Quotations Kick off Each Chapter

In several novels now I’ve inserted quotations at the beginning of chapters. It’s becoming a habit. In my first novel, Witless, these were from fictional sources. For example, one of my favorites, from Witless:

 “There are two skills worth cultivating: learning and forgetting. Once you have mastered both you are prepared for the future by the former and the past by the latter.” Arthur Woodaepfel: Lectures at the Witless School, Randall Jacobs, editor (Chicago: Progressive Press, 1911), p. 73.

I must say, I enjoyed the irony of a quote from a fictional work of fiction appearing in another work of fiction. But, in my last novel, Only Breath, (available from Amazon and Barnes and Nobel) I included genuine quotations from literature. The narrator, who is a bit of a bibliophile, insisted. Here are all fourteen of them:

  1. A beginning is that which is not a necessary consequent of anything else but after which something else exists or happens as a natural result. – Aristotle, Poetics
  2. I know not how it was – but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. – Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher
  3. License my roving hands, and let them go; Before, behind, between, above, below. – John Donne, To His Mistress Going to Bed
  4. No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. – John Donne, Meditation XVII
  5. Lovers and madmen have such seething brains; Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend; More than cool reason ever comprehends. – William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night’s Dream
  6. There are some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told. Men die nightly in their beds, wringing the hands of ghostly confessors, and looking them piteously in the eyes – die with despair of heart and convulsion of throat, on account of the hideousness of mysteries which will not suffer themselves to be revealed. – Edgar Allan Poe, The Man of the Crowd
  7. Beauty sat bathing by a spring; Where fairest shades did hide her; The winds blew calm, the birds did sing, The cool streams ran beside her. – Anthony Munday, Beauty Bathing
  8. Intermittently she caught the gist of his sentences and supplied the rest from her subconscious, as one picks up the striking of a clock in the middle with only the rhythm of the first uncounted strokes lingering in the mind. ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
  9. The function of muscle is to pull and not to push, except in the case of the genitals and the tongue. ― Leonardo da Vinci, Notebooks
  10. Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, all very good words for the lips, – especially prunes and prism. – Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit. Book The Second: Riches, Chapter 5: Something Wrong Somewhere
  11. What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space.” ― Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
  12. A very great part of the mischiefs that vex this world arises from words. – Edmund Burke, Letter
  13. Truth will come to sight; murder cannot be hid long. – William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
  14. Truth may seem but cannot be; Beauty brag but ’tis not she; Truth and beauty buried be. To this urn let those repair; That are either true or fair; For these dead birds sigh a prayer. – William Shakespeare, The Phoenix and the Turtle

Shakespeare appears three times, Poe and Donne twice. My favorite is Leonardo’s (nine), which carries particular weight because of his study of anatomy. I also like Donne’s first one (three) because it amuses me to think of sixteenth/seventeenth-century people horny. What’s your favorite? Post in a comment and I’ll run a tally.

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1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews

One response to “Quotations Kick off Each Chapter

  1. I think I like number five the best – can’t beat Shakespeare! Interesting trick to bring quotes in, they must be fun to research.

    http://libbycole.wordpress.com/

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