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Sunday, 5 April 2015

Quote - unquote

For many years I’ve been attracted to apt quotations. When I was publishing the small press magazine Auguries (1983-1994) I made a habit of appending an apt quotation at the end of the featured short stories, based on the story’s theme. The magazine title was taken from Blake’s famous poem Auguries of Innocence, using the lines below in the contents page:

To see a world in a grain of sand,
  And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
  And eternity in an hour.
The Auguries magazine blog can be seen here

I took this addiction to extremes when my nun ex-policewoman Sister Rose had an annoying penchant for using quotations (Pain Wears No Mask, out of print):

I can’t help it; I find quotations filling my head at the slightest association. Perhaps my memory is a sin I should renounce. It can be a pain – to me as well as the listener. So I attempt to keep quotations to a bare minimum, mindful of what George Eliot wrote: ‘Much quotation of any sort is bad. One couldn’t carry on life comfortably without a little blindness to the fact that everything has been said better than we can put it ourselves.’

Sometimes I wonder if I have any original thoughts at all, or are they all plucked second-hand, from something I’ve read. Yet, if I’m honest, books – essentially, the dead walking in the readers’ heads, speaking to us – are a big part of my world.

[The Eliot quotation is from Daniel Deronda. Pain has been rewritten with the new title Bread of Tears and is seeking a new publisher.]

And in my crime series The Avenging Cat, Catherine’s late father had been fond of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations:-

She stopped in front of the two marble headstones:

     (18 October 1958 – 4 June 1992)

     (10 April 1952 – 11 September 2009)
     To bear this worthily is good fortune. Marcus Aurelius.

Father often read Aurelius’ Meditations. The full quotation ran “So here is a rule to remember in future, when anything tempts you to feel bitter: not, ‘This is a misfortune’, but ‘To bear this worthily is good fortune’.” It was hard, but she was thankful she had those years with her father. Many of the ancient Roman’s precepts fell in accord with her heart, but some did not. She could not settle for “Leave another’s wrongdoing where it lies.” No, never that.

Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic, dwelled on time, the soul and the oneness of the universe a great deal. From Book ten, verse 17:

Let your mind constantly dwell on all Time and all Being, and thus learn that each separate thing is but as a grain of sand in comparison with Being, and as a single screw’s turn in comparison with Time.

Full circle, sort of, with those grains of sand…

Happy Easter!


Cliffhanging start and scarcely a dull moment from end to end in this lively caper yarn. Beguiling and credible female protagonist seeks to bring down the unscrupulous owner of a conglomerate responsible for a diversity of crimes including the use of animals to test cosmetics, gold mining in Wales … and experimenting with drugs on illegal immigrants. The story fairly rattles along … I look forward to the sequel…’ - Review

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