"I am grown old, and have possibly lost a great deal of that fire, which formerly made me love fire in others at any rate, and however attended with smoke: but now I must have all sense, and cannot, for the sake of five righteous lines, forgive a thousand absurd ones."
"What will you say, when I tell you truly, that I cannot possibly read our countryman Milton through. I acknowledge him to have most sublime passages, some prodigious flashes of light; but then you must acknowledge that light is often followed by darkness visible, to use his own expression."
"I abide by a rule concerning reviews: I will never ask, neither in writing nor in person, that a word be put in about my book.... One feels cleaner this way. When someone asks that his book be reviewed he risks running up against a vulgarity offensive to authorial sensibilities."
"The naturalistic literature of this country has reached such a state that no family of characters is considered true to life which does not include at least two hypochondriacs, one sadist, and one old man who spills food down the front of his vest."
"We possess the Canon because we are mortal and also rather belated. There is only so much time, and time must have a stop, while there is more to read than there ever was before. From the Yahwist and Homer to Freud, Kafka, and Beckett is a journey of nearly three millennia. Since that voyage goes past harbors as infinite as Dante, Chaucer, Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy, all of whom amply compensate a lifetime's rereadings, we are in the pragmatic dilemma of excluding something else each time we read or reread extensively."
"Literature is not exhaustible, for the sufficient and simple reason that a single book is not. A book is not an isolated entity: it is a narration, an axis of innumerable narrations. One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read."
"In the course of a life devoted less to living than to reading, I have verified many times that literary intentions and theories are nothing more than stimuli and that the final work usually ignores or even contradicts them."
"A book is not an autonomous entity: it is a relation, an axis of innumerable relations. One literature differs from another, be it earlier or later, not because of the texts but because of the way they are read: if I could read any page from the present time--this one, for instance--as it will be read in the year 2000, I would know what the literature of the year 2000 would be like."