Notable Quotables

Today's Notable Quotable is from Dorothy Thompson, the 'First Lady of American Journalism', who died on this day in 1961, aged 67.

During her lifetime Thompson would come to be regarded as one of the world's most influential journalists and radio broadcasters. 

In this capacity, she championed many causes, but she will perhaps be best remembered for the dire warnings contained in her reportage from Nazi Germany in the early 1930s (during which time she met and interviewed Adolf Hitler, an encounter which formed the basis of her book, I Saw Hitler).

In 1936, following years of reporting from Nazi Germany, Thompson earned the distinction of being the first American journalist to be expelled from the country.  This is hardly surprising given her outspoken criticism of the Fuhrer, whom she described as "inconsequent and voluble, ill poised and insecure [...} the very prototype of the little man".

This is what she had to say of the subject of dictators in 1935:
"No people ever recognize their dictator in advance. He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument — the Incorporated National Will. ... When our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American. And nobody will ever say "Heil" to him, nor will they call him "Führer" or "Duce." But they will greet him with one great big, universal, democratic, sheeplike bleat of "O.K., Chief! Fix it like you wanna, Chief! Oh Kaaaay!"


Today’s quote comes courtesy of Welsh thespian, Richard Burton.

During his lifetime, Burton’s considerable acting talents were often overshadowed by his hell-raising reputation and his on-again, off-again marriages to Elizabeth Taylor. This being so, it may surprise many to learn that, in the midst of his heavy drinking, chain smoking and womanizing, Burton was something of a literary buff, often finding solace in the pages of a book.
"I’m a reader, you know. I was corrupted by Faust. And Shakespeare. And Proust. And Hemingway. But mostly I was corrupted by Dylan Thomas. Most people see me as a rake, womanizer, boozer and purchaser of large baubles. I’m all those things depending on the prism and the light. But mostly I’m a reader. Give me Agatha Christie for an hour and I’m happy as a clam. The house in Celigny some day will cave in under its own weight from the books. I hope I’m there when it does. One hundred six years old. Investigating the newest thriller from Le Carré or a new play from Tennessee Williams."
Sadly, Burton didn’t live to see the grand old age of 106. He died of a brain haemorrhage in 1984 at the age of 58. His death marked the culmination of years of ill-health, mainly due to cirrhosis of the kidneys and liver.


Never one to deny the inherent superficiality of his work, this quote by Andy Warhol reveals the artist's awareness of how this shallowness pervaded every aspect of his life and personality:

"If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There's nothing behind it."

So, it seems Warhol's colourful screenprints of Coke bottles and tins of Campbell's chicken soup are harbouring no hidden meaning whatsoever. Who knew?


To celebrate the announcement of this year's Man Booker longlist, today's quote comes courtesy of the novelist and short story writer, Tibor Fisher, who was on the Man Booker judging panel in 2004.
"I remain bitterly disappointed no one tried to bribe me."
Given the chair of this year's judging panel is Dame Stella Rimington, former head of MI5, it's probably fair to say that there will no bribing going on this year either!


Today's Notable Quotable addresses the polarizing issue of film adaptations of literary classics.  While many people love to see movie versions of their favourite books (Harry Potter fans, anyone?), many more detest the very idea of it.

It seems the novelist John le Carré falls into the latter category.  The following quote, attributed to the master of spy fiction, gives us a unique perspective on what it is like for a novelist to see their work transferred from page to screen ...
"Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bullion cubes."
I'm sure JK Rowling would beg to differ on this one ...


Another memorable quote from Mark Twain. This time, he imparts a pearl of wisdom for all aspiring writers ...

"Substitute damn every time you're inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."

Hmmm ... sound advice, although it might get a bit annoying for the unfortunate editor!


Today's Notable Quotable comes from the American author and humorist, Mark Twain (1835 - 1910), who reveals a certain cynicism when contemplating the subject of death and obituaries.

"I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure".

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying that I approved of it".

Obviously, Twain didn't place much stock in the ancient idiom never speak ill of the dead!


Pablo Picasso, in answer to criticism of his Cubist creations, declared:

"It took me four years to learn how to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."

Bet that shut 'em up!