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  1. We men have got love well weighed up; our stuff
    Can get by without it.
    Women don't seem to think that's good enough;
    They write about it.
    Kingsley Amis 1922–95 English novelist and poet: ‘A Bookshop Idyll’ (1956)
  2. Literature's always a good card to play for Honours. It makes people think that Cabinet ministers are educated.
    Arnold Bennett 1867–1931 English novelist: The Title (1918)
  3. Dr Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.
    Anita Brookner 1928– British novelist and art historian: A Start in Life (1981)
  4. A well-written Life is almost as rare as a well-spent one.
    Thomas Carlyle 1795–1881 Scottish historian and political philosopher: Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1838)
  5. ‘What is the use of a book’, thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversations?’
    Lewis Carroll 1832–98 English writer and logician: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
  6. If my books had been any worse, I should not have been invited to Hollywood, and if they had been any better, I should not have come.
    Raymond Chandler 1888–1959 American writer: letter to Charles W. Morton, 12 December 1945
  7. When I want to read a novel, I write one.
    Benjamin Disraeli 1804–81 British Tory statesman and novelist: W. Monypenny and G. Buckle Life of Benjamin Disraeli (1920)
  8. listening to readings from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings:
    Oh fuck, not another elf!
    Hugo Dyson 1896–1975 English academic: A. N. Wilson C. S. Lewis (1990)
  9. How rare, how precious is frivolity! How few writers can prostitute all their powers! They are always implying, ‘I am capable of higher things.’
    E. M. Forster 1879–1970 English novelist: Abinger Harvest (1936)
  10. What greater service could I have performed for German literature than that I didn't bother with it?
    Frederick the Great 1712–86 Prussian king: K. Biedermann Friedrich der Grosse (1859)
  11. He knew everything about literature except how to enjoy it.
    Joseph Heller 1923–99 American novelist: Catch-22 (1961)
  12. It's with bad sentiments that one makes good novels.
    Aldous Huxley 1894–1963 English novelist: letter, 10 July 1962
  13. It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.
    Henry James 1843–1916 American novelist: Hawthorne (1879)
  14. The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it.
    Samuel Johnson 1709–84 English poet, critic, and lexicographer: letter to Lord Chesterfield, 7 February 1755; James Boswell Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
  15. A beginning, a muddle, and an end.
    on the ‘classic formula’ for a novel
    Philip Larkin 1922–85 English poet: in New Fiction January 1978
  16. Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children. Life is the other way round.
    David Lodge 1935– English novelist: The British Museum is Falling Down (1965)
  17. From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.
    Groucho Marx 1890–1977 American film comedian: a blurb written for S. J. Perelman's 1928 book Dawn Ginsberg's Revenge
  18. In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.
    André Maurois 1885–1967 French writer: The Art of Living (1940)
  19. explaining to Queen Victoria why he did not wish to read Oliver Twist:
    It's all among workhouses and Coffin Makers and Pickpockets…I wish to avoid them.
    Lord Melbourne 1779–1848 British Whig statesman: A. N. Wilson The Victorians (2002)
  20. I have only ever read one book in my life, and that is White Fang. It's so frightfully good I've never bothered to read another.
    Uncle Matthew's view of literature
    Nancy Mitford 1904–73 English writer: Love in a Cold Climate (1949)
  21. And I'll stay off Verlaine too; he was always chasing Rimbauds.
    Dorothy Parker 1893–1967 American critic and humorist: ‘The Little Hours’ (1939)
  22. If, with the literate, I am
    Impelled to try an epigram,
    I never seek to take the credit;
    We all assume that Oscar said it.
    Dorothy Parker 1893–1967 American critic and humorist: ‘A Pig's-Eye View of Literature’ (1937)
  23. Nearly all our best men are dead! Carlyle, Tennyson, Browning, George Eliot!—I'm not feeling very well myself.
    Punch 1841–1992 English humorous weekly periodical: vol. 104 (1893)
  24. I have known her pass the whole evening without mentioning a single book, or in fact anything unpleasant, at all.
    Henry Reed 1914–86 English poet and dramatist: A Very Great Man Indeed (1953)
  25. Is Moby Dick the whale or the man?
    Harold Ross 1892–1951 American journalist and editor: James Thurber The Years with Ross (1959)
  26. In view of her penchant
    For something romantic,
    De Sade is too trenchant
    And Dickens too frantic,
    And Stendhal would ruin
    The plan of attack
    As there isn't much blue in
    The Red and the Black.
    Stephen Sondheim 1930– American songwriter: ‘Now’ (1972)
  27. You're familiar with the tragedies of antiquity, are you? The great homicidal classics?
    Tom Stoppard 1937– British dramatist: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1967)
  28. Like playing Beethoven on the kazoo.
    on his translation of Shakespeare into text messages
    John Sutherland 1938– English writer: in Mail on Sunday 20 November 2005