James Fenton
Quotations


Imitation, if it is not forgery, is a fine thing. It stems from a generous impulse, and a realistic sense of what can and cannot be done.

The lullaby is the spell whereby the mother attempts to transform herself back from an ogre to a saint.

One does not become a guru by accident.

The writing of a poem is like a child throwing stones into a mineshaft. You compose first, then you listen for the reverberation.

Saigon was an addicted city, and we were the drug: the corruption of children, the mutilation of young men, the prostitution of women, the humiliation of the old, the division of the family, the division of the country -- it had all been done in our name. . . . The French city . . . had represented the opium stage of the addiction. With the Americans had begun the heroin phase.

Those who actually set out to see the fall of a city . . . or those who choose to go to a front line, are obviously asking themselves to what extent they are cowards. But the tests they set themselves -- there is a dead body, can you bear to look at it? -- are nothing in comparison with the tests that are sprung on them. It is not the obvious tests that matter (do you go to pieces in a mortar attack?) but the unexpected ones (here is a man on the run, seeking your help -- can you face him honestly?).



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