Monday, January 16, 2012

Quotable: McMurtry fails, Harry Dean Stanton rules, and more

Hans Sloane: "Get yer dadgum crumpet off my First Folio."
Sometimes I come across lines in articles --or even in the comments section-- that strike me as particularly clever, funny or apt. Book Dirt’s new Quotable roundup will regularly collect my favorite one-liners as I trawl around the Internet reading about books and writing.

These are some recent I-wish-I-wrote-that bits from around the web. The articles the quotes are pulled from are all well worth a read.


  • “It’s slightly embarrassing to have to admit that the best book you read all year was Anna Karenina. It’s a bit like saying that you’ve been listening to an album called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club by these Beatles kids out of Liverpool and that, yes, you can confidently reveal that they were definitely onto something.” - Mark O’Connell at The Millions

O’Connell’s best-of-the-year wrap-up includes modern fiction too, so don’t worry: he’s not stuck in the classics --just plenty well-balanced.


  • “Waiter! I think we’re done here.” - David Daley at

Harper’s magazine’s newest book reviewer is none other than Larry McMurtry, but Daley is sure that the writer is no Zadie Smith (Harper’s former critic.) Daley gives a blow-by-blow of McMurtry’s first column that wittily takes apart “the worst new book critic in America.” 


  • “The way I see it, if your hero can't be played by Harry Dean Stanton, you're on the wrong track.” - User comment at The Guardian

The UK’s Guardian ran a useful feature in which well-known crime writers recommended their own favorite crime writers. Some of the best recommendations --as well as commentary like the quote above from user name Henrylloydmoon-- are found in the comments section. 


Prolific writer (and reader) K.C. Shaw reviews books across a dizzying array of genres (YA, mystery, fantasy --ratkeeping?), and with a refreshing degree of straight-to-the-point honesty. From another review: “Brock scratches his beard so much in this one that I wondered if he had a skin condition, or fleas.”


  • “Did Sloane realize the peril his collection might be in, if left open to the slings and arrows of outrageous baked goods?” - Beth Dunn at Wonders & Marvels

This absolutely delightful piece on how a buttered muffin may have (seriously) inspired the founding of the British Museum is a perfect blending of humor and history. Beth Dunn has both an enviable writing style and a firm grasp on reality. 


Note: As this is the first installment of Quotable, a few of the articles have been languishing on my desktop for a time. While they’re all still wonderfully relevant, the next batch should be much more fresh.

Give these quotable folks a visit, and let me know what you think. Comments welcome.


  1. hi I visited your blog through google help forum
    visit: and leave a comment there.

    cu there.....

  2. Also from the Salon piece: It’s criticism so bland he need never bother with the book.

  3. I have to disagree with you Mark O’Connell’s comment. It is not in the least “slightly embarrassing” to admit that Anna Karenina was the best book one read all year. Rather, it’s bragging and not so subtly false modesty.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  4. Russell: Yes, the concluding zinger!

    Peter: I took it differently, though I see your point. I thought that O'Connell was feeling sheepish about recommending a book that, being a classic, is rather silly to tell people about. The Beatles comparison bears that out.

    As to bragging, well, perhaps all book review blogging is bragging, in its way?

  5. I may be the wrong person to judge, since I've always written indiscriminately about new books and old, putting crime fiction classics on my year's-best lists, and writing about Macbeth, Hamlet, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Icelandic sagas. I don't pretend to be embarrassed about it, though.

    The difference between recommending Sgt. Pepper and recommending Anna Karenina is that everyone has listened to Sgt. Pepper. I'm not sure everyone has read Anna Karenina.

    Another piece of circumstantial evidence in support of my case is that Anna Karenina is not just a literary classic, but a long literary classic. O'Connell gets to brag about his endurance as well as his taste. Why would it be embarrassing to read and appreciate one of the greatest works by one of our greatest authors? No, O'Connell is bragging.

  6. I love these - even if you think they might be a bit stale. I, for one, am never against outrageous baked goods, stale or no.

    1. That article really cracked me up. I'm practically cyber-stalking the author now.

  7. I like the way you formatted this post and the concept behind what you're doing. This is ideal blogging style.

    The quotes are pretty good too.

    Tossing It Out

  8. When I (someday) slog my way through War & Peace, bragging WILL be done. Just sayin'.

    Love the KC Shaw quote - was he talking about LOTR? Loved the series, but it sure dragged in spots, and the ending went on 4eva. Oh, books, we love to love 'em, and also love to hate 'em.

  9. K.C. is a woman, and a remarkable one at that. Agree with you on loving to hate 'em. I end up liking the snarky critical reviews more than the good ones sometimes.