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Shana Alexander

  • The sad truth is that excellence makes people nervous.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "Neglected Kids -- the Bright Ones," in Life ()
  • What troubles me is not that movie stars run for office, but that they find it easy to get elected. It should be difficult. It should be difficult for millionaires, too.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "It's the Idea That Offends," in Life ()
  • Hair brings one's self-image into focus; it is vanity's proving ground. ... Hair is terribly personal, a tangle of mysterious prejudices.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "Hair Is Terribly Personal," in Life ()
  • The difficulty with becoming a patient is that as soon as you get horizontal, part of you begins yearning not for a mortal doctor but for a medicine man.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "An Ordeal to Choke a Sword-Swallower," in Life ()
  • The real trouble with the doctor image in America is that it has been grayed by the image of the doctor-as-businessman, the doctor-as-bureaucrat, the doctor-as-medical-robot, and the doctor-as-terrified-victim-of-malpractice-suits.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "An Ordeal to Choke a Sword-Swallower," in Life ()
  • As a general rule, fans and idols should always be kept at arm's length, the length of the arm to be proportionate to the degree of sheer idolatry involved. Don't take a Beatle to lunch. Don't wait up to see if the Easter Bunny is real. Just enjoy the egg hunt.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "A Big Mistake in London," in Life ()
  • ... Ireland is not at all a simple place, and in many ways it is spare and sad. It has no wealth, no power, no stability, no influence, no fashion, no size. Its only real arts are song and drama and poem. But Limerick alone has two thousand ruined castles and surely that many practicing poets.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "The Nearest Faraway Place," in Life ()
  • How is the newcomer to deal with Rome? What is one to make of this marble rubble, this milk of wolves, this blood of Caesars, this sunrise of Renaissance, this baroquery of blown stone, this warm hive of Italians, this antipasto of civilization?

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "The Roman Astonishment," in Life ()
  • Rome's riches are in too immediate juxtaposition. Under the lid of awful August heat, one moves dizzily from church to palace to fountain to ruin, a single fly at a banquet, not knowing where to light.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "The Roman Astonishment," in Life ()
  • Tourists moved over the piazza like drugged insects on a painted plate ...

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "The Roman Astonishment," in Life ()
  • This is what holidays, travels, vacations are about. It is not really rest or even leisure we chase. We strain to renew our capacity for wonder, to shock ourselves into astonishment once again.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "The Roman Astonishment," in Life ()
  • Letters are expectation packed in an envelope.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "The Surprises of the Mail," in Life ()
  • A handwritten, personal letter has become a genuine modern-day luxury, like a child's pony ride.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "The Surprises of the Mail," in Life ()
  • Huge herds of vigorous, curious, open-eyed Americans freely roaming the world are, it seems to me, quite possibly a vital national resource today as at no other time in our history.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "The Real Tourist Trap," in Life ()
  • Americans ought to be the best-traveled, most cosmopolitan people on earth, not only because experience of the world is desirable in its own right, but because as a people acquires a great concentration of power, worldliness becomes a moral imperative.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • "The Real Tourist Trap," in Life ()
  • Though a plane is not the ideal place to really think, to reassess or reevaluate things, it is a great place to have the illusion of doing so, and often the illusion will suffice.

  • The mark of a true crush (whether the object is man, woman or city) is that you fall in love first and grope for reasons afterward.

  • When two people marry they become in the eyes of the law one person, and that one person is the husband!

  • Ours is the first society in history in which parents expect to learn from their children, rather than the other way around. Such a topsy-turvy situation has come about at least in part because, unlike the rest of the world, we are an immigrant society, and for immigrants the only hope is in the kids.

  • Good drama should sandpaper the mind.

  • We are on a sexual binge in this country. ... One consequence of this binge is that while people now get into bed more readily and a lot more naturally than they once did, what happens there often seems less important.

  • The real weakness of all porn, it seems to me, is its necessary repetition ... the pornographer must continually invent new sauces for old meats.

  • The price of shallow sex may be a corresponding loss of capacity for deep love.

  • Mind and body are not to be taken lightly. Their connection is intimate and mysterious, and better mapped by poets than pornographers.

  • The rich plankton of pop heroes and pop villains on which we Americans are accustomed to feed, the daily media soup of sports figures, ax murderers, politicians, and rock singers, the ever-running river of celebs, heavies, and oddballs that we use to spice up our own relatively humdrum lives has of late become a very watery gruel. Where have all the good guys and bad guys gone? Why does everyone out there look so gray?

  • Natural villains are hard to come by, what with all the shrinks and social-scientist types threatening to understand everybody into the ground ...

  • In a nation of celebrity worshipers, amid followers of the cult of personality, individual modesty becomes a heroic quality. I find heroism in the acceptance of anonymity, in the studied resistance to the normal American tropism toward the limelight.

  • I reserve my greatest admiration for those who continue to struggle to embrace the whole impossible tangle of snakes that is our society; those who fight to identify and strengthen human connections, and defeat polarizing forces that strain to drive us apart.

  • ... the metabolism of a consumer society requires it continually to eat and excrete, every day throwing itself away in plastic bags.

  • Rumor and gossip, like sound itself, appear to travel by wave-effect, sheer preposterosity being no barrier.

  • Between the two poles of whole-truth and half-truth is slung the chancy hammock in which we all rock.

  • Ours was the Togetherness Generation. We equated togetherness with salvation, and expected so much from it that it was bound to let us down. Companionship, security, lifelong physical and spiritual and emotional warmth — all were to be had for the twist of a ring and the breathing of a vow. And to be had no other way.

  • The paradox of reality is that no image is as compelling as the one which exists only in the mind's eye.

  • Californians tend to be outspoken. When the great migration began, the more timid people must have stayed home, and the bolder ones headed west.

  • The Federal Building's large Ceremonial Courtroom, reserved for show trials, is veneered in executive teak. Bench, counsel tables, jury boxes, entrances, and exits — all are as formally arranged as an Elizabethan stage. Only the drama is shapeless, at least to those of us who have never seen a trial before. We see only random movements, sequences, comings and goings, no form or agenda apparent. To us the action is less like watching a play than watching an aquarium.

  • Today it is the richest, most populous, looniest state, and a host of other superlatives, but above all it is first. Soothsayers once foretold the future by dropping molten gold into water. If we could drop the dogleg of California into water, we could forecast America. The sun moves from east to west, but as every long-suffering California reporter knows, everything else in the United States moves in the opposite direction. What happens today in California turns up tomorrow in the Midwest and only then arrives in the decaying and moribund cities of the East ...

  • ... every millennium, another foot or so of California disappears. Geologists spend a lot of time measuring its slow but inexorable westward slide. I wish somebody would study the slippage in the other direction. Nearly all of our national fads and foibles, political trends, and social seizures seem to begin in California. They appear along the Pacific shoreline like salamanders crawling up onto the beaches out of the sunset's fire to begin the trek. Eastward, ho! As a cradle of contemporary civilization, the sands of Santa Monica rival those of the Nile Valley. Consider hula hoops, bikini suits, skateboards, smog alerts, encounter groups, jogging, open sex, swinging singles, BankAmericards, Frisbees, McDonald's, I Ching, Zen tennis, topless cocktails, and black power. Consider the taxpayers' revolt — Proposition 13. Consider picture windows. Think of it! The very flesh and profile of today, all blooming first in the warm California sunshine! The place is prototypical America. The entire state is a series of stage sets, from the forced-perspective streets of San Francisco to the faded, painted backcloth of Los Angeles. The apparent unreality of California may be what is most real about it. The place is continually in the process of becoming, perpetually emergent, like a darkroom image developing in its chemical bath, and what is liveliest about America, most energetic, most dissatisfied with things-as-they-are, most ardent for things-as-they-might-be, most rootless, most forward-looking, most superficial, most contemporary, most independent, most existential, most flimsy, all piles up along our teeming western edge.

  • The notion that the great artist requires a great patron has been around since the Pharaohs. That the born patron also needs an artist to patronize is a less-studied phenomenon.

  • ... she will not be interrupted. Break into her train of thought, and she simply starts over. From the top. It is like trying to hold a conversation with a cassette.

  • Ballet's image of perfection is fashioned amid a milieu of wracked bodies, fevered imaginations, Balkan intrigue, and sulfurous hatreds where anything is likely, and dancers know it.

  • I don't believe man is woman's natural enemy. Perhaps his lawyer is.

    • Shana Alexander
  • Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell.

    • Shana Alexander,
    • in Visitor ()

Shana Alexander, U.S. writer, journalist, editor

(1925 - 2005)

Full name: Shana Ager Alexander.