I had the opportunity to read several great books while recently crossing the South Pacific. Sometimes people have asked me ‘why would you want to sail across an ocean’… and I tell them it’s the only opportunity I get for distraction free reading. Here are a few quotes and snippets I wrote down from a handful of the books I read this year.
They got to live before they can afford to die.
Up ahead they’s a thousan’ lives we might live, but when it comes, it’ll on’y be one.
And the little storekeeper thought, How could I compete with a debtless man?
The big moon sailed off to the westward.
-The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck)
I asked a bunch of people what books I should carry across the Pacific, and The Grapes of Wrath was highly recommended – it’s one of those books everyone must eventually & absolutely read. I genuinely felt like I was on route 66, headed west in a bumpy jalopy, fixing tappets on the side of the road with dust in my eyes. Actually, I was somewhere between the Marquesas and Suwarrow.
Every form of happiness is private. Our greatest moments are personal, self-motivated, not to be touched. The things which are sacred or previous to us are the things we withdraw from promiscuous sharing.
Civilisation is the progress toward a society of privacy.
-The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
It’s taken me many years to read Ayn Rand. I had avoided reading any of her books because I wasn’t sure her egoist philosophy was anything I was interested in. Regardless of what you think of Rand and her philosophy, I actually enjoyed The Fountainhead a lot.
What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility.
-The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins)
The problem is, it’s just not enough to live according to the rules. Sure, you manage to live according to the rules. Sometimes it’s tight, extremely tight, but on the whole you manage it. Your tax papers are up to date. Your bills are paid on time. You never go out without your identity card (and the special little wallet for your Visa!).
Mediocrity is distressing.
Weathered oceans of doubt.
-Whatever: a novel (Michel Houellebecq)
We must seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.
-Anarchism & Marxism (Noam Chomsky)
Within “The Work of Art in the Age of the Mechanical Reproduction,” Walter Benjamin wrote: “The cult of the movie start, fostered by the money of the film industry, preserves not the unique aura of the person but the ‘spell of the personality,’ the phoney spell of a commodity.
His goal attracts him, because he doesn’t let anything enter his soul which might oppose the goal.
Everyone can reach his goals, if he is able to think, if he is able to wait, if he is able to fast.
-Siddartha (Hermann Hesse) – One of my favourite books, on my third reading.
Between 1530 and 1600, European ambition was simply too far ahead of technology, and until better ships and better navigation were developed, shipwrecks and disappearances were a regular part of this new adventure.
-Cod (Mark Kurlansky) – I don’t know why I don’t have more quotes from this book, it’s simply amazing if you’re interested Cod, the Atlantic, the Basque’s, etc.
It was considered a virtue not to talk unnecessarily at sea and the old man had always considered it so and respected it.
“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
-The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)
Mahatma Gandhi in the words: Life is not a bundle of enjoyments, but a bundle of duties
-A Very Short History of the World (Geoffrey Blainey)
E.L Doctorow once said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
-Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Anne Lamott)
The car remained, for pet-owners as well as for smokers, one of the last spaces of freedom, one of the last temporary autonomous zones available to humans at the start of the third millennium.
-The Map and the Territory (Michel Houellebecq)
In the age of media, we are nothing but minds waiting to be filled, emotions waiting to be manipulated.
I was confident that his malaise was not just a personal issue but a societal condition
(On Wallace): Ultimately the priest told him he had too many questions to be a believer, and let the issue drop.
No one should call themselves a writer, he added, until he or she had written at least fifty stories.
How sad the world was when you opened your eyes, how much pain it contained.
To Wallace, so troubled by freedom, there was nothing more erotic than people who willingly gave up theirs.
You may think that the equation is ‘boat and water.’ It’s not. It’s ‘money and boat.’ The water is not really necessary. That’s why you see so many boats in backyards.
The immense blue fabric of the sea, rumpled and creased.
-The Shipping News (Annie Proulx)
In the war we all learned the value of material things. There is no value but what you hold within yourself.
…reading can be best part of a man’s life.
Men travelling alone develop a romantic vertigo.
Sheets of mackerel shards were sliding down the sky towards a magenta sunset;
(On Australia) – it was indeed, a pale land, speckled and colourless, a Wyoming with a seashore. A continent as lonely as the planet.
-The Complete Henry Bech (John Updike) – one of the most lyrical novels I’ve read.