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Quotes of the day: Mary McCarthy

Published Saturday, June 21, 2014 @ 12:02 AM EDT
Jun 21 2014

Mary McCarthy (June 21, 1912 – October 25, 1989) was an American writer and one of the twentieth century's most prominent American intellectuals. Her considerable body of work includes essays, fiction, journalism, criticism, and memoir. She was associated with the revival of the influential literary journal Partisan Review in 1937. Her work appeared frequently in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, and other major magazines. Her books (nine works of fiction and 15 books of nonfiction) include The Company She Keeps, The Group, Venice Observed, Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, and How I Grew, among many others. (Click here for full HistoryLink.org article)


An unrectified case of injustice has a terrible way of lingering, restlessly, in the social atmosphere like an unfinished question.

Bureaucracy, the rule of no one, has become the modern form of despotism.

Calling someone a monster does not make him more guilty; it makes him less so by classing him with beasts and devils.

Every age has a keyhole to which its eye is pasted.

I am putting real plums into an imaginary cake.

I do not mind if I lose my soul for all eternity. If the kind of God exists Who would damn me for not working out a deal with Him, then that is unfortunate. I should not care to spend eternity in the company of such a person.

If someone tells you he is going to make 'a realistic decision,' you immediately understand that he has resolved to do something bad.

In politics, it seems, retreat is honorable if dictated by military considerations and shameful if even suggested for ethical reasons.

In science, all facts, no matter how trivial or banal, enjoy democratic equality.

In violence, we forget who we are.

Liberty, as it is conceived by current opinion, has nothing inherent about it; it is a sort of gift or trust bestowed on the individual by the state pending good behavior.

Life for the European is a career; for the American it is a hazard.

Life is a system of recurrent pairs, the poison and the antidote being eternally packaged together by some considerate heavenly druggist.

People with bad consciences always fear the judgment of children.

The American character looks always as if it had just had a rather bad haircut, which gives it, in our eyes at any rate, a greater humanity than the European, which even among its beggars has an all too professional air.

The American, if he has a spark of national feeling, will be humiliated by the very prospect of a foreigner's visit to Congress — these, for the most part, illiterate hacks whose fancy vests are spotted with gravy, and whose speeches, hypocritical, unctuous and slovenly, are spotted also with the gravy of political patronage, these persons are a reflection on the democratic process rather than of it; they expose it in its underwear.

The happy ending is our national belief.

The immense popularity of American movies abroad demonstrates that Europe is the unfinished negative of which America is the proof.

The theater is the only branch of art much cared for by people of wealth; like canasta, it does away with the bother of talk after dinner.

There are no new truths, but only truths that have not been recognized by those who have perceived them without noticing.

To be disesteemed by people you don’t have much respect for is not the worst fate.

We all live in suspense, from day to day, from hour to hour; in other words, we are the hero of our own story.

What's the use of falling in love if you both remain inertly as you were?

You can date the evolving life of a mind, like the age of a tree, by the rings of friendship formed by the expanding central trunk.

You mustn't force sex to do the work of love or love to do the work of sex.


(Today is also the birthday of Jean-Paul Sartre and Reinhold Niebuhr.)

Categories: Mary McCarthy, Quotes of the day

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