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Quotes of the day: E.L. Doctorow

Published Tuesday, January 06, 2015 @ 5:55 AM EST
Jan 06 2015

Edgar Lawrence "E.L." Doctorow (January 6, 1931 - July 21, 2015) was an American author known internationally for his unique works of historical fiction. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


Banks and churches and courtrooms all depend on the appurtenances of theatre. On illusion... If there was true justice why would such trappings be necessary? Wouldn't a table and chairs and an ordinary room serve just as well?

Congress is so beholden to the money that any solution in the general interest will be frustrated and subverted by the corporate interests who feel they will be damaged by progress, fair play and justice.

Grandmamma had been the last connection to our past. I had understood her as some referent moral authority to whom we paid no heed, but by whose judgments we measured our waywardness.

Happiness consists of living in the dailiness of life and not knowing how happy you are. True happiness comes of not knowing you're happy.

History is the present. That's why every generation writes it anew. But what most people think of as history is its end product, myth.

I am often asked the question, how can the masses permit themselves to be exploited by the few. The answer is by being persuaded to identify with them.

I asked this question: How can I think about my brain when it's my brain doing the thinking? So is this brain pretending to be me thinking about it?

I take the position that true faith is not a supersessional knowledge. It cannot discard the intellect.

I try to avoid experience if I can. Most experience is bad.

If justice cannot be made to operate under the worst possible conditions of social hysteria, what does it matter how it operates at other times?

Orthodox devotions that do not let in the light of modern knowledge are no more than a form of ancestor worship.

Satire's nature is to be one-sided, contemptuous of ambiguity, and so unfairly selective as to find in the purity of ridicule an inarguable moral truth.

Someone dying asks if there is life after death. Yes, comes the answer, only not yours.

The bad news is that if we do in fact get off the earth we will contaminate the rest of the universe with our moral insufficiency.

The difference between Socrates and Jesus is that no one had ever been put to death in Socrates' name. And that is because Socrates' ideas were never made law. Law, in whatever name, protects privilege.

The experience of experience is untransmittable.

The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like.

The images of things are not the things in themselves.

There is no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction; there's only narrative.

Things that appear on the front page of the newspaper as 'fact' are far more dangerous than the games played by a novelist, and can lead to wars.

We're always attracted to the edges of what we are, out by the edges where it's a little raw and nervy.

Where most people live, most of us, imagining it to be the real sunlit world when it is only a cave lit by the flickering fires of illusion.

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.

Writing is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.


(January 6 is also the birthday of Carl Sandburg, Alan Watts, and Khalil Gibran.)

Categories: E.L. Doctorow, Question of the day


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