There are hugely influential writers who inspire others within their lifetimes, and Joan Didion ( 1934 – 2021 ) was certainly one of them. But it’s after her passing that everything she wrote seems to resonate even more, because we realize that there will be no further words of wisdom. This selection of quotes by Joan Didion highlights her unique talent at examining life — its joys, sorrows, and challenges.
In her tribute to Joan Didion upon her passing, Nancy Snyder wrote, “Joan Didion had her sublime sentences filled with a myriad of details to convey her personal and wholly authentic stories. She wrote about nearly every cultural and political upheaval that transformed the U.S. from the 1960s to the present day.”
Another, equally significant part of Didion’s writing is her observations on day-to-day things in a way that many of us already think about. But the manner in which she expressed them was anything but commonplace. She faced tragedies, like the loss of a beloved husband and a daughter, with words that cannot help but move. Read More→
From the time of her classic essay, “Notes on Camp” (1963), Susan Sontag was launched into the position of one of America’s premier public intellectuals. Nearly every line she wrote or spoke was quotable, so it’s a great challenge to choose a selection of quotes by Susan Sontag for a post that’s reasonable in length; here, we’ve attempted such a feat.
Achieving fame (and sometimes notoriety) in multiple forms of media — essays, fiction, film, and more — Sontag seemed to embrace her role as provocateur. Susan Sontag pastel portrait at right by Juan Bastos.
In her biography of Susan Sontag on this site, Nancy Snyder writes that she “achieved what was believed to be impossible for any American writer: she could easily pontificate on structuralist philosophy and on the history of interpretation — subjects not widely embraced in American culture — yet Sontag easily made the crossover from the inaccessible intellectual into the realm of established literary star.” Read More→
To contemplate a quote, or a line from one of Susan Sontag’s (1930 – 2004) many essays or novels, will invariably have the reader pause and read the line or paragraph again. Quotes by Susan Sontag have the capability to change the reader’s perception about how we view our lives — especially in regards to art and our own cultural limitations and vanities.
My own literary daydream has been to visit a bookstore, most likely The Strand on Broadway and 12th Street in New York City, and Sontag would be my guide as we strolled the aisles. Sontag’s commitment to literature and art has made an imprint on my life. In my daydream, Sontag would be the one doing all of the talking — I could only contribute my appreciation with a nodding of my head. Read More→
Silent Spring (1962) is the best-known work by Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964), noted American marine biologist and environmental trailblazer. The following selection of quotes from Silent Spring is a passionate argument for protecting the environment from manmade pesticides.
A work of nonfiction by Carson, the book is a gracefully written indictment of the pesticide industry that arose in the late 1950s. It presents a piercing look at the damage these chemicals cause to birds, bees, wildlife, and plant life. Read More→
Toni Morrison (1931 – 2019), the American novelist, editor, essayist, teacher, and professor is remembered for her powerful novels exploring the African-American experience. Following are quotes from Beloved, her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1987 novel.
Morrison based Beloved on a true incident. In 1856, a female escaped slave crossed the Ohio river from Kentucky into Ohio to seek freedom. Instead, she was captured, and killed her child so she wouldn’t have to be returned to slavery. Similarly, Sethe, the protagonist of the novel, kills her baby, who she calls Beloved, and is ever after haunted by her ghost.
Beloved earned Morrison a Pulitzer Prize, and later won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 to honor her body of published works. These included The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1974), Song of Solomon (1977) and Tar Baby (1981). Morrison went on to publish many other works of fiction and nonfiction. From the publisher: