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Djuna Barnes

  • When autumn shadows throw their patterns across the land, they are not the images of fragile, dying leaves, not the bared arms of lofty elms, not shadows of a fading summer; but swinging shapes as of books upon a strap, of round and square boxes held under an arm, of hurrying little people heading toward the nearest school ...

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "Our School's Open Again; We're Glad to Get Back," in Brooklyn Daily Eagle ()
  • Ravelling grandly into vice / Dropping crooked into rhyme. / Slipping through the stitch of virtue, / Into crime.

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "From Fifth Avenue Up," The Book of Repulsive Women ()
  • When one wants to become cognizant of the color and the texture of the soil, one does not get a ladder; one gets a shovel. When one wants to get into touch with the texture of the universal mind, one does not go to Boston; one goes to the Bowery.

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "A Visit to the Favored Haunt of the I.W.W.'s," in New York Press ()
  • Certainty always produces questions, uncertainty statements. It is a balancing law of nature.

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "A Visit to the Favored Haunt of the I.W.W.'s," in New York Press ()
  • New York is the meeting place of the peoples, the only city where you can hardly find a typical American.

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "Greenwich Village As It Is," in Pearson's Magazine ()
  • ... New York rose out of the water like a great wave that found it impossible to return again and so remained there in horror, peering out of the million windows man had caged it with.

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "The Hem of Manhattan," in New York Morning Telegraph Sunday Magazine ()
  • Boats, like pet dogs, were leashed to the docks, and one little tug looking like a spitz growled at our side, sticking its nose out of the green, loose water as though it were trying to bite.

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "The Hem of Manhattan," in New York Morning Telegraph Sunday Magazine ()
  • Man is the only thing that has no further use after something goes amiss.

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "The Hem of Manhattan," in New York Morning Telegraph Sunday Magazine ()
  • When she smiled the smile was only in the mouth and a little bitter: the face of an incurable yet to be stricken with its malady.

  • A man's sorrow runs uphill; true it is difficult for him to bear, but it is also difficult for him to keep.

  • No man needs curing of his individual sickness; his universal malady is what he should look to.

  • That priceless galaxy of misinformation called the mind ...

  • One cup poured into another makes different waters; tears shed by one eye would blind if wept into another's eye. The breast we strike in joy is not the breast we strike in pain; any man's smile would be consternation on another's mouth.

  • She chuckled now and again at a joke, but it was the amused grim chuckle of a person who looks up to discover that they have coincided with the needs of nature in a bird.

  • When she fell in love it was with a perfect fury of accumulated dishonesty; she became instantly a dealer in second-hand and therefore incalculable emotions.

  • An image is a stop the mind makes between uncertainties.

  • ... he is not like other children, not cruel, or savage. For this very reason he is called 'strange.' A child who is mature, in the sense that the heart is mature, is always, I have observed, called deficient.

  • That woman ... would use the third-rising of a corpse for her ends.

  • The unendurable is the beginning of the curve of joy.

  • She was always holding God's bag of tricks upside down.

  • A strong sense of identity gives man an idea he can do no wrong; too little accomplishes the same.

  • Life, the permission to know death.

  • Youth is cause, effect is age; so with the thickening of the neck we get data.

  • To love without criticism is to be betrayed.

  • What is a ruin but Time easing itself of endurance?

  • She had the fluency of tongue and action meted out by divine providence to those who cannot think for themselves.

  • Dreams have only the pigmentation of fact.

  • We are adhering to life now with our last muscle — the heart.

  • From the mingled passions that made up his past, out of diversity of bloods, from the crux of a thousand impossible situations, Felix had become the accumulated and single — the embarrassed.

  • She was one of the most unimportantly wicked women of her time — because she could not let her time alone, and yet could never be a part of it. She wanted to be the reason for everything and so was the cause of nothing.

  • Nora robbed herself for everyone; incapable of giving herself warning, she was continually turning about to find herself diminished. Wandering people the world over found her profitable in that she could be sold for a price forever, for she carried her betrayal money in her own pocket.

  • Even the contemplative life is only an effort ... to hide the body so the feet won't stick out.

  • Shit or get off the pot.

  • The whole world is nothing but a noise, as hot as the inside of a tiger's mouth. They call it civilization — that is a lie! But some day you may have to go out, someone will try to take you out, and you will not understand them or what they are saying, unless you understand nothing, absolutely nothing, then you will manage.

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "Cassation," Spillway ()
  • I couldn't ever boil potatoes over the heat of your affection. Your love would never bridge a gap; it wouldn't even fill up the hole that the mice came through ...

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "What Do You See, Madam?" (1913), Smoke and Other Early Stories ()
  • ... this head has risen above its hair in a moment of abandon known only to men who have drawn their feet out of their boots to walk awhile in the corridors of the mind.

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "Who Is This Tom Scarlett?" (1916), Smoke and Other Early Stories ()
  • Madness to us means reversion; to such people as Una and Lena it meant progression. Now their uncle had entered into a land beyond them, the land of fancy. For fifty years he had been as they were, silent, hard-working, unimaginative. Then all of a sudden, like a scholar passing his degree, he had gone up into another form ...

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "The Earth," (1916), Smoke and Other Early Stories ()
  • Una's face was an unbroken block of calculation, saving where, upon her upper lip, a little down of hair fluttered. Yet it gave one an uncanny feeling. It made one think of a tassel on a hammer.

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • "The Earth," (1916), Smoke and Other Early Stories ()
  • I've seen death and I didn't like it.

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • in Hank O'Neal, Life Is Painful, Nasty and Short ... ()
  • Life is painful, nasty and short ... in my case it has only been painful and nasty.

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • in Hank O'Neal, Life Is Painful, Nasty and Short ... ()

Djuna Barnes, U.S. writer, poet, playwright

(1892 - 1982)

Full name: Djuna Chappell Barnes. She sometimes wrote under the name Lydia Steptoe.