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Jane Smiley

  • ... Alice embraced her routine, the spar that would float her out of trouble and into a healthy old age. At home, she worried, at work, she hummed.

  • People with good intentions never give up!

  • Good intentions are wicked! As far as I can see, all they lead to are lies and delusions.

  • In my experience, there is only one motivation, and that is desire. No reasons or principles contain it or stand against it.

  • As soon as you bring up the money, I notice, conversation gets sociological, then political, then moral.

  • Your sons weren't made to like you. That's what grandchildren are for.

  • I have noticed before that there is a category of acquaintanceship that is not friendship or business or romance, but speculation, fascination.

  • ... you know that the urge for revenge is a fact of marital life.

  • Prairie settlers always saw a sea or an ocean of grass, could never think of any other metaphor, since most of them had lately seen the Atlantic.

  • ... everything is toxic. That's the point. You can't avoid toxins. Thinking you can is just another symptom of the toxic overload stage.

  • How will you know a good farmer when you meet him? He will not ask you for any favors.

  • The one thing ... maybe no family could tolerate was things coming out into the open.

  • ... it still astounds me, after forty years, that there is no good bread between Chicago and San Francisco.

    • Jane Smiley,
    • "Reflections on a Lettuce Wedge," in The Hungry Mind Review ()
  • It was well known to all members of the campus population that other, unnamed groups reaped unimagined monetary advantages in comparison to the monetary disadvantages of one's own group, and that if funds were distributed fairly, according to real merit, for once, some people would have another think coming.

  • Critical thinking is to a liberal education as faith is to religion. ... the converse was true also — faith is to a liberal education as critical thinking is to religion, irrelevant and even damaging.

  • ... invest everything in chickens and pretty soon you're thinking like a chicken. You know how chickens think? I do, because I raised chickens as a boy. Chickens are always looking for little bits of things in the dirt. They don't conceptualize on a higher plane. You step back from chickens and you start conceptualizing on a higher plane. That's my philosophy.

  • The essence of charity ... was not deciding what others needed and giving it to them, but giving them what they wanted.

  • You know why this is the most valuable horse in the world? ... She defines the bottom. Every element of conformation that you wouldn't want in a horse, she possesses. Once a student has looked her over, has really concentrated on her, really seen her, he knows what he doesn't want to find in any horse he might ever buy in the future.

  • ... Lyle laid out his six donuts in order — maple nut, powdered sugar, cherry, chocolate frosted, glazed, and plain. Breakfast, he knew, was the most important meal of the day.

  • Love is a general emotion. Marriage is exactingly specific.

  • ... whether or not virtue was in fact its own reward, it did seem like sin was its own punishment.

  • ... Americans took a great deal too much credit for creating wealth, when most of the time they had really just been living off natural bounty unprecedented in the history of the world.

  • Novelists never have to footnote.

  • A horse herd was, in its very essence, the manifestation of the expression 'It's always something.'

  • ... some people do wait their whole lives for something, and it's only when that thing arrives that they find out that they've been waiting rather than living.

  • There is something I have noticed about desire, that it opens the eyes and strikes them blind at the same time.

  • Fascination with horses predated every other single thing I knew. Before I was a mother, before I was a writer, before I knew the facts of life, before I was a schoolgirl, before I learned to read, I wanted a horse.

  • Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.

  • The desire to write a novel is the single required prerequisite for writing a novel.

  • Writing novels is an essentially amateur activity.

  • A novelist has two lives — a reading and writing life, and a lived life. he or she cannot be understood at all apart from this.

  • Ignorance is a self-generating state of mind; one of its characteristics is that it doesn't recognize itself as ignorance.

  • A novelist is on the cusp between someone who knows everything and someone who knows nothing.

    • Jane Smiley,
    • in Writer's Digest ()
  • ... a bookstore is one of the few places where all the cantankerous, conflicting, alluring voices of the world co-exist in peace and order and the avid reader is as free as a person can possibly be, because she is free to choose among them.

    • Jane Smiley,
    • in Gibbs B. Smith, The Art of the Bookstore ()
  • A child who is protected from all controversial ideas is as vulnerable as a child who is protected from every germ. The infection, when it comes — and it will come — may overwhelm the system, be it the immune system or the belief system.

    • Jane Smiley
  • The fundamental condition of childhood is powerlessness.

    • Jane Smiley
  • Rose left me a riddle I haven’t solved, of how we judge those who have hurt us when they have shown no remorse or even understanding.

Jane Smiley, U.S. writer, educator


Full name: Jane Graves Smiley.