Last week, I was tagged in an interesting literary challenge by one of my readers, Natalie from Fluent Historian. The point of the challenge is to share three posts, each with a quote I love and an explanation of why it’s so great.
I accepted Natalie’s challenge, but I’m going to cheat a bit and share all my quotes in this one post.
The first quote comes from one of favourite novels, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. If there was one book I wish I could have written, it would be this. It’s full of such rich, layered language, a story that contains so much meaning under the surface.
It isn’t running away they’re afraid of. We wouldn’t get far. It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge.
I first read The Handmaid’s Tale at college, as part of my AS Level in English Literature. We weren’t allowed to take the book into the exam with us, so I filled pages and pages with quotes, sticking them up all over the house in an effort to sear them into my memory.
This quote about escape is one that has always stuck with me. It’s simple, yet completely chilling. It describes a life that is so unbearable, that many women choose suicide instead. Atwood is never heavy handed in this book, but she paints a vivid picture of an oppressive world that slowly destroys those who live in it.
The next quote is probably my all-time favourite and it comes from On the Road, by Jack Kerouac.
…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…
This line is so full of passion and a desire for life that it makes my heart soar. I want to be one of those people burning with life, pursuing my dreams and refusing to live an ordinary life.
But I also think this quote is shot through with sadness. If you’ve read any of Kerouac’s work, you’ll understand what I mean. He’s celebrated as a great dreamer, the inspiration for many travellers and freedom seekers, people who don’t want to compromise. But Kerouac is also a tragic figure.
He died young and had problems with alcoholism. Many of his books have a melancholy feel; despite his travels and his lust for meaning, there was always something missing. I can relate to that and think it’s a powerful sentiment.
My final quote comes from another of the Beat generation, Allen Ginsberg. He’s the author of my favourite poem, Howl, which is also a treatise to the creative spirit and the desire for freedom.
…angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night…
Like the Kerouac quote, to me, this is about seeking something more: meaning, freedom, passion, creativity.
It’s about understanding the universe and our role in it, but always seeking something more.
Over to you, ladies.