Moody on Writing

“At the end of the day, if you can do anything else — telemarketing, pharmaceutical sales, or ditch-digging, major league umpire — I would suggest you do that because being a writer blows: it’s like having homework for the rest of your life.”

— Hank Moody, protagonist of Californication, played by David Duchovny

Eco on The Da Vinci Code

Interviewer

Have you read The Da Vinci Code?

Umberto Eco

Yes, I am guilty of that too.

Interviewer

That novel seems like a bizarre little offshoot of Foucault’s Pendulum.

Eco

The author, Dan Brown, is a character from Foucault’s Pendulum. I invented him. He shares my characters’ fascinations — the world conspiracy of Rosicrucians, Masons, and Jesuits. The role of the Knights Templar. The hermetic secret. The principle that everything is connected. I suspect Dan Brown might not even exist.

(From the Summer 2008 issue of Paris Review, No. 185, page 88 as interviewed by Lila Azam Zanganeh, a contributor to Le Monde. She has written a collection of essays on Iran entitled My Brother, Guard Your Eyes.)

Roger and McWilliams on Happiness

“Happiness is not easy. It’s not for the weak, the timid, the wishy-washy, the easily dissuaded, or the uncertain. Happiness is not for wimps. Happiness requires courage, stamina, persistence, fortitude, perseverance, bravery, boldness, valor, vigor, concentration, solidity, substance, backbone, grit, guts, moxie, nerve, pluck, resilience, spunk, tenacity, tolerance, will power, chutzpah, and a good thesaurus.”

— John-Roger and Peter McWilliams in Life 101: Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life In School — But Didn’t

De la Costa on History

“There are those who say that all we can learn from history is that we never learn from history. Perhaps that is an extreme position…But if history can give us no foresight whatever, and perhaps little hindsight, what can it give us? History gives us a knowledge of men. Not the abstract knowledge we derive from philosophy, not the more or less fictional knowledge we derive from literature, but a concrete knowledge, a knowledge of men acting, men suffering, men in every conceivable circumstance of life and death…Perhaps a kind of wisdom. Not ready-made solutions to our present ills; not fantastic speculations as to the future; but the courage to face the facts, the humility to learn from them, the intelligence to act upon them, and the faith to believe that if we do what in us lies, God will do the rest.

— Horacio de la Costa, S. J., as quoted in Gregorio C. Brilliantes’ Chronicles of Interesting Times

Fenton on the Aquino assassination

Not everybody believes, I was to discover, that President [Ferdinand] Marcos personally authorized the murder. At the time, one is assured, he was having one of his relapses. A man who was involved in the design of the presidential dentures told me, meaningly, that at the time of Ninoy’s death Marcos’s gums were very swollen – which was always a sign. And he added, intriguingly, that whenever Marcos’s gums were swollen, the gums of General Ver, the Chief of Staff, swelled up in sympathy. Marcos was in the military hospital at the time, and I have it from someone who knew one of his nurses that, when he heard the news, Marcos threw his food-tray at his wife, Imelda. Others say he slapped her, but I prefer the food-tray version.

— James Fenton on The Snap Revolution as published in Granta 18