I'm so sorry -- we had this cottage up in Lake Maxinkuckee, in Culver. I've thought so often of the poor Pottawattomies we took this land away from. They must have loved it so.
And, if you'll investigate the history of science, my dear boy, I think you'll find that most of the really big ideas have come from intelligent playfulness. All the sober, thin-lipped concentration is really just a matter of tidying up around the fringes of the big ideas.
I love you, because the love you gave me was the only love I've ever had, the only love I ever will have.
Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgment Day: We never asked to be born in the first place.
Our classes were relatively small. Those small classes can feel like family. After a class in French or chemistry or whatever, we'd be talking in the halls about what we just learned.
1. Find a subject you care about.
2. Do not ramble, though.
3. Keep it simple.
4. Have the guts to cut.
5. Sound like yourself.
6. Say what you mean to say.
7. Pity the readers.
I can see where influential people would like Maharishi better than Jesus. My God, if the Beatles and Mia Farrow went to Jesus, He'd tell them to give all their money away.
On the day they dropped the bomb Frank had a tablespoon and a Mason jar. What he was doing was spooning different kinds of bugs into the jar and making them fight....I can remember other bug fights we staged later on...They won't fight unless you keep shaking the jar.
I love cell phones. I see people so happy and proud, walking around. Gesturing, you know. I'm like Karl Marx, I'm up for anything that makes people happy.
The moral of the story is we're here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around.
There are plenty of good reasons for fighting.
There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, I said, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too.
I apologize because of the terrible mess the planet is in. But it has always been a mess. There have never been any 'Good Old Days,' there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, 'Don't look at me. I just got here myself.'
Reading a novel, War and Peace for example, is no Catnap. Because a novel is so long, reading one is like being married forever to somebody nobody knows or cares about.
Nietzsche had a little one-liner on how to choose a wife. He said, ''Are you willing to have a conversation with this woman for the next forty years?'' That's how to pick a wife.
Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.
I'm an old guy, and I was protesting during the Vietnam War. We killed fifty Asians for every loyal American. Every artist worth a damn in this country was terribly opposed to that war, finally, when it became evident what a fiasco and meaningless butchery it was.
His response was to fight it with the only weapons at hand--passive resistance and open displays of contempt.
It's perfectly ordinary to be a socialist. It's perfectly normal to be in favor of fire departments.
I am beguiled by your physical beauty, and I am moved by how head-over-heels in love with books you are. And nowhere else have I found such thoughtful and literate reportage on the state of the American soul, as that soul makes itself known in the books we write.
Like all real heroes, Charley had a fatal flaw. He refused to believe that he had gonorrhea, whereas the truth was that he did.
You have never seen greatness in a Presidency; I have. It was a rich kid who you would think had every reason to be a horse's ass -- Franklin Roosevelt. He was humane and wise and resourceful. He was called a traitor to his class.
You have never seen greatness in a Presidency; I have. It was a rich kid who you would think had every reason to be a horse's ass -- Franklin Roosevelt. He was humane and wise and resourceful. He was called a traitor to his class. With George Bush, that charge would never stick.
I wanted all things to seem to make some sense, So we could all be happy, yes, instead of tense. And I made up lies, so they all fit nice, and I made this sad world a paradise.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers -- joined in the serious business of keeping our food, shelter, clothing and loved ones from combining with oxygen.
Where you can see tribal behavior now is in this business about teaching evolution in a science class and intelligent design. It's the scientists themselves are behaving tribally.
If it weren't for the message of mercy and pity in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, I wouldn't want to be a human being. I would just as soon be a rattlesnake.
These were my people -- as used as I was to wanting love from nowhere, as certain as I was that almost anything desirable was likely to be booby-trapped.
If everybody would leave him alone for just a little while, he thought, he
wouldn't cause anybody any more trouble. He would turn to steam and float up among
If I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I'm grateful that so many of those moments are nice.
You know -- we've had to imagine the war here, and we have imagined that it was being fought by aging men like ourselves. We had forgotten that wars were fought by babies. When I saw those freshly shaved faces, it was a shock. 'My God, my God -- ' I said to myself, 'It's the Children's Crusade.
The Population Reference Bureau predicts that the world's total population will double to 7,000,000,000 before the year 2000. I suppose they will all want dignity, I said.
If I hadn't spent so much time studying Earthlings, said the Tralfamadorian, I wouldn't have any idea what was meant by 'free will.' I've visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.
I think you guys are going to have to come up with a lot of wonderful new lies, or people just aren't going to want to go on living.
I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled Science Fiction ... and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.
The people who lived here hated it so much that they had burned down a lot of it a month before. It was all they had, and they'd wrecked it.
Homo Americanus is going to go on speaking and writing the way he always has, no matter what dictionary he owns.
The people who taught really knew their stuff. My chemistry teacher, Frank Wade, was actually a chemist. I was so lucky in a number of ways.
There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.
It seems to me divorce is so common now. It ought to be more institutionalized. It's like a head-on collision every time. It's supposed to be a surprise but it's commonplace.
One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.
One thing I hate about school committees today is that they cut arts programs out of the curriculum because they say the arts aren't a way to make a living.
If you actually are an educated, thinking person, you will not be welcome in Washington, D.C. I know a couple of bright seventh graders who would not be welcome in Washington D.C.
The polls demonstrate that 50 percent of Americans who get their news from TV think Saddam Hussein was behind the Twin Towers attack. Man, have they got ways for getting half-truths out right away now, thanks to TV! I think TV is a calamity in a democracy.
There is a tragic flaw in our precious constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.
I had taught myself that a human being might as well look for diamond tiaras in the gutter as for rewards and punishments that were fair.
The library is full of stories of supposed triumphs which makes me very suspicious of it. It's misleading for people to read about great successes, since even for middle-class and upper-class white people, in my experience, failure is the norm.
When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away.
When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away -- even if it's only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.
Unfortunately, that still leaves plenty of Americans who don't read much or think much -- who will still be extremely useful in unjust wars. We are sick about that. We did the best we could.
Trout's leading robot looked like a human being, and could talk and dance and so on, and go out with girls. And nobody held it against him that he dropped jellied gasoline on people. But they found his halitosis unforgivable. But then he cleared that up, and he was welcomed to the human race.
The New York Daily News suggested that my biggest war crime was not killing myself like a gentleman. Presumably Hitler was a gentleman.
Poverty is a relatively mild disease for even a very flimsy American soul, but uselessness will kill strong and weak souls alike, and kill every time.
The little girls were wearing black party dresses and black party shoes, so strangers would know at once how nice they were.
What geography can give all Middle Westerners, along with the fresh water and topsoil, if they let it, is awe for an Edenic continent stretching forever in all directions. Makes you religious. Takes your breath away.
If you make people laugh or cry about little black marks on sheets of white paper, what is that but a practical joke? All the great story lines are great practical jokes that people fall for over and over again.
After that demonstration everybody was thinking, what's going to happen to these wonderful men who have been so useful to us? We have to give people something to do with life.
Is there nothing I have done which will outlive me, other than the opprobrium of my first wife and sons and grandchildren? Do I care? Doesn't everybody? Poor me. Poor practically everybody, with so little durable good to leave behind!
When the last living thing
Has died on account of us,
How poetical it would be
If Earth could say,
In a voice floating up
From the floor
Of the Grand Canyon,
It is done.
People did not like it here.
Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.
Sometimes I wonder if he wasn't born dead. I never met a man who was less interested in the living. Sometimes I think that's the trouble with the world: too many people in high places who are stone-cold dead.
You can't teach people to write well. Writing well is something God lets you do or declines to let you do.
The heartbreaking necessity of lying about reality and the heartbreaking impossibilty of lying about it.
Artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive.
They are supersensitive.
They keel over like canaries in coal mines filled with poison gas,
long before more robust types realize that any danger is there.
There is never a shortage anywhere of lawyers eager to attack the First Amendment, as though it were nothing more than a clause in a lease from a crooked slumlord.
The waitress brought me another drink. She wanted to light my hurricane lamp again. I wouldn't let her. Can you see anything in the dark, with your sunglasses on? she asked me. The big show is inside my head, I said.
It's incumbent on the President to entertain. Clinton did a better job of it -- and was forgiven for the scandals, incidentally. Bush is entertaining us with what I call the Republican Super Bowl, which is played by the lower classes using live ammunition.
Persuasive guessing has been at the core of leadership for so long, for all human experience so far, that it is wholly unsurprising that most of the leaders of this planet, in spite of all the information that is suddenly ours, want the guessing to go on.
There i was in late middle age, cut loose in a thoroughly looted, bankrupt nation whose assets had been sold off to foreigners, a nation swamped by unchecked plagues and superstition and illiteracy and hypnotic tv, with virtually no health services for the poor. where to go? what to do?
War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the First World War so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun.
The reason we write fiction is because it's so much easier to exist spending part of each day in an imaginary world.
I can think of another quickie education for a child, which, in its way, is almost as salutary: Meeting a human being who is tremendously respected by the adult world, and realizing that that person is actually a malicious lunatic.
I've been living alone for so long, everything about me's private. I'm surprised anyone's able to understand a word I say.
This is what i find most encouraging about the writing trades: they allow mediocre people who are patient and industrious to revise their stupidity, to edit themselves into something like intelligence. They also allow lunatics to seem saner than sane.
He ate a pear. It was a hard one. It fought back against his grinding teeth. It snapped in juicy protest.
I paraphrase Aristotle: If you want to be comical, write about people to whom the audience can feel superior; if you want to be tragical, write about at least one person to whom the audience is bound to feel inferior, and no fair having human problems solved by dumb luck or heavenly intervention.
Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.
Never take liquor into the bedroom. Don't stick anything in your ears. Be anything but an architect. Live in a nice country rather than a powerful one. Power makes everybody crazy. Get somebody to teach you to play a musical instrument.
You can't write novels without a touch of paranoia. I'm paranoid as an act of good citizenship, concerned about what the powerful people are up to.
Of course, socialism is just evil now. It's completely discredited supposedly by the collapse of the Soviet Union, but I can't help noticing that my grandchildren are heavily in hock to Communist China now which is evidently a whole lot better at business than we are.
What has been America's most nurturing contribution to the culture of this planet so far? Many would say jazz. I, who love jazz, will say this instead: Alcoholics Anonymous.
That is my principal objection to life, I think: It's too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes.
Aside from battles, the history of nations seemed to consist of nothing but powerless old poops like myself, heavily medicated and vaguely beloved in the long ago, coming to kiss the boots of young psychopaths.
All the new technology seems redundant to me. I was quite happy with the United States mail service. And, I don't even have an answering machine, for God's sake.
So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.
Any man who would change the World in a significant way must have showmanship, a genial willingness to shed other people's blood, and a plausible new religion to introduce during the brief period of repentance and horror that usually follows bloodshed.
The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers. The people don't acknowledge this. They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead.
I will say, too, that lovemaking, if sincere, is one of the best ideas Satan put in the apple she gave to the serpent to give to Eve. The best idea in that apple, though, is making jazz.
Scientific truth was going to make us so happy and comfortable. What actually happened when I was twenty-one was that we dropped scientific truth on Hiroshima.
Love is a hawk with velvet claws love is a rock with heart and veins love is a lion with satin jaws love is a storm with silken reins.
I'm simply interested in what is going to happen next. I don't think I can control my life or my writing. Every other writer I know feels he is steering himself, and I don't have that feeling. I don't have that sort of control. I'm simply becoming. I'm startled that I became a writer.
It is just an illusion here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever.
After the thing went off, after it was a sure thing that America could wipe out a city with just one bomb, a scientist turned to Father and said, 'Science has now known sin.' And do you know what Father said? He said, 'What is sin?
All that has changed, in my opinion, is that, thanks to television, we can hide a great depression. we may even be hiding a third world war.
Much of the conversation in the country consisted of lines from television shows, both past and present.
There is a strong feeling in the Middle West that the artist is not pulling his own weight no matter how hard he may work, that the other people are doing the real stuff.
Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules -- and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress.
Has any psychological experiment yielded a more delightful suggestion than this one: that there is a part of the mind without ambition or information, which nonetheless is expert on what is beautiful?
I think big business is a terrible thing for the spirit of the country, as our spirit is the best thing about us.
I'm convinced that no one can amount to a damn in the arts if he becomes sweetly reasonable, seeing all sides of a picture, forgiving all sins.
We would be a lot safer if the Government would take its money out of science and put it into astrology and the reading of palms. I used to think that science would save us, and science certainly tried. But we can't stand any more tremendous explosions, either for or against democracy.
What's going to happen is, very soon, we're going to run out of petroleum, and everything depends on petroleum. And there go the school buses. There go the fire engines. The food trucks will come to a halt. This is the end of the world.
People stopped calling themselves Freethinkers because it was so specifically German and anything German was terribly unpopular because of the two world wars. My family became Unitarians instead -- it's the same sort of thing.
In case nobody has told you, she said, this is the United States of America, where nobody has a right to rely on anybody else -- where everybody learns to make his or her own way.
America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves.
It is a big temptation to me, when I create a character for a novel, to say that he is what he is because of faulty wiring, or because of microscopic amounts of chemicals which he ate or failed to eat on that particular day.
The youngest child in any family is always a jokemaker, because a joke is the only way he can enter into an adult conversation.
I had a friend who was a heavy drinker. If somebody asked him if he'd been drunk the night before, he would always answer offhandedly, 'Oh, I imagine.' I've always liked that answer. It acknowledges life as a dream.
Human beings used to be molecules which could do many, many different sorts of dances, or decline to dance at all -- as they pleased. My mother could do the waltz, the tango, the rumba.
Vietnam was a country where America was trying to make people stop being communists by dropping things on them from airplanes.
You should be careful about who you pretend to be, because who you pretend to be -- is actually who you are!
I wish that people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other, when they fight, Please -- a little less love, and a little more common decency.
If there really had been a Mercutio, and if there really were a Paradise, Mercutio might be hanging out with teenage Vietnam draftee casualties now, talking about what it felt like to die for other people's vanity and foolishness.
You can't just eat good food. You've got to talk about it too. And you've got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.
What war has always been is a puberty ceremony.
What war has always been is a puberty ceremony. It's a very rough one, but you went away a boy and came back a man, maybe with an eye missing or whatever but godammit you were a man and people had to call you a man thereafter.
Americans... are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it can never be. It must have something to do with the vanished frontier.
Even as I speak, the very last polar bear may be dying of hunger on account of climate change, on account of us. And I sure miss the polar bears. Their babies are so warm and cuddly and trusting, just like ours.
I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without expectations of rewards or punishments after I am dead.
Plato, by the way, wanted to banish all poets from his proposed Utopia because they were liars. The truth was that Plato knew philosophers couldn't compete successfully with poets.
We're doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That's what it is to be alive. It's pretty dense kids who haven't figured that out by the time they're ten.... Most kids can't afford to go to Harvard and be misinformed.
Anyway--because we are readers, we don't have to wait for some communications executive to decide what we should think about next--and how we should think about it. We can fill our heads with anything from aardvarks to zucchinis--at any time of night or day.
Mister, when I see my first lady angel, if God ever sees fit to show me one, it'll be her wings not her face that'll make my mouth fall open. I've already seen the prettiest face that ever could be.
Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward.
We went to the New York World's Fair, saw what the past had been like, according to the Ford Motor Car Company and Walt Disney, saw what the future would be like, according to General Motors. And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.
We're a terribly lonesome society. For all I know, all societies are. You can make a few new friends, that's all. You can't change history. History is happening to us now.
I used my daughter's crayons for each main character. One end of the wallpaper was the beginning of the story, and the other end was the end, and then there was all that middle part, which was the middle.
Because we grew up surrounded by big dramatic story arcs in books and movies, we think our lives are supposed to be filled with huge ups and downs. So people pretend there is drama where there is none.
We are America's Great Lakes people, her freshwater people, not an oceanic but a continental people. Whenever I swim in an ocean, I feel as though I am swimming in chicken soup.
The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody would be to not be used for anything by anybody. Thank you for using me, even though I didn't want to be used by anybody.
Be patient. Your future will come to you and lie down at your feet like a dog who knows and loves you no matter what you are.