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Margaret Drabble

  • Sometimes it seems the only accomplishment my education ever bestowed on me, the ability to think in quotations.

  • How unjust life is, to make physical charm so immediately apparent or absent, when one can get away with vices untold for ever.

  • I've always thought that very few people grow old as admirably as academics. At least books never let them down.

  • Perhaps the rare and simple pleasure of being seen for what one is compensates for the misery of being it.

  • Lord knows what incommunicable small terrors infants go through, unknown to all. We disregard them, we say they forget, because they have not the words to make us remember. ... By the time they learn to speak they have forgotten the details of their complaints, and so we never know. They forget so quickly, we say, because we cannot contemplate the fact that they never forget.

  • There are some people who cannot get onto a train without imagining that they are about to voyage into the significant unknown; as though the notion of movement were inseparably connected with the notion of discovery, as though each displacement of the body were a displacement of the soul.

    • Margaret Drabble,
    • "A Voyage to Cythera," in Mademoiselle ()
  • Human contact seemed to her so frail a thing that the hope that two people might want each other in the same way, at the same time and with the possibility of doing something about it, seemed infinitely remote.

  • He looked like a piece of plot, standing there. An extra character, about to return to his mislaid car and his own life.

  • The human mind can bear plenty of reality, but not too much intermittent gloom.

  • People like blowing things up these days, thought Len. They prefer blowing up to building.

  • When nothing is sure, everything is possible.

  • How extraordinary people are, that they get themselves into such situations where they go on doing what they dislike doing, and have no need or obligation to do, simply because it seems to be expected.

  • Why can't people be both flexible and efficient?

  • On one thing professionals and amateurs agree: mothers can't win.

  • The middle years, caught between children and parents, free of neither: the past stretches back too densely, it is too thickly populatd, the future has not yet thinned out.

  • Love, for both of them, had ceased to be a journey, an adventure, an essay of hope. It had become an infection, a ritual, a drama with a bloody last act, and they could both foresee the final carnage.

  • London, how could one ever be tired of it?

  • I used to be a reasonably careless and adventurous person before I had children; now I am morbidly obsessed by seat-belts and constantly afraid that low-flying aircraft will drop on my children's school.

    • Margaret Drabble,
    • "Children -- A Brief History of My Addiction," in Alexandra Towle, ed., Mothers: A Celebration in Prose, Poetry, and Photographs of Mothers and Motherhood ()
  • What really annoys me are the ones who write to say, I am doing your book for my final examinations and could you please tell me what the meaning of it is. I find it just so staggering — that you're supposed to explain the meaning of your book to some total stranger! If I knew what the meanings of my books were, I wouldn't have bothered to write them.

    • Margaret Drabble,
    • in George Plimpton, ed., The Writer's Chapbook ()
  • A few platitudes, every now and then, are restful. They draw one back from the brink of the flames.

  • Prepare your ship of death, for you will need it.

Margaret Drabble, English writer, critic

(1937)

Full name: Dame Margaret Drabble, Lady Holroyd, DBE FRSL.