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Louis Menand Quotes

Louis Menand

Louis Menand quotes: eloquent words on writing and life.

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.”

“I believe that if you do what you want, and believe in doing things for yourself, without worrying about what everybody else seems to want from you, at some point the world will meet you halfway. You have to trust that.”

“Everyone is simply riding the wave chance has put them on. Some people know how to surf; some people drown.”

“When we choose a belief and act on it, we change the way things are.”

“Make a decision about it and present it.”

“Successful people… just had a better grasp of social tendencies than unsuccessful people.”

“Thinking is a social activity. I tolerate your thought because it is part of my thought—even when my thought defines itself in opposition to yours.”

“Knowledge really is a tool for shaping the world.”

“You want diversity in any intellectual organization. I mean, that’s how good ideas arise.”

“There are limits, after all, to the idea of limits.”

“If time is a staircase, reality is a Slinky.”

“We have much wisdom to gain by learning to understand other people’s cultures and permitting ourselves to accept that there is more than one version of reality.”

“We spend a lot of our lives wishing we could have things back, and you can’t have things back. It’s the character of modernity, of capitalism, of a fairly young civilization. That’s the American studies angle, to show that these things that are very much part of our culture are also very much of the moment. They come and they go.”

“Life is uncertain, and we have to be skeptical of conclusions. It is an experiment whose outcome is in doubt.”

“If you look up a word in the dictionary, you find it defined by a string of other words, the meanings of which can be discovered by looking them up in a dictionary, leading to more words that can be looked up in turn. There is no exit from the dictionary.”

“A person whose financial requirements are modest and whose curiosity, skepticism and indifference to reputation are outsized is a person at risk of becoming a journalist.”

“I’m not one of the people who has a kind of scholarly hat and writes in a certain way for an academic audience and then puts on a public intellectual hat and writes a different way for a different kind of readership. I generally write the way I write, no matter what and it seems to have worked for me.”

“One of the oddities about responses that you get to what you write, if you get a fair number of them, is that people have very different ideas of what you said.”

“Good writing is seamless writing.”

“I suppose everybody does get attached to characters whether in movies or in stories, but I think that’s part of the reason you get involved with literature is because there’s somebody that grabs you about it and then you want to figure out why.”

“The person in my writing is not the person you’re talking to. It’s somewhere inside the person you’re talking to, and I need to get in touch with that person before I can write. That’s the voice, that’s my writing. I always enjoy hearing what it has to say.”

“One of the things that is pretty constant is that you’re trying to explain subjects to readers, and it’s a little bit like teaching. And that’s fun.”

“One of the good things about the profession of being a professor, is that you also have time to do what interests you and what you care about or what you’re good at.”

“Writers are not mere copyists of language; they are polishers, embellishers, perfecters. They spend hours getting the timing right so that what they write sounds completely unrehearsed.”

“Public circulation is what renders something a quotation. It’s quotable because it’s been quoted, and it’s having been quoted gives it authority.”

“Just in higher education alone, more people go to college now, by enormous amounts, than went to college in the ’50s and ’60s. So that represents a whole new literate public that’s a consumer of literature, of news, of print, of, you know, opinion. And that’s a bigger audience and much more diverse audience than it used to be.”

“It’s generally sort of sociologically observed that the better educated people are, the more liberal they tend to be.”

“To think great thoughts you must be heroes as well as idealists.”

“We permit free expression because we need the resources of the whole group to get us the ideas we need.”

“People know what their life’s task is, and they know when it has been completed. Individuals are not expected to follow the life path of their parents, and the future of the society is not thought to be dictated entirely by its past. Modern societies do not simply repeat and extend themselves; they change in unforeseeable directions, and the individual’s contributions to these changes is unspecifiable in advance.”

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