Tag Archives: Edith Wharton quotes

Childhood Reading

Illustration: Jessie Willcox Smith

  
 
“Remember the feeling when turning the page was almost too much to bear? As adults grown weary of clichés and redesigned storylines, we too easily forget the initial jolt, the power, almost drug-like, of those first readings, when imagination flared up and seemed capable of consuming us.”
  
– Roger McGough in The Pleasure of Reading,
  edited by Antonia Fraser (Bloomsbury, 1992)
     
  
 
“What I sought in books was imagination. It was depth, depth of thought and feeling; some sort of extreme of subject matter; some nearness to death; some call to courage. I myself was getting wild; I wanted wildness, originality, genius, rapture, hope. I wanted strength, not tea parties. What I sought in books was a world whose surfaces, whose people and events and days lived, actually matched the exaltation of the interior life. There you could live.”
  
– Annie Dillard, An American Childhood (Harper and Row, 1986)
   
  
 
“The first book I ever treasured was a cloth book, a children’s book perhaps, and though I have no memory of the story I do think of it as something sacred … Words were talismanic, transfiguring, making everything clearer, and at the same time more complex. Words were the sluice gates to the mind and to the emotions. Reading for me, then as now, is not a pleasure, but something far more visceral, a brush with terror.”
 
– Edna O’Brien in The Pleasure of Reading, edited by Antonia Fraser
   (Bloomsbury, 1992)
 
 
 
“At any moment the impulse might seize me; and then, if the book was in reach, I had only to walk the floor, turning the pages as I walked, to be swept off full sail on the sea of dreams.”
 
– Edith Wharton, A Backward Glance: An Autobiography
   
(Simon and Schuster, 1998)
 
 

“I lay voluptuously on my stomach on the big bed, blissfully alone, and I felt a thrill which has never left me as I realised that the words coming magically from my lips were mine to say or not say, read or not. It was one of the peaks of my whole life. Slowly my eyes rode across the lines of print, and the New World smiled. It was mine, not something to beg for, book in hand, from anyone who could read when I could not. The door opened, and without hesitation I walked through.”
 
– M F K Fisher, Among Friends (Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004)
   
  
 
“No days, perhaps, of all our childhood are ever so fully lived as those that we had regarded as not being lived at all: days spent wholly with a favourite book. Everything that seemed to fill them full for others we pushed aside, because it stood between us and the pleasures of the Gods.”
 
– Marcel Proust, A Selection of His Miscellaneous Writings,
   translated by Gerard Hopkins (A Wingate, 1948)
 
 
 
“Books provide the most helpful of road maps for (an) inner journey. They show us the tracks of fellow travellers, footprints left by earlier pilgrims who have trod the path that stretches before us. Their luminosity helps to light our way. As we read we realize that we are not alone.”
 
– Terry W Glaspey, Books and Reading: A Book of Quotations,
   edited by Bill Bradfield (Dover, 2002)
 
 
 
“In my own story books, before I could read them for myself, I fell in love with various winding, enchanting-looking initials drawn by Walter Crane at the heads of fairy tales. In “Once upon a time,” an “O” had a rabbit running it as a treadmill, his feet upon flowers. When the day came, years later, for me to see the Book of Kells, all the wizardry of letter, initial, and word swept over me a thousand times over, and the illumination, the gold, seemed a part of the word’s beauty and holiness that had been there from the start.”
  
– Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings
  
(Harvard University Press, 1984)
  
  
 
“I love to feel a book’s weight in the hand, sniff the faintly acrid scent of old paper … The rough or smooth texture of a cloth cover, the incised, elaborate decoration of the Andrew Lang fairy books, green, blue, purple, grey and crimson, were an excitement in themselves.”
 
– Catherine Peters in A Passion for Books, edited by Dale Salwak
   (St Martin’s, 1999)
 
 
 
“As I grew older, the images of bleak yet rapturous imposture – particularly in fairy tales – aroused an inescapable sensation of wanting to write. Princesses turned into mute swans, princes into beasts. Think of the eerie lure of the Pied Piper! I began to pursue that truly voluptuous sensation in middle childhood.”
 
– Cynthia Ozick in The Book That Changed My Life,
  edited by Diane Osen (Modern Library, 2002)
 
 

Illustration: Jessie Willcox Smith

Writing Morocco

 
   
“In 1931, without any preconceived notion of what I should find there, I paid a visit to Morocco. Two months, I thought, would suffice for seeing the place. And so they would have if what I saw had not awakened a wish to see more, a wish which seemed to grow even as it was being satisfied. At first it expressed itself as a desire to wander over the surface of the land … After the War I returned to Morocco and bought a home there. This time I became aware of the fact that it was not the landscape I wanted to know, but the people.”
   
– Paul Bowles
   
Read more about Paul Bowles.
    
  
   
 
   

“The … endless banquet at which course succeeded course – spiced chickens and pigeons, kous-kous, and whole roast sheep and kebab and almond pastries and sweet mint tea … lasted all through the night. Swaying lines of women danced to the music of their own wild chant; the traditional boy dancers with painted faces and white robes drawn tight at the waist by gold-embroidered bells, danced to the tambourines and the clicking of the copper castanets on their fingers; in the courtyard a huge fire of juniper logs lit the battlements of the castle; outside the Kasbah wall … the night was loud with feasting.”
   
– Gavin Maxwell, Lords of the Atlas
  
 
 
 
“With the afternoon heat too suffocating in the square, the light too bright for any but a Marrachi’s eyes, I slipped into the labyrinth of the medina. Cool vaulted stone, courtyards latticed with bamboo staves, casting zebra stripes across the merchants and their stalls. What an emporium – mountains of tumeric, paprika, salted almonds and dates, yellow leather slippers laid out in rows, ostrich eggs and incense, chameleons in wire cages, and beef tenderloins nestled on fragrant beds of mint.”
  
from Tahir Shah’s introduction to Marrakesh: Through Writers’ Eyes
   
Visit Tahir Shah’s website.
   
 
   
 
 
 
“… I wish I could tell you the wonder of the souks and marketplaces; the brilliant overflowing of spices, olives, fabrics; the witchcraft stalls; the fishmongers; the piles of mint and thyme scenting the air . . . and even more than this is the wonder of its becoming familiar, the sufficiency and contentment in knowing the names of things, the words to tell the taxi drivers, the sense and reason behind the lives of Moroccans …”
  
– Melissa Manlove, ‘Letter from Morocco’, Travelers’ Tales
(Editors’ Choice)
 
Visit Travelers’ Tales website.
  
 
  

  
  
“Inside, the ceiling is low, cobwebbed, and the shelves beneath it cluttered with treasure. There are ancient Berber chests, silver teapots, ebony footstools, and swords once used by warring tribes, and cartons of postcards left by the French, Box Brownie cameras, candlesticks, silk wedding belts, and camel headdresses crafted from indigo wool.”
  
from Tahir Shah’s introduction to Marrakesh: Through Writers’ Eyes
  
 
  
 
 
 
“Crisply geometric patterns of blue-and-white zellij, sun-bleached panels of carved cedar, rhythmic arcades of white plaster, sinuous lines of wrought-iron balconies: each reveals the hand of a master craftsperson and the beauty of refined materials.”
  
– Susan Sully, New Moroccan Style: The Art of Sensual Living

 
 
“I stand in a portico hung with gentian-blue ipomeas … and look out on a land of mists and mysteries; a land of trailing silver veils through which domes and minarets, mighty towers and ramparts of flushed stone, hot palm groves and Atlas snows, peer and disappear at the will of the Atlantic cloud drifts.”
  
– Edith Wharton, In Morocco
  
Read more about Edith Wharton.
   
 
  

  

“From far off, through circuitous corridors, came the scent of citrus-blossom and jasmine, with sometimes a bird’s song before dawn, sometimes a flute’s wail at sunset, and always the call of the muezzin in the night …”
  
– Edith Wharton, In Morocco
  
 
  

  
  
“To visit Morocco is still like turning the pages of some illuminated Persian manuscript all embroidered with bright shapes and subtle lines.”
  
– Edith Wharton, 1927
   
 
  
 
  

“The sight of books removes sorrow from the heart.”
  
– Moroccan proverb
   
   
Some reading suggestions
 
The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles
Let it Come Down, Paul Bowles
The Spider’s House, Paul Bowles
A House in Fez, Suzanna Clarke
Hideous Kinky, Ester Freud
Lords of the Atlas: The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua,
Gavin Maxwell
Marrakesh: Through Writers’ Eyes, edited by Barnaby Rogers
and Rose Baring
The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca, Tahir Shah
In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams,
Tahir Shah
New Moroccan Style: The Art of Sensual Living, by Susan Sully,
Jean Cazals and Meryanne Louw-Martin
Valley of the Casbahs: A Journey Across the Moroccan Sahara,
Jeffrey Tayler
Morocco: In the Labyrinth of Dreams and Bazaars, Walter M Weiss
In Morocco, Edith Wharton
 
 
Read the work of some Moroccan poets.
   
Links to Moroccan poetry organisations and websites.