We’ve sourced some of the most interesting and thought-provoking Michael Dirda Quotes. Each of the following quotes is overflowing with creativity, and knowledge.
I once read that there are more biographical works about Napoleon Bonaparte than any other man in history.
Digital texts are all well and good, but books on shelves are a presence in your life. As such, they become a part of your day-to-day existence, reminding you, chastising you, calling to you. Plus, book collecting is, hands down, the greatest pastime in the world.
I don’t like gross monetary inequities. I firmly believe that the wrong people and the wrong professions are being rewarded, and rewarded absurdly, and that the hardest work the obscenely rich do is ensuring that they preserve their privileges, status symbols, and bloated bank accounts.
Carl Barks was born in Merrill, Oregon, in 1901, grew up in a farming family, and eventually held a number of blue-collar jobs. He knew what it was to be poor and to work hard for a living.
Sad to say, multi-tasking is beyond me. I read one book at a time all the way through. If I’m reviewing the book, I have to write the review before I start reading any other book. I especially hate it when the phone rings and interrupts my train of thought.
Most scholarly books we read for the information or insight they contain. But some we return to simply for the pleasure of the author’s company.
Many people know that Shakespeare’s dramatic ‘canon’ was established in 1623 by the publication of the so-called First Folio. That hefty volume contained thirty-six plays.
To an Ohio boy, it represented world-weary Gallic shrugs and Gauloises cigarettes, existentialist thinkers in berets and Catherine Deneuve in nothing at all – French was the language of intellectual power and effortless sex appeal.
I don’t think of myself as a critic at all. I’m a reviewer and essayist. I mainly hope to share with others my pleasure in the books and authors I write about, though sometimes I do need to cavil and point out shortcomings.
For me, the two weeks between Christmas and Twelfth Night have come to be reserved for desultory reading. The pressure of the holiday is over, the weather outside is frightful, there are lots of leftovers to munch on, vacation hours are being used up.
People sometimes think that I bring home all these old books because I’m addicted, that I’m no better than a hoarder with a houseful of crumbling newspapers.
Born in 1910, Wilfrid Thesiger spent his childhood in Ethiopia, or Abyssinia, as it was then called, where his father was an important and much-admired British official.
A personal library is a reflection of who you are and who you want to be, of what you value and what you desire, of how much you know and how much more you’d like to know.
For even the ordinary well-read person, the French Enlightenment is largely restricted to the three big-name philosophes: Diderot, Rousseau, Voltaire.
Late summer is perfect for classic mysteries – think of Raymond Chandler’s hot Santa Anas and Agatha Christie’s Mediterranean resorts – while big ambitious works of nonfiction are best approached in September and early October, when we still feel energetic and the grass no longer needs to be cut.
Every summer, I regret that I didn’t become a college teacher. Such a sweet life! With all that vacation time! You’ll never get me to believe that being a tenured professor at a good college is anything but Heaven on earth.
Writers keep writing and publishers publishing – it never grows boring.
Critics for established venues are vetted by editors; they usually demonstrate a certain objectivity; and they come with known backgrounds and specialized knowledge.
In my younger days, I used to visit record shops and covet boxed sets of Beethoven symphonies, Wagner operas, Bach cantatas, Mozart piano concertos. Only rarely was I able to find the money for such luxuries.
Adventurous reading allows one to escape a little from the provincialities of one’s home culture and the blinders of one’s narrow self.
At any given moment, I’ve always assumed that nearly everyone around me was smarter than I was, more naturally gifted, quicker-witted, and probably capable of understanding Heidegger and Derrida.
Near my desk, I keep a large plastic carton filled with fresh notebooks and stationery of various kinds, sizes, and qualities.
Sometimes the very best of all summer books is a blank notebook. Get one big enough, and you can practice sketching the lemon slice in your drink or the hot lifeguard on the beach or the vista down the hill from your cabin.
I’m an appreciator. I love all kinds of books, and I want others to love them, too.
I’m nothing if not a literary hedonist.
Halloween isn’t the only time for ghosts and ghost stories. In Victorian Britain, spooky winter’s tales were part of the Christmas season, often told after dinner, over port or coffee.
Books can be a source of solace, but I see them mainly as a source of pleasure, personal as well as esthetic.
Not all of E. Nesbit’s children’s books are fantasies, but even the most realistic somehow seem magical. In her holiday world, nobody ever goes to school, though all the kids know their English history, Greek myths, and classic tales of derring-do.
My wife tells me I should check out ‘Downton Abbey’, but I gather that series might be almost too intense for my temperate nature.
Throughout the European Middle Ages and Renaissance, Latin was the language of learning and international communication. But in the early modern period, it was gradually displaced by French. By the eighteenth century, all the world – or at least all of Europe – aspired to be Parisian.
For those of us with an inward turn of mind, which is another name for melancholy introspection, the beginning of a new year inevitably leads to thoughts about both the future and the past.
Literary generations come and go, and each generation passeth away and is heard of no more. In the end, simply the making itself – of poems and stories and essays – delivers the only reward a writer can be sure of. And, perhaps, the only one that matters.
Fiction is a house with many stately mansions, but also one in which it is wise, at least sometimes, to swing from the chandeliers.
I’m sometimes willing to put in vast, even inordinate amounts of time if I find a project that interests me.
None of us, of course, will ever read all the books we’d like, but we can still make a stab at it.
Summertime, and the reading is easy… Well, maybe not easy, exactly, but July and August are hardly the months to start working your way through the works of Germanic philosophers. Save Hegel, Heidegger, and Husserl for the bleaker days of February.
In my own case, my folks didn’t actually object to comics, as many parents did, but they pretty much felt the things were a waste of time.
Like most people, I find watching the lazy and quiet underwater realm of a big aquarium exceptionally calming.
Deep in my cortex, the year is divided into reading seasons. The period from mid-October to Christmas, for instance, is ‘ghost story’ time, while Jane Austen and P. G. Wodehouse pretty much own April and May.
Many cultures believe that on a certain day – Halloween, the Irish Samhain Eve, Mexico’s ‘Dia de los Muertos’ – the veil between this world and the next is especially thin.
No matter how beautiful the paper, artwork, printing, and binding, I’m seldom drawn to a book unless it’s by a writer I care about or on a subject that appeals to me.
‘The Admirable Crichton’ is probably Barrie’s most famous work after ‘Peter Pan’, nearly a pendant to that classic.
I suppose movie theaters are the churches of the modern age, where we gather reverently to worship the tinsel gods of Hollywood.
My own particular feline companion answers, or rather doesn’t answer, to Cinnamon. One of my kids must have given her the name, even though she’s mostly gray and white.
Basically, I think that most people either make too much money or not enough money. The jobs that are essential and important pay too little, and those that are essentially managerial pay far too much.
The goal of a just society should be to provide satisfying work with a living wage to all its citizens.
Long ago, I realized that my only talent – aside from the rugged good looks, of course, and the strange power I hold over elderly women – can be reduced to a single word: doggedness.
Because of Kipling, I’ve sometimes wondered about keeping a mongoose about the house. But given the cobra population in Silver Spring, Maryland – zero, when last I checked – we hardly need a Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.
I once read that in vaudeville, it was often the straight guy who got paid more than the comic because that’s the tougher job. He has to set up the jokes in just the right way.
I do think digital media encourages speed-reading, which can be fine if one is simply seeking information. But a serious novel or work of history or volume of poetry is an experience one should savor, take time over.
Once upon a time, I sat in my mother’s lap as she turned the pages of Golden Books, and I gradually learned to read.
My gift, if that’s not too grandiose a term, is one for describing novels, biographies, and works of history in such a way that people want to read them.
A reviewer’s lot is not always an easy one. I can remember flogging myself to finish Harold Brodkey’s ‘The Runaway Soul’ despite the novel’s consummate, unmitigated tedium.
What I enjoy about reviewing and writing for newspapers and periodicals is simply the chance to talk about all kinds of books and lots of them.
With any luck, Heaven itself will resemble a vast used bookstore, with a really good cafe in one corner, serving dark beer and kielbasa to keep up one’s strength while browsing, and all around will be the kind of angels usually found in Victoria’s Secret catalogs.