First and Last Lines

Good Evening!

Good night, everyone.

David Grossman, A Horse Walks into a Bar

Swept forward by waves of popular passion, democracy has buried all alternatives to become the world’s governing ideal.

If the obstacles to a culture of democracy are perennial, because if self-interest never meshes smoothly with the ideal of reciprocity, then the consequences of civil wars have deepened, and made even more urgent, the need to confront the persistence of struggles thought buried in the past.

James Kloppenberg, Towards Democracy

In Haiti, the language of print, school and the media is French, but when speaking outside of formal settings, people use another form of speech: Haitian Creole.

This book has been my brick in the wall.

John McWhorter, Talking Back, Talking Black

My mother was convinced I’d die young.

And just like that, we were back in business.

Jason Rekulak, The Impossible Fortress

Early morning, December 16, 2008, with a drizzle of freezing rain falling, few would even glance at the line of inconspicuous Mercury Marquis sedans pulling up to Washington, DC’s Fairmont Hotel.

That only exists in fairy tales, dreams, and the Fed’s econometric models.

Danielle Booth, Fed Up

Karen Kipple had always been an early riser.

Except Karen could never get him out of her head.

Lucinda Rosenfeld, Class

How did the Marquis de Lafayette win over the stingiest, crankiest tax protesters in the history of the world?

“Lafayette,” she said, “we are here!”

Sarah Vowell, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States

On our wedding-day I was forty-six, she was eighteen.

thomas havens

George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

A man stands at the end of a drafty corridor, a.k.a. the nineteenth century, and in the flickering light of an oil lamp examines a machine made of nickel and ivory, with brass rails and quartz rods—a squat, ugly contraption, somehow out of focus, not easy for the poor reader to visualize, despite the listing of parts and materials.

An Englishman builds a machine in guttering lamplight, a Yankee engineer awakens in medieval fields, a jaded Pennsylvania weatherman relives a single February day, a little cake summons lost time, a magic amulet transports schoolchildren to golden Babylon, torn wallpaper reveals a timely message, a boy in a DeLorean seeks his parents, a woman on a pier awaits her lover—all these, our muses, our guides, in the unending now.

James Gleick, Time Travel

I didn’t know what email was until I got to college.

I hadn’t learned anything at all.

Elif Batuman, The Idiot

Seventeen-year-old Ewan Mao waited outside the great hall of the man he was destined to kill, wondering if his best friend was still alive.

“Yeah, all right.”

Erin Claiborne, A Hero at the End of the World

The twentieth century was dominated, in Europe, by the conflict between totalitarian regimes and liberal democracies.

Of one thing, however, I am sure: I would not like any ministry or its officials to decide on my behalf what I should be, think, believe or love.

Tzvetan Todorov, The Fear of Barbarians

Even on a good day I don’t enjoy being shot at.

“But I really don’t think I’m cut out for this job anymore….”

Zoë Sharp, Die Easy

The suntanned man behind the front desk glanced up, recognized him, and looked back down without a word.

It sounded just a little better than all right.

John Altman, Deception

I was born in Antwerp in 1939, one year before the Germans occupied Belgium in World War II.

I know that some questions will never be answered, but having found the strangers I was looking for, I can now start putting them to rest.

Dori Katz, Looking For Strangers

“Segregation,” the preacher paused to let his congregation absorb the full solemnity of his message, “is apparent everywhere.”

The ability to do just that—and thus completely reorient the dramas of urban politics—provides the only true measure of a world ready to forswear the splitting of its cities.

Carl Nightingale, Segregation


This page last modified on 2017 July 21.