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Some of my youthful readers are developing wonderful imaginations. This pleases me. Imagination has brought mankind through the Dark Ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams — day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing — are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore to foster civilization. A prominent educator tells me that fairy tales are of untold value in developing imagination in the young. I believe it.

L Frank Baum
L. Frank Baum (1856-1919) American author [Lyman Frank Baum]
The Lost Princess of Oz, Introduction (1917)
Added on 4-Jul-24 | Last updated 4-Jul-24
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To read my book the virgin shy
May blush while Brutus standeth by,
But when he’s gone, read through what’s writ,
And never stain a cheek for it.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674) English poet
“Another [To His Booke],” Hesperides, # 4 (1648)

A translation (if not so labeled) of the concluding lines of Martial ep. 11.6. Brutus stands as a paragon of moral rectitude.
Added on 17-May-24 | Last updated 13-May-24
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There is really no way of considering a book independently of one’s special sensations in reading it on a particular occasion. In this as in everything else one must allow a certain relativity. In a sense, one can never read the book that the author originally wrote, and one can never read the same book twice.

Edmund Wilson
Edmund Wilson, Jr. (1895-1972) American writer, literary critic, journalist
The Triple Thinkers, Foreword (1948 ed.)
Added on 17-Nov-23 | Last updated 17-Nov-23
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For of old
Rome said to me — “Your readers are your gold.
By them the stream of Lethe you’ll survive,
By them the better part of you will live.”
The wild fig splits Messalla’s marbles through,
And Crispus’ steeds are shattered quite in two :
But books are helped by time nor hurt by thieves,
Memorials that death uninjured leaves.

[Quem cum mihi Roma dedisset.
“Nil tibi quod demus maius habemus” ait.
“Pigra per hunc fugies ingratae flumina Lethes
Et meliore tui parte superstes eris.
Marmora Messallae findit caprificus, et audax
Dimidios Crispi mulio ridet equos:
At chartis nec furta nocent et saecula prosunt,
Solaque non norunt haec monumenta mori.”]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 10, epigram 2 (10.2) (AD 95, 98 ed.)[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Reader, my wealth; whom when to me Rome gave,
Nought greater to bestow (quoth she) I have.
By him ingratefull Lethe thou shalt flye,
And in thy better part shalt never dye.
Wilde Fig-trees rend Messalla's Marbles off;
Crispus halfe-horses the bold Carters scoffe.
Writings no age can wrong, no thieving hand.
Deathlesse alone those Monuments will stand.
[tr. May (1629)]

When Fate to me a constant reader gave;
Receive, she said, the greatest boon I have.
By this beyond oblivion's stream arrive;
And in your better party by this survive.
Statues may moulder; and the clown unbred
Scoff at young Ammon's horse without his head.
But finish'd writings theft and time defy;
The only monument, which cannot die.
[tr. Hay (1755)]

Reader, our riches! Well, said, Rome, I know,
A blester boon I have not to bestow.
By this though thro' Lethean streams shalt strive,
And in thy better part shalt still survive.
The wilding may Messala's marble cleave,
The speaker silence, and the sculptor reave.
The mule's pert driver may reproachless laugh,
At Crispus' coursers dwindled down to half.
Wit's labors onely rape or age defy:
His monuments alone can never die.
[tr. Elphinston (1782)]

When Rome gave you [readers] to me, she said, "I have nothing greater to give you. By his means you will escape the sluggish waves of ungrateful Lethe, and will survive in the better part of yourself. The marble tomb of Messale is split by the wild fig, and the audacious muleteer laughs at the mutilated horses of the statue of Crispus.1 But as for writings, they are indestructible either by thieves or the ravages of time; such monuments alone are proof against death."
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

For when Rome had given you to me, she said: We have nothing greater to give you. By him will you escape unthankful Lethe's sluggish stream, and will in your better part survive. Messalla's marble the wild-fig sunders, and boldly the mule-driver laughs at Crispus' steeds broken in two. But writings thefts do not injure, and time befriends them, and alone these monuments know not death."
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Rome can tell how dear,
Who gave thee, saying, "Take my best; 'tis here;
By him ungrateful Lethe thou shallt flee
And thy best parts have immortality."
The fig-tree splits Messala's marble blocks,
And the rough drover draggled Crispus mocks.
Verses grow great with Time and Fate defy;
Such monuments alone can never die.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), ep. 508]

When Rome gave you to me, she said: "I have nothing greater to give you. through him you will escape ungrateful Lethe's idle waters and survive in the better part of yourself. The fig tree splits Messalla's marble, the bold muleteer laughs at Crispus' halved horses. But thefts do not harm paper and the centuries do it good. These are the only memorials that cannot die."
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

Reader, Patron, willed to me by Rome
saying: "No greater gift! Through him
You'll flee neglectful Lethe's stagnant flood --
the better part of you survive.
Wild-fig rives the marble, heedless muleteers
deride the busted steeds of bronze.
But verse no decrease knows, time adds to verse,
deathless alone of monuments."
[tr. Whigham (1985), "Rome's Gift"]

Added on 22-Sep-23 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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Though so lengthy a book should your taste satisfy,
You have asked me for more: but my household will cry
For some food, and the usurer’s drained me quite dry;
So reader … you see what I mean to imply?
You are silent and don’t understand me? Good bye!

[Quamvis tam longo possis satur esse libello,
Lector, adhuc a me disticha pauca petis.
Sed Lupus usuram puerique diaria poscunt.
Lector, solve. Taces dissimulasque? Vale.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 11, epigram 108 (11.108) (AD 96) [tr. Pott & Wright (1921), “A Hint”]

"To the Reader." (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

With my long book thou well may'st glutted be,
Yet thou more epigrams exact'st of me:
But Lupus calls for use, servants for pay,
Discharge them, reader. Now thou'st nought to say,
Dissemblest, as my words thou could'st not spell.
No riddle thou'rt to me, reader, farewell.
[tr. Killigrew (1695)]

Although, reader, you may well be tired of so long a book, you still want a few more distichs from me. But Lupus demands his interest; and my copyists their wages. Pay, reader. You are silent; do you pretend not to hear? Then, goodbye.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

Although with so long a book you may well be sated, reader, yiou still ask for a few distichs from me. But Lupus requires his interest, and my slaves their rations. Reader, pay me. Do you say nothing, and pretend yuo don't understand? Good bye!
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Contented reader -- I had thought to say,
But something's wanting? Then perhaps you'll pay.
My bailiff's broke, my lads for victuals cry;
What? Silent? Can't afford it? Then good-bye.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), ep. 639, "A Postscript"]

I should have thought you'd had your fill
By now -- this book's too long -- yet still
You clamour for couplets. You forget,
My slaves need rations, I'm in debt,
The interest's due ... Dear reader, pay
My creditors for me. Silent, eh?
The puzzled innocent? Good-day!
[tr. Michie (1972)]

Reader, although you might well be satisfied with so long a little book, you ask me for a few couplets more. But Lupus demands his interest and the boys their rations. Pay up, reader. You say nothing and pretend not to hear? Good-bye.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

Reader, so long a book should satisfy you,
yet still "a few more couplets," you reply.
But boys want food and Lupus wants his interest.
Pay up! You're silent, playing deaf? Goodbye.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

A little book this long could satisfy your appetite, reader, but still you ask me for a few couplets more; but Lupus wants his interest, and my boys, their rations. Reader, clear my slate. Nothing to say? Pretending you're deaf? Get lost!
[tr. Nisbet (2015)]

Added on 5-Aug-22 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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The author always loads his dice, but he must never let the reader see that he has done so.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
The Summing Up, ch. 59 (1938)

On using plot to direct the reader's interest.
Added on 5-Jan-22 | Last updated 8-May-24
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Me kindly Rome loves, quotes my books, and buys them;
But till that critic feigning to despise them
Blushed and turned pale, then yawned and looked confounded,
I never felt my fame was surely grounded.

[Laudat, amat, cantat nostros mea Roma libellos,
Meque sinus omnes, me manus omnis habet.
Ecce rubet quidam, pallet, stupet, oscitat, odit.
Hoc volo: nunc nobis carmina nostra placent.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 6, epigram 60 (6.60) (AD 91) [tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Rome lauds, & loves, & reades my works,
and singes them every where:
Each fist doth hld me clutched fast,
eache bosome me doth beare.
One bluseth lo, as red as fyre,
anone as pale as claye:
Anone he looks astonished,
as one did hym dismaye:
Sometime he mumping mockes and moes,
sometime he doth repine:
Ymarrie, this is that I would:
now please me verses mine.
[tr. Kendall (1577)]

Rome hugs my verse, and cries up for rare,
My books each hand and ev'ry bosom bear;
There's one yet lowers, disdains, is ill at ease:
I'm glad; my verses now myself do please.
[tr. Killigrew (1695)]

The town beloves, applauds, attunes my strains;
Each hand engrasps them, and each bosom gains:
See one change color, grin, and gape with hate!
This crowns my wish: be this my Muse's fate.
[tr. Elphinston (1782)], Book 2, ep. 16]

Rome, city of my affections, praises, loves, and recites my compositions;
I am in every lap, and in every hand.
But see, yon gentleman grows red and pale by turns, looks amazed, yawns, and, in fact, hates me.
I am delighted at the sight; my writings now please me.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859), ep. 61]

Quite friendly, Rome applauds my lay;
dotes on it, quotes it day by day.
My verses every pocket fill,
And every hand bethumbs me still.
See, yonder man turns red and white,
Winces, and yawns disgusted quite.
This I enjoy; by this I tell
That now my verses please me well.
[tr. Webb (1879), ep. 61]

My Rome praises, loves, and hums my verses,
and every pocket, every hand holds me.
See, yonder fellow turns red, turns pale, is dazed, yawns, curses! v This is what I want; now my verses please me!
[tr. Ker (1919)]

All Rome extols and loves and quotes my lines
And every bosom holds them, every hand;
See one that reddens, pales, yawns, stares and pines.
Ah! now at last their worth I understand.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), #306 (ep. 6.61), "A Hit"]

Rome praises, loves, and sings my little verses;
They're in all hands, all pockets, and all purses.
Look there! One blushes, pales, gasps, yawns, and curses.
That's what I want! I'm happy with my verses.
[tr. Barth (1988)]

All Rome is mad about my book:
It's praised, they hum the lines, shops stock it,
It peeps from every hand and pocket.
There's a man reading it! Just look --
He blushes, turns pale, reels, yawns, curses.
That's what I'm after. Bravo, verses!
[tr. Michie (1972)]

My Rome praises my little books, loves them, recites them; I am in every pocket, every hand. Look, somebody turns red, turns pale, is dazed, yawns, is disgusted. This I want. Now my poems please me.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

For my small books Rome's gone utterly mad;
I'm quite ubiquitous -- call it a fad.
Look, there -- see that fellow, leafing, curious.
First he blushes deeply, then he's furious;
A moment later his eyes glaze over;
He yawns, flips a page, then reels in horror.
This mercurial response I thrill to see;
Why, then my epigrams even please me!
[tr. Schmidgall (2001)]

Rome praises, loves, and quotes my little books,
I’m there in every pocket, every hand.
See them blush, turn white, stunned, yawn, disgusted.
I like it: now’s when my poems give me delight.
[tr. Kline (2006)]

He reads my verses, just to be in fashion.
But finds himself whipsawed by sudden passion.
He frowns, then chortles -- chokes at what he reads --
And calls them the most infamous of screeds,
Then he goes pale, as under some indicting --
You've got him, poems! That's what I call writing.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

Rome praises, loves, recites my little books.
I'm carried in each hand or pocket. See!
Someone blushes, gapes, yawns, or hates it.
That's what I want: my verse now pleases me.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

My Rome praises, loves and quotes my books,
which fill all pockets and all hands.
Readers blush, then pale, look dazed, curse, swear.
Yes! Yes! This is what I’d always planned.
[tr. Matthews]

Added on 31-Dec-21 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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But it’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.

Judy Blume (b. 1938) American writer
“Judy Blume Talks About Censorship”
Added on 24-Jun-21 | Last updated 24-Jun-21
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The Cool Stuff Theory of Literature is as follows: All literature consists of whatever the writer thinks is cool. The reader will like the book to the degree that he agrees with the writer about what’s cool. And that works all the way from the external trappings to the level of metaphor, subtext, and the way one uses words. In other words, I happen not to think that full-plate armor and great big honking greatswords are cool. I don’t like ’em. I like cloaks and rapiers. So I write stories with a lot of cloaks and rapiers in ’em, ’cause that’s cool.

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
The Paths of the Dead (2002)

In the essay "Some Notes Toward Two Analyses of Auctorial Method and Voice" by Teresa Nielsen Hayden.
Added on 17-Mar-17 | Last updated 17-Mar-17
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The profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader. The profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until an equal mind and heart finds and publishes it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Quotation and Originality,” Letters and Social Aims (1876)
Added on 18-Aug-16 | Last updated 19-Feb-22
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To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
Specimen Days and Collect, “Ventures, on an Old Theme,” closing paragraph (1882)
Added on 22-Apr-15 | Last updated 22-Apr-15
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No one has stepped twice into the same river. But did anyone ever step twice into the same book?

Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) Russian poet
“Pushkin and Pugachev [Пушкин и Пугачев]” (1937)

See Heraclitus.
Added on 24-Sep-12 | Last updated 24-Feb-20
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