fascination with systems is a fascination with components. So many of my books are dialogues between little and big."

"If you're going to immerse yourself in a project for three years, why not stake out a chunk of the world that is completely alien to you and go traveling?"

"I?m eighty-eight years old and I never knew what was in a droplet of water."

"In that weekly ecstatic keeping of faith and bearing of witness, Delia fell in love with singing. Singing was something that might make sense of a person. Singing might make more sense of life than living had to start with."

"I write the way you might arrange flowers. Not every try works, but each one launches another. Every constraint, even dullness, frees up a new design."

"I'd like, each time out as a writer, to reinvent who I am and what I'm doing. That's one of the great pleasures and rewards of the occupation."

"In 25 years of writing novels, I've never had anything that felt like writer's block."

"Information may travel at light speed, but meaning spreads at the speed of dark."

"It had to be U. U. was the only town I could still bear, the one spot in the atlas I'd already absorbed head-on. When you take too many of your critical hits in one place, that place can no longer hurt you."

"Music forecasts the past, recalls the future. Now and then the difference falls away, and in one simple gift of circling sound, the ear solves the scrambled cryptogram. One abiding rhythm, present and always, and you're free. But a few measures more, and the cloak of time closes back around you."

"My dream has always been to suspend myself in space when I write, and lying horizontal in bed is the closest to doing that."

"Only keep still, wait, and hear, and the world will open."

"Novel-writing is the only place where someone who would have liked to do anything can still do that vicariously."

"My goal for technology has always been to reach a point where the technological mediation becomes invisible."

"Out of grad school, I worked as a tech writer for a while before going into computer coding for a living."

"Only white men have the luxury of ignoring race."

"Reading is the last act of secular prayer."