Sunday Salon: Literary Lines and More

sundaysalonOne of my favorite coffee mugs features a famous line from Jane Eyre:

I am not a bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.

It’s a great line—and one that stands well all on its own. You don’t need to know Jane Eyre to appreciate the sentiment, although knowing the novel makes the line even better.

My Jane Eyre Coffee Mug*

My Jane Eyre Coffee Mug*

Another favorite literary line, suitable for a coffee mug or piece of jewelry, comes from Tolkien: “Not all those who wander are lost.”

But a lot of my favorite lines don’t make much sense on their own. Someone could quote them to me, and I’ll react with a sigh or a gasp, but only because they mean something bigger than the words they say.

Annabel’s post on Stephen King’s Song of Susannah reminded me of one of these: “Go then, there are other worlds than these.” If you haven’t read The Gunslinger, the first in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, the line is meaningless. It might sound nice and feel quotable, but there’s nothing in it to react to. But it resonates through the whole series, and if you’ve read the books, you may not be able to help but gasp, “Oh, Jake” on hearing the words.

Dorothy Dunnett’s Pawn in Frankincense presents a similar line: “Come my love … say good night to the dark.” The funny thing about this one is that out of context, it conveys a feeling that is almost the complete opposite of what it conveys in the book. It might seem like a nice line for a pendant or wall art, but if you’ve read the book, you’ll know that would never do.

What are some of your favorite literary quotes? Is it the line itself that you love–or is it the way it evokes the story around it?

* For those who are wondering—and I know some of you are—I got the mug in the picture from Ophelia’s Gypsy Caravan on Etsy. I love her stuff. Lots of literary and Dr. Who mugs and this amazing Tolkien tea set. Too bad the tea set sold before I was able to convince anyone to spend $200 on a completely frivolous Christmas gift for me.


In Other News

The Slaves of Golconda reading group is voting for our next book to read together. Because cold weather makes me want to read crime fiction, I put together a list of books with some sort of mystery or suspense angle. Cast your vote in the comments at the Slaves blog by November 11, and join us for the discussion around January 15.

Aarti’s More Diverse Universe event, which celebrates books of science fiction and fantasy by people of color, is coming November 15-17. To participate, just read a speculative fiction book by a person of color, post a review on one of those dates, and share the link over at Aarti’s blog. I have a couple of books on my shelf that fit, so I’m hoping to participate.

If you’re looking to do some long-range planning: Simon is relaunching his Century of Books challenge in 2014 and CB James mentioned a TBR Triple Dog Dare today.

Also, Simon visited DC a few weeks ago and Thomas a I got to spend a day visiting bookstores with him. I didn’t get a chance to post about it, but you can read about it over at Simon’s or at Thomas’s.

The book splurging I did during Simon’s visit makes Samantha’s post about book buying (“Why the Shame?”) particularly timely—and she makes some excellent points!

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23 Responses to Sunday Salon: Literary Lines and More

  1. cbjames says:

    I just mentioned it and already a link!! Thank you. I will have to set it all up very soon. I’ll probably get it ready to launch during Thanksgiving break. The TBR Triple Dog Dare! Coming soon. Be afraid, be very afraid. (Does that work as a literary line?)

  2. Samantha says:

    Oh my goodness, that Tolkien tea set really is amazing!

  3. Rohan says:

    That’s a really good point about that line from Pawn in Frankincense: I would be disturbed by having that on a mug or something, because I know what’s happening at that moment! I love the squirrel’s heartbeat passage from Middlemarch but I’m not sure it would fit on a mug… My daughter and I love to spend a wintry afternoon at the local paint-it-yourself pottery place. Maybe I should try to work out a design for it on a platter or something!

    • Teresa says:

      The Dunnett quote is a gorgeous line, even all on its own, but so disturbing.

      I don’t remember that squirrel’s heartbeat line, but I looked it up, and I like it! I’m hopeless at painting pottery, but I do like the idea of making my own literary pottery.

  4. I love that line from Jane Eyre too. It’s been one of my favorites for years.

    Tom Stoppard has so many lines that I love — there’s one in The Invention of Love, “What emotional storms, and oh, what a tiny teacup,” that I just couldn’t love more. Or since I have AE Housman in mind, I absolutely love “The King with half the East at heel is marched from lands of morning,” but that one really depends on the context — you have to know that he’s talking about Thermopylae for it to be good. Or Cavafy, “and bid farewell to the Alexandria you are losing.” Context helps.

  5. Jeanne says:

    My two favorite lines from literature:
    “It had the words ‘Don’t Panic’ printed in large, friendly letters on its cover.” (The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
    “It is the cause, it is the cause, oh my soul.” (Othello)
    The first one is much better suited to coffee mugs. I think the second, if it ever had to be marketed, would be suitable for sleeping pill packaging.

    • Teresa says:

      I didn’t remember that Othello line, but on looking it up, it’s not unlike the Dunnett and King ones. They’re meaningful for similar reasons, which makes me wonder how many evocative lines relate to an incipient death.

  6. Deb says:

    Perhaps my all-time favorite literary quote is the last line of Samuel Beckett’s Molloy: “It is midnight, it is raining; it is not midnight, it is not raining.” Completely sums up both the unreliable narrator and the human condition.

  7. I actually have that line from Jane Eyre (my favorite) on a cuff from Etsy, Jezebel’s something… Anyway, I absolutely adore it.

    • Teresa says:

      I think I know which Etsy store you’re talking about! I had several of her cuffs on my wishlist–there was a blood-spattered Macbeth one that I particularly liked.

  8. aartichapati says:

    I should write some of my favorite quotes down. There are so many that are so good, and I agree- context matters! For example, another Dunnett quote that I think means so much for readers of Lymond but probably not much for anyone else is the Anvil moment.

    I am sad that I do not remember the context of the quote from Pawn in Frankincense. Is it from the chess game?

    Also, now I want to read The Gunslinger.

    • Teresa says:

      I need to look up the Anvil moment. I’ve seen people mention it, but I can’t recall where it appears. And yes, “Come my love” is from the chess game–Mikal says it to K. as IT happens.

      And yes, do read The Gunslinger, but be warned–you may need to dive right in to the rest of the series. It’s magnificent. One of King’s great achievements.

  9. aartichapati says:

    Oh! And thanks muchly for posting about #diversiverse!

  10. Alex says:

    Oh my, that Pawn quote. I read it and my heart gave a tiny squeeze. Another quote, similar to the ones you’ve chosen (lose a bit of power taken out of context) came to mind. It’s from Return of the King: “I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”

  11. Nicola says:

    I love that Jane Eyre mug. My favourite Jane Eyre quote is ‘Reader, I married him!’

  12. Stefanie says:

    Love your mug. I need another mug like I need a hole in my head but I might have to splurge on that Emerson mug!

    As for quotes, there is “eff the ineffable” from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. On the more serious side, “a wild patience has taken me this far” comes from a poem by Adrienne Rich that I like very much.

    • Teresa says:

      I love her mugs–and the one I have has held up well to the dishwasher. I intent to gradually replacing ones I don’t like very much with some of her (and probably accumulating more besides).

      Those quotes are nice–even without knowing the context (which I don’t).

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