Woodworking column: They said it, we read it
"Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal." Literary critic Lionel Trilling said that.
"When a thing has been said, and well said, have no scruple: take it and copy it." Novelist Anatole France said that.
"Remember why the good Lord made your eyes, Pla-gi-a-rise!" Humorist Tom Lehrer sang that.
So using source material like that is going to save me today from a serious writer's block. I woke up this morning to a blank computer screen with nothing to type on it. So I turned to a section of my office library which the Dewey Decimal folks would define as "Odds and Ends." I hadn't dug around in it for years, but I found a book I'm certain I've never opened. It's called "The Writer's Quotation Book," edited by James Charlton, who in 1980 collected sayings from famous, infamous and unknown authors, like the ones mentioned above.
I am here to tell you it's a fantastic book that elicited all sorts of memories from my career as a book reviewer. Here's a sampling:
Moral philosopher Elbert Hubbard said "This will never be a civilized country until we expend more money for books than we do for chewing gum."
Dramatist George Bernard Shaw said, "The road to ignorance is paved with good editions."
Author E.B. White, opined that "If we should ever inaugurate a hall of fame, it would be reserved exclusively and hopefully for authors who, having written four bestsellers, STILL REFRAINED from starting out on a lecture tour."
Humorist James Thurber said "Word has somehow got around that the split infinitive is always wrong. That is a piece with the outworn notion that it is always wrong to strike a lady." He also said, "Some American writers who have known each other for years have never met in the daytime or when both were sober."
Biographer Gene Fowler tells us that "Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead."
Southern humorist Roy Blount, Jr. once said, "If you were a member of Jesse James' band and people asked who you were, you wouldn't say 'Well I'm a desperado.' You'd say something like 'I work in banks' or 'I've done some railroad work.' It took me a long time just to say, 'I'm a writer.' It's really embarrassing."
The inimitable Peter De Vries said "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork."
Apparently the British snob Evelyn Waugh would not have approved of James Patterson and Bill Clinton's recent successful collaboration because years ago he said, "I never could understand how two men can write a book together; to me that's like three people getting together to have a baby."
Another Brit, P.G. Wodehous admitted that "Every author really wants to have letters printed in the newspaper. Unable to make the grade, he drops down a rung of the ladder and writes novels."
Journalist Russell Baker said, "Americans like fat books and thin women."
And Thomas Wolfe, author of fat books, confessed that "I can always find plenty of women to sleep with but the kind of woman that is really hard to find is a typist who can read my writing."
"Th-th-that's all, folks!" (Porky Pig said that.)