First and Last Lines

Why had they pretended to kill him when he was born?

Kettle was transfixed by several kinds of indignation at once, but Thomas filled the silence by jumping off his father’s knee and shouting, ‘Do nothing! Do nothing!’ as he circled the table laden with cakes and tea.

Edward St. Aubyn, Mother’s Milk

Read this collection of the foul, the fetid, and the revolting carefully.

They are, instead, people like us.

Valerie Curtis, Don’t Look, Don’t Touch, Don’t Eat

“The fact that slavery is the sole undeniable cause of this infamous rebellion, that it is a war of, by, and for Slavery, is as plain as the noon-day sun.”

Taken together, the vividness of the vision and its eventually fading challenge historians to investigate more rigorously exactly how the United States could in the crucible of war create such a vast potential for change and then in the end, fail to fulfill it.

Chandra Manning, What This Cruel War Was Over

It’s hard to get lost when you’re coming home from work.

I think I smiled, and then the world went black.

Walter Mosley, Blonde Faith

I learned a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn’t one of them.

We headed back toward the shore.

Atul Gawande, Being Mortal

On Friday, August 5, 2011, what used to be the fiscally unthinkable happened.

Not because austerity is unfair, which it is, not because there are more debtors than creditors, which there are, and not because democracy has an inflationary bias, which it doesn’t, but because austerity simply doesn’t work.

Mark Blyth, Austerity

candle to light you up to — Kerr-wangg!

here comes a

Will Self, Shark

I’d been running a low-grade fever for nearly a week.

“I don’t have his number.”

Walter Mosley, All I Did Was Shoot My Man

Patrick woke up knowing he had dreamed but unable to remember the contents of his dream.

Patrick flicked his cigarette into the snow, and not quite knowing what had happened, headed back to his car with a strange feeling of elation.

Edward St. Aubin, Some Hope

The longest word in this book is also one of its most abundant.

There is still the chance, too, that further attempts to solve the problem will lead not to its solution but to further serendipities.

Hugh Aldersey-Williams, The Most Beautiful Molecule

Patrick pretended to sleep, hoping the seat next to him would remain empty, but he soon heard a briefcase sliding into the overhead compartment.

He sprawled across the black leather seat, closed his eyes, and pretended to sleep.

Edward St. Aubin, Bad News

I had just finished a job for an interesting woman named Nan Sartin, and was happily making out my bill to her, when a woman came in who promised to be equally interesting.

I looked at the empty doorway for a while, then I took a big breath, and picked up the phone, and called Quirk.

Robert Parker, The Professional

The answer is obvious to many people: No way!

If we can get everyone to recognize this, we will all be better off.

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Morality Without God

“I think she’s probably guilty,” Rita Fiore said to me.

Surprisingly, her molars remaind stable…though I think they might have loosened a little.

Robert Parker, Widow’s Walk

The idea that led to this book arose in comparatively sumptuous circumstances.

But the sky will not fall, and we will all be better off for it in the end.

Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed

She didn’t want to be a beauty queen, but as luck would have it, she was about to become one.

There was something she could do with the teapot in the opening scene, she was positive. She could get a laugh that nobody ws expecting, and they’d be off and running.

Nick Hornby, Funny Girl

We were running flat out.

It is you.

Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

He had brought several silk scarves with him in a shopping bag and had used them to gag her and to bind her hands and feet.

So I did.

Robert Parker, Thin Air

No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

To begin perfect happiness at the respective ages of twenty-six and eighteen is to do pretty well; and professing myself moreover convinced that the general’s unjust interference, so far from being really injurious to their felicity, was perhaps rather conducive to it, by improving their knowledge of each other, and adding strength to their attachment, I leave it to be settled, by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

We were at the Four Seasons Hotel, in the Bristol Lounge.

And then we were perfectly quiet, nearly invisible in the dark.

Robert Parker, Sudden Mischief

If you need to be convinced that you’re living in a science-fiction world, look at your cell phone.

We should try to make them proud.

Bruce Schneier, Data and Goliath

At half-past seven in the morning, carrying the laundry she had ironed the night before, Yvette came down the drive on her way to the house.

Below him the Alsatian scrambled to a halt in a flurry of dry leaves and picked up a dead branch in its mouth.

Edward St. Aubyn, Never Mind

When I was a boy I was taught that the men upstairs knew what they were doing.

When he does I am qualified and ready for the post, having proven myself capable in my present endeavors.

Laurence Peters and Raymond Hull, The Peter Principle

Our mother drives with an elegant, carefree manner, one hand casually on the steering wheel.

And the name alone makes her smile.

Lan Cao, The Lotus and the Storm

Louis Kahn completed nine houses and designed some two dozen more, eight of which were developed enough to go out to bid.

Since that time, great effort has been expended on preserving the house and bringing to fruition aspects of Kahn’s design intent for the landscape and interior features that could not be realized earlier.

George Marcus and William Whitaker, The Houses of Louis Kahn

On December 4, 1928, President Coolidge sent his last message on the state of the Union to the reconvening Congress.

It is what causes men who know that things are going quite wrong to say that things are fundamentally sound.

John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash 1929

When you walk across the Common from the Beacon Street side, coming up from Charles Street and angling toward Park Street, you are walking up one of those low urban hills that no one notices, unless they are running.

“Maybe not,” I said.

Robert Parker, Stardust

From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.

All that remained was the sound of the wind slipping through a stand of white birch trees.

Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Clouds of doom shrouded the nation in 1800.

The Constitution would not only last; the Marshall court decisions would prove so compatible with a united government that two centuries later—despite civil war and four presidential assassinations—both the Union and Constitution remain in place, sustaining what is now the oldest system of self-government in the history of man.

Harlow Unger, John Marshall

This book is about programming, but it is different from most programming books.

By designing beautiful, general algorithms, you are adding your own small contribution to their work.

Alexander Stepanov and Daniel Rose, From Mathematics to Generic Programming

Susan was at a shrink conference in Durham, North Carolina, giving a paper on psychotherapy, so I had Pearl.

I learned that from you.

Robert Parker, School Days

Geometric design is one of the most widely recognized visual traditions from the Islamic world, yet much is still unknown about how compositions were made and about the craftsmen who made them.

It is also about how a pattern or composition is embellished: what has the craftsman added to make it more beautiful?

Eric Broug, Islamic Geometric Design

They didn’t think Flynne’s brother had PTSD, but that sometimes the haptics gliched him.

Always nice to see Flynne.

William Gibson, The Peripheral

It was spring.

I got in my car and drove west.

Robert Parker, Sixkill

Men emerge pale from the little printing plant at four sharp, ghosts for an instant, blinking, until the outdoor light overcomes the look of constant indoor light clinging to them.


John Updike, Rabbit Redux

If the past is a foreign country, it a shockingly violent one.

For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment we can savor, and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible.

Stephen Pinker, The Better Angels of our Nature

She was wearing a straw hat, pulled down over her forehead, a short flowered dress, no stockings and white high heels.

“Maybe,” Hawk said.

Robert Parker, Potshot

All the English world knows, or knows of, that branch of the Civil Service which is popularly called the Weights and Measures.

But there was nobody to answer him.

Anthony Trollope, The Three Clerks

He came into my office carring a thin briefcase under his left arm.

“What a very good idea,” Susan said.

Robert Parker, Now and Then

Outside my window a mixture of rain and snow was settling into slush on Berkeley Street.

And we lay there with our arms around each other and laughed while the thunder and lightning frolicked with the rain outside.

Robert Parker, Hush Money

It was a spring evening in Washingtion DC; a chilly autmn morning in Melbourne; it was excatly 22:00 Grenwich Mean Time when a worm entered the computerised control systems of countless Australian prisons and released the locks of many other places in incerceration, some of which the hacker could not have known existed.

His early novel Barbie and the Deadheads is soon to be a major motion picture.

Peter Carey, Amnesia

Forty-five minutes north-east of Cambridge is a landscape I’ve come to love very much indeed.

And in I go, where the dogs lie flat on the kitchen floor, tails wagging, and the kettle is whistling, and the house is very warm.

Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk

“Do you do divorce work?” the woman asked.

“Sure,” she said.

Robert Parker, Bad Business

Boys are playing basketball around a telephone pole with a backboard bolted to it.


John Updike, Rabbit, Run

That old bell, presage of a train, had just sounded through Oxford station; and the undergraduates who were waiting there, gay figures in tweed or flannel, moved to the margin of the platform and gazed idly up the line.

Very lightly she slipped up into bed, and very soon she was asleep.

Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson

Writing and speaking can be a form of action.

He meant to act as a reminder of the cost of power, and a curb against the perpetual danger of its abuse.

David Bromwich, The Intellectual Life of Edmond Burke

We used to sing a lot when I was a child, around the campfire at summer camp, at school and Sunday school, or gathered around the piano at home.

You be the judge.

Daniel Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

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This page last modified on 2015 September 6.