Claudia's Top Ten Favorite Book Quotes

We thought it would be fun to participate in this Top Ten Tuesday event, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic: ten favorite book quotes. This is a hard one for me to do because a. I rarely write down quotes or highlight passages and b. I tend to remember fragments with pretty writing over fragments that state big ideas, and pretty writing can't always be taken out of context. But I did my best, so here's a selection of quotes I remember liking for their writing, their eloquence or just the mood they put me in at the time. In no particular order:
  1. "Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen." --Lady Chatterley's Lover
  2. "Me. And me now." --Ulysses
  3. "His needled memory grows quiet, and until the next full moon no one will trouble the professor — neither the noseless killer of Gestas, nor the cruel fifth procurator of Judea, the equestrian Pontius Pilate." --The Master and Margarita
  4.  "I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And what do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited." --The Bell Jar 
  5.  "No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;/ Am an attendant lord, one that will do / To swell a progress, start a scene or two / Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,/ Deferential, glad to be of use,/ Politic, cautious, and meticulous;/ Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;/ At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—/Almost, at times, the Fool.'  --The Love Song of  J. Alfred Prufrock
  6. "Quentin had grown up with that; the mere names were interchangeable and almost myriad. His childhood was full of them; his very body was an empty hall echoing with sonorous defeated names; he was not a being, an entity, he was a commonwealth. He was a barracks filled with stubborn back-looking ghosts still recovering, even forty-three years afterward, from the fever which had cured the disease, waking from the fever without even knowing that it had been the fever itself which they had fought against and not the sickness, looking with stubborn recalcitrance backward beyond the fever and into the disease with actual regret, weak from the fever yet free of the disease and not even aware that the freedom was that of impotence” --Absalom, Absalom
  7.  "Somebody might have come along that way who would have asked him his trouble, and might have cheered him by saying that his notions were further advanced than those of his grammarian. But nobody did come, because nobody does; and under the crushing recognition of his gigantic error Jude continued to wish himself out of the world." --Jude the Obscure
  8.  "Something new, they had said. They had a perfect day for it. A day with the blue and gold good weather of anyone's primitive childhood expectations, when the new, brief memory tells itself that this is what is, and therefore was, and therefore will be. A good day to see a new place." --Possession 
  9.  "Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined."  --Beloved
  10. "Was she beautiful or not beautiful? and what was the secret of form or expression which gave the dynamic quality to her glance? Was the good or the evil genius dominant in those beams? Probably the evil; else why was the effect that of unrest rather than of undisturbed charm? Why was the wish to look again felt as coercion and not as a longing in which the whole being consents?" --Daniel Deronda


  1. That's one of my favorite quotes from Prufrock too. It's so sad, because he's not even the main character of his own life. My other favorite is "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." And of course the ending, which is almost too painfully lovely.
    Great list!

    1. I'm a little obsessed with that poem (where 'a little' might be putting it mildly), to be honest. I had a hard time picking just one quote from it. But it was "I'm not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be" that first caught my eye and triggered the compulsive rereading, so I thought I should go with that. But omg, that ending... Might have to reread it now :)

  2. There are so many books quoted here that I haven't read -- and that I can't wait to read. That one from Ulysses is intriguing! Cheers, and thanks for sharing. I'm following now. :-)

    1. I felt the same way reading all those lists today - so many books I can't wait to get my hands on! As for Ulysses, I have a love-hate relationship with Joyce (so far mostly swinging towards hate), but damn him, he sometimes gets it right. I'm amazed at how many emotions he managed to pack in those 4 words.

      Thanks for your comment!