The Outermost Dream

Mr. Forster’s Pageant

“The age of enquiry was over, and the age of authority had begun, and it is worth noting that the decline of science at Alexandria exactly coincides with the rise of Christianity.” — p 23

“Paganism of the most tolerant kind, able to think of all gods as perhaps the same few deities worshipped under different names, is replaced by the rigid insistence that there is only one God…” — p 23

Ideas of Honor and Aristocracy (Karen Blixen)

“She disliked democracy not because she believed that the common people were unfit to rule but because it encouraged mediocrity, renounced all ideals that were higher than those that could be attained, and, by blurring distinctions, diminished the richness of existence.” — pp 27-28

(she) “…sprang from a class that valued things according to the use they could be put to and preferred the convenient to the beautiful.” — p 28

“…she had a frightening sense of the fragility of life, a terror of abandoning her soul to something she could lose again; that every moment of happiness she had known in Africa had been colored by a dread of its ending; that it had become a habit, and ide’e fixe, with her ‘to the point of calculating how much more time was left of something, even if it was only a trip to Nairobi’.” — p 32

“‘For an answer is a rarer thing than is generally imagined. There are many highly intelligent people who have no answer at all in them. A conversation or a correspondence with such persons is nothing but a double monologue — you may stroke them or you may strike them, you will get no more echo from them than from a block of wood. And how, then, can you yourself go on speaking?'” — p 34 Quoting from Karen Blixen’s essay “On Mottoes of My Life”

“Her housekeeper said, ‘I have never thought that she was sweet and nice all the time, or that it was always pleasant to live under her roof. She was, though, a person with stronger feelings than so many others. Therefore there were things which pained her, and when something pains you, it can well make you unreasonable’.” — p 39

V.S. Pritchett’s Apprenticeship

“What distinguishes a classic from an ordinary book is, of course, authority, and to write with this degree of authority you have to have a great deal to say and no hesitation about how it is to be said or about saying it.” — p 50

“The French boys in the shop could not pronounce his name, and he was the office joke until he managed to become the office humorist instead. A month after he started to work there, his awkward French had become fluent.” — p 53

“He knew that he wanted to become a writer, but he could not see that he had anything to write about except that he was alive.” — p 54

“…there is a noticeable change of pace and focus. Events take place in time rather than at any given moment of time. The descriptions of people tend to be generalized.” — p 58

“‘…the Spanish paradox: life intensely felt in the flesh and made whole by the contemplation of death’.” — p 59 Quoting V. S. Pritchett

A Life (Andrei Alekseyevich Amalrik)

“Almost blocking the doorway was a grand piano that Amalrik had inherited from an aunt who was a singer. It was completely out of tune and was seldom played. ‘Some people — especially foreigners — used to laugh at us, because while we didn’t even have a table to eat at, half the room was occupied by a useless grand piano. But its very uselessness and beauty, together with the paintings, the old books, the grandfather clock, and the withered, spidery plants on the sideboard, made our room look like something out of a fairy tale’.” — p 67

Displaced Princes and Princesses (Marie Vassiltchikov)

“Her diaries are not introspective and contain few generalizations. They record whom she saw and what she did, always with the instinct for the telling detail which is characteristic of the great diarists.” — p 109

The Bohemian Girl (E. Nesbit)

“Her character had many faults, but they were all of the forgivable kind, and it is too much to ask that people who spend very much time in a world of their own, as all writers do, should immediately and invariably grasp what is going on in this one.” — p 153

One Creature (Colette)

“As husband and wife, they continued to practice certain forms of politeness with each other. He did not see her in the morning until her face was made up. Except in moments of the greatest stress, they did not ask, ‘What are you thinking of?’ They did not permit themselves displays of ill temper or try to impose on each other all their own ways of seeing and feeling.” — p 175

“She read Proust all the way through about every two years.” — p 177

“Within reach, a brown morocco-leather box, designed to hold a rare copy of Pascal’s Les Provinciales but actually containing her lipstick, mirror, etc.” — p 177

“The real curious person has no secrets; they would interfere with his pursuit of knowledge. More curious than Colette was it probably isn’t possible to be. And who she was, what she was, at all times lies open to you like a landscape when you read her. She never describes anything she has not observed. Every important thing about her is there. Nothing is held back from the reader who may be curious about her. And yet when all curiousity about Colette has been satisfied, she continues to exert a pull, an attraction.” — p 177

The Element of Lavishness (Sylvia Townsend Warner)

“‘And there she was and there she stayed. I had no thought of doing anything with her. A year or so later and equally out of the blue I saw Minna telling about the pogrom in a Paris drawing-room and Lamartine leaning against the doorway. And there she stayedÃ…cI found that I wanted to write anovel about 1848. And Sophia and Minna started up and rushed into it’.” — p 203

“‘I love reading Letters myself, and I can imagine enjoying my own’.” — p 205

“‘I hope you have had the same moonlight nights there have been here: the downs like sleeping deities and a moonlit badger feeding on the lawn.’ And this: ‘I wish you could see the two cats, drowsing side by side in a Victorian nursing chair, their paws, their ears, their tails complementally adjusted, their blue eyes blinking open on a single thought of when I shall remember it’s their suppertime. They might have been composed by Bach for two flutes’.” — p 206

About the Author

William Maxwell was born in 1908, in Lincoln, Illinois. When he was fifteen his family moved to Chicago and he continued his education there and at the University of Illinois. After a year of graduate work at Harvard he went back to Urbana and taught freshman compostion, and then turned to writing. He has published six novels, two collections of short fiction, and autobiographical memoir, and a book for children. For forty years he was a fiction editor at The New Yorker. From 1969 to 1972 he was president of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He has received the Brandeis Creative Arts Award Medal and, for his novel So Long, See You Tomorrow, the American Book Award and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.” He lived with his wife in New York City until his death on July 31, 2000.

Other Books

  • Bright Center of Heaven (1934)
  • They Came Like Swallows (1937)
  • The Folded Leaf (1945)
  • The Heavenly Tenants (1946)
  • Time Will Darken It (1948)
  • Stories (1956)
  • The Chateau (1961)
  • The Old Man at the Railroad Crossing and Other Tales (1966)
  • Ancestors (1971)
  • Over by the River and Other Stories (1977)
  • So Long, See You Tomorrow (1980)
  • Berlin Diaries, 1940-45, edited by George Vassiltchikov 1987

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