While it’s not a slow news day, I’m really ready for a break from all the Obama news that we seem to be inundated with each second (from his kids’ dog–which they still haven’t got, that should tell us something about his delivering on promises, to his wife’s veggie garden, to his every stuttered utterance). So I thought I’d talk about me. Well, not me me, I don’t do that, but about some of my very favorite quotes, the ones I rehash time and again and the ones that I just appreciate in silence.
“And so it goes” . . . from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. The book, for those who haven’t read it, is a postmodern masterpiece of disjointed narrative and dark cynicism. “And so it goes” is repeated throughout the novel and seems to mean a couple different things in different parts. The most obvious reading and the one that I usually mean when I say or write it is that of tired cynicism, “how else would it go? *sigh*”
“Isn’t it pretty to think so?” . . . from Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Last line of the novel, uttered by the protagonist to the flighty Brett Ashley. This modern novel is one of Hemingway’s tighter novels (Hemingway was a master of the short story), and this line does everything a Hemingway line does in his short fiction: it captures the emotion and the meaning of the moment in it’s truest sense. Hope, dreams, and all those things we humans cling to have been swept away in the tide of change, war, and physical and emotional scarring. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” is empty and hollow, it resonates with regret, with things lost–and never really had.
“To [insert verbal] or not to [insert other verbal]” . . . from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Obviously, the quote is “to be or not to be,” but it’s more fun to modify for various occasions. You should try it sometime, gets a party hopping.
The whole soliloquy is actually quite beautiful (and worthy of sticking in here, I think):
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. – Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.
Ahhh . . . reading that is such a pleasure! And it reminded me that I also say “Aye, there’s the rub” a lot. Or actually, just “there’s the rub,” I’m not one for the “Aye’s.”
Okay, back to my list . . .
“There’s no there there” . . . from Gertrude Stein’s Autobiography. She’s referring to Oakland, CA where she grew up, but the quote seems to contain all of her apathy for much of American culture and society. If it doesn’t, it should.
“A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” . . . from Gertrude Stein again, but I can’t recall which text off hand and already googled the Hamlet speech above, so hit my google quota for this off the top of my head post. Anyway, the quote does a couple of things, which is why I like it. First, it’s obviously saying that something is what it is, we’ve agreed that a sign (or name) signifies something, so we all know what that something is when we hear the signifier. The second thing I like about it is the repetition, as with “there’s no there there,” Stein uses the repetition to great effect: by the time you’ve gotten to the second “rose,” you have a second sense impression be it an image or an association or a memory. At the third “rose,” you’re almost overwhelmed by the multiplicity of the thing itself. It’s all rather lovely. Now that I think about it, I think that in its original context, the line refers to someone named “Rose,” as well, so we have that layer. Weee, isn’t this fun? And to add to the hilarity of any moment, you can insert anything you like in place of “rose.” The effect is the same.
Okay, this is getting longer than I’d intended, so I’ll leave it at that. One can take only so much self-indulgent blather.