Some of my favorite quotes about literature

August 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm 4 comments

“To write a book is for all the world like humming a song.” Laurence Sterne

“A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” Robert Frost

“Wherein lies a poet’s claim to originality? That he invents his incidents? No. That he was present when his episodes had their birth? No. That he was first to repeat them? No. None of these things has any value. He confers on them their only originality that has any value, and that is his way of telling them.” Mark Twain

“…every literature, in its main lines, reflects the chief characteristics of the people for whom, and about whom, it is written.” Edith Wharton, in The New Frenchwoman

“…the tale that’s told for no other reason but companionship, which is another (and my favorite) definition of literature, the tale that’s told for companionship and to teach something religious, of religious reverence, about real life, in this real world which literature should (and here does) reflect.” Jack Kerouac, in Satori in Paris

“The test of literature is, I suppose, whether we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it.” Elizabeth Drew

“Fiction is a web of lies that attempts to entangle the truth. And autobiography may well be the reverse: data tricked up and rearranged to invent a fictive self.” Nicholas Del Banco

“Memoir is not an act of history, but an act of memory, which is innately corrupt.” Mary Karr

“There’s no one thing that’s true. It’s all true.” Ernest Hemingway

“…every poem is a momentary stay against the confusion of the world.” Robert Frost

“The one way of tolerating existence is to lose oneself in literature as in a perpetual orgy.”  Flaubert

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” Anna Quindlen

“Literature…is a way to understand life, to appreciate living and therefore to participate in life to the fullest of your potential.” Eric Chock

“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” James Baldwin

“All one’s inventions are true, you can be sure of that. Poetry is as exact a science as geometry.” Gustave Flaubert

“The use of literature is to afford us a platform whence we may command a view of our present life, a purchase by which we may move it….we see literature best from the midst of wild nature, or from the din of affairs, or from a high religion. The field cannot be well seen from within the field.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Who is so ignorant as to maintain that poetry is not indispensable to people?…more indispensable than industry, for while industry provides the means for people to survive, poetry gives them the desire and force for life itself…” José Marti

“For me, the promised land, always seeming just beyond my reach, is the poetic masterpiece, that perfect union of words in cadence, each beckoned and shined and breathed into place, each moving in well-tried harmony of tone and texture and meaning with its neighbors, molding an almost living being so faithful to observable truth, so expressive of the mass of humanity and so aglow with the beauty of just proportions that the reader feels a chill in his legs or a catch in his throat.” James A. Emanuel, in The Force and the Reckoning

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor and teacher of writing and literature based in Silver Spring, Maryland.  She teaches literature courses in Paris and Hawaii for the Education Abroad program at Queens College, CUNY, and twice a year she offers Writing from the Heart workshops in a beautiful little village in the Champagne region of France.

Entry filed under: About Writers and their Work. Tags: .

Some Quotes about Writing Some answers to the question “Why do we write?”

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nilda  |  August 3, 2010 at 2:41 am

    Great quotes! I was inspired after reading the quotes you selected for this post. I asked my students in the ESL Business class to read a quote about learning and success. After we discussed the meaning and they discussed their thoughts on the quotes, I asked them to write a sentence that stated their belief of success and learning. I wrote the quotes on the board between quotation marks as each student read her statement; then I wrote their name to demonstrate they were the authors of the quote.
    It was great to see their faces light up when I wrote their names. They had created something that had meaning, especially for them.

    I think I will include this activity in future classes. Thanks!


  • 2. writingfeemail  |  April 2, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    What a great reminder that our words can inspire our readers to be more fully engaged within their own surroundings. When writers speak about literature, it is like adding spice to the unsalted dish – intensifying our own experience.

  • 3. Rashmi  |  July 5, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    It was of great use and i think some more should be added to this list

    • 4. Janet Hulstrand  |  August 20, 2015 at 11:29 am

      Thanks, Rashmi, glad you liked these quotes, and yes you are right! There are many more good ones that can be added to these. Bit by bit… 🙂


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