Quotations about   story

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It is never quite safe to think we have done with life. When we imagine we have finished our story fate has a trick of turning the page and showing us yet another chapter.

Lucy Maud Montgomery
Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) Canadian author
Rainbow Valley, ch. 13 (1919)
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Added on 18-Nov-21 | Last updated 18-Nov-21
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I know that the Bible is a special kind of book, but I find it as seductive as any other. If I am not careful, I can begin to mistake the words on the page for the realities they describe. I can begin to love the dried ink marks on the page more than I love the encounters that gave rise to them. If I am not careful, I can decide that I am really much happier reading my Bible than I am entering into what God is doing in my own time and place, since shutting the book to go outside will involve the very great risk of taking part in stories that are still taking shape. Neither I nor anyone else knows how these stories will turn out, since at this point they involve more blood than ink. The whole purpose of the Bible, it seems to me, is to convince people to set the written word down in order to become living words in the world for God’s sake. For me, this willing conversion of ink back to blood is the full substance of faith.

Barbara Brown Taylor (b. 1951) American minister, academic, author
Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, Part 1 (2006)
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Added on 22-Oct-21 | Last updated 22-Oct-21
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The whole truth would be an infinite concatenation of mostly irrelevant facts, with an occasional dose of, in textspeak, “TMI,” too much information — when, for example, you ruin the case you were making against factory farming by going into such detail about how painful de-beaking is for chickens that your listener shuts you out and struggles to think about something else. So we do not tell the whole truth; we tell carefully crafted stories, and we do this even when our moral purpose is to tell the truth.

Justin E. H. Smith (b. 1972) American-Canadian professor of history and philosophy of science
Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason, ch. 8 (2019)
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Added on 25-Jun-21 | Last updated 25-Jun-21
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People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Witches Abroad (1991)
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Added on 15-Jun-21 | Last updated 15-Jun-21
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There is a time for long tales, but there is also a time for sleep.

[Ὥρη μὲν πολέων μύθων, ὥρη δὲ καὶ ὕπνου.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 11, l. 379 [Odysseus] (c. 700 BC) [tr. Rieu (1946)]
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On being asked by King Alcinoüs to continue his tale of journeying to the Land of the Dead. Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • '“Most eminent king,” said he, “times all must keep, / There’s time to speak much, time as much to sleep.' [tr. Chapman (1616)]
  • "There is a time for talk, a time for rest." [tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 362]
  • "Since yet the early hour of night allows / Time for discourse, and time for soft repose." [tr. Pope (1725)]
  • "The time suffices yet / For converse both and sleep." [tr. Cowper (1792), l. 460-61]
  • "Night is the time for converse, night for rest." [tr. Worsley (1861), st. 54]
  • "A time there is for tales -- and a time for sleep!" [tr. Bigge-Wither (1869), l. 378]
  • "There is a time for many words and there is a time for sleep." [tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]
  • "Time is for words abundant, and time for sleep maybe." [tr. Morris (1887)]
  • "There is a time for stories and a time for sleep." [tr. Palmer (1891)]
  • "There is a time for making speeches, and a time for going to bed." [tr. Butler (1898)]
  • "There is a time for many words and there is a time also for sleep." [tr. Murray (1919)]
  • "Surely there is a time for long speaking and a time for sleep." [tr. Lawrence (1932)]
  • "There is a time for story telling; there is also a time for sleep." [tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]
  • "It's true that there's still time for tales and talk, / yet there is, too, a time for sleep." [tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]
  • "There is a time for many words, a time for sleep as well." [tr. Fagles (1996)]
  • "There is a time for words and a time for sleep." [tr. Lombardo (2000), l. 389]
  • "There is a time for long tales, and there is a time for sleep." [tr. Verity (2016)]
  • "It is a time for many tales, but also a time for sleep." [tr. Wilson (2017)]
Added on 26-May-21 | Last updated 26-May-21
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Nobody knows what is going to happen because so much depends on an enormous number of variables, on simple hazard. On the other hand if you look at history retrospectively, then, even though it was contingent, you can tell a story that makes sense. … Jewish history, for example, in fact had its ups and downs, its, enmities and its friendships, as every history of all people has. The notion that there is one unilinear history is of course false. But if you look at it after the experience of Auschwitz it looks as though all of history — or at least history since the Middle Ages — had no other aim than Auschwitz. … This, is the real problem of every philosophy of history how: is it possible that in retrospect it always looks as though it couldn’t have happened otherwise?

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
Interview with Roger Errera (Oct 1973), The New York Review of Books (26 Oct 1978)
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Added on 28-Jan-21 | Last updated 28-Jan-21
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Sing your song. Dance your dance. Tell your tale.

Frank McCourt (1930-2009) Irish-American teacher and writer
Angela’s Ashes (1996)

Also included in the dedication to Teacher Man (2006).
Added on 10-Sep-20 | Last updated 10-Sep-20
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The murderer, the victim, the witness, each of us thinks our role is the lead.

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
Invisible Monsters, ch. 1 (1999)
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Added on 28-Jul-20 | Last updated 28-Jul-20
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It would seem that in youth we sow our wild oats, in old age our tame anecdotes.

Clifton Fadiman (1904-1999) American critic, lecturer, editor
The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, Introduction (1985)
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Added on 19-Jun-20 | Last updated 19-Jun-20
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Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.

Jean-Luc Godard (b. 1930) French-Swiss film director, screenwriter, critic
(Attributed)
Added on 11-Mar-20 | Last updated 11-Mar-20
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An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Louise Colet (9 Dec 1852)
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In a later letter to Leoroyer de Chanepie (18 Mar 1857), he repeated the sentiment: "The artist must be in his work as God is in creation, invisible and all-powerful; one must sense him everywhere but never see him."
Added on 13-Feb-20 | Last updated 10-Jun-21
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It should be quite unnecessary to point the moral; the right telling of the story should be sufficient. Do not moralize, but let the facts produce their own moral in the child’s mind.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Education and the Good Life, ch. 11 (1926)
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Added on 14-Jul-17 | Last updated 14-Jul-17
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There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
Dust Tracks on a Road, ch. 8 (1942)

Sometimes misattributed to Maya Angelou.
Added on 16-Jun-17 | Last updated 16-Jun-17
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The sharpness of a refusal or the edge of a rebuke may be blunted by an appropriate story so as to save wounded feelings and yet serve the purpose.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
(Attributed)

In Anthony Gross, ed. Lincoln's Own Stories, ch. 6 (1912).
Added on 26-Dec-16 | Last updated 26-Dec-16
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Chapter the Eleventh: In Which the Plot, Behaving in Much the Manner Of a Soup to which Corn Starch Has been Added, Begins, at Last, to Thicken

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
The Phoenix Guards (1991)
Added on 28-Oct-16 | Last updated 28-Oct-16
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If you have anything to tell me of importance, for God’s sake begin at the end.

Sara Jeannette Duncan (1861-1922) Canadian author and journalist
The Imperialist (1904)
Added on 29-Apr-16 | Last updated 29-Apr-16
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HENRY: I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you might nudge the world a little or make a poem that children will speak for you when you are dead.

Tom Stoppard (b. 1937) Czech-English playwright and screenwriter
The Real Thing, Act 2, sc. 5 (1982)
Added on 31-Oct-14 | Last updated 31-Oct-14
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Don’t let them tell us stories. Don’t let them say of the man sentenced to death “He is going to pay his debt to society,” but: “They are going to cut off his head.” It looks like nothing. But it does make a little difference.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Entre oui et non,” in L’Envers et l’endroit (1937)

Translated as "Between Yes and No", in World Review (Mar 1950).
Added on 29-Sep-14 | Last updated 29-Sep-14
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Depend upon it if a man talks of his misfortunes there is something in them that is not disagreeable to him; for where there is nothing but pure misery there never is any recourse to the mention of it.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (1780)
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In Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, ch. 51 "1780" (1791)
Added on 21-Mar-14 | Last updated 21-Mar-14
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