" 'Picture to yourself an old house standing in a green glen through which runs a stream called the Laverlaw Water. There are lawns all round it, which run into the heather in the most enchanting way. The walled garden lies to the sun on the slope of the hillside, and, I am told, is a sight to see in its season, for Mrs. Elliot has 'a way' with flowers. She has also very definitely 'a way' with a house [...]
This room is panelled in oak and has a thick blue velvet carpet from corner to corner, which makes it deliciously comfortable. Heavy curtains of dull gold and blue cover the three windows, and a Chinese rug like a square of sunshine lies before the bed. There's a bookcase filled with all the books one would like to read at bedtime, and a stand on the table holds some of the latest published. When the maid brought in my tea this morning - blue and gold china to match the room - I lay and watched the first streaks of light touch the Laverlaw Water. Where's your Riviera now?' "
"One day, when [Mrs. Blore] had some rubbish to burn, she gave me an old copy of Waverley that was pretty badly torn and falling out of its cover, so that I could get the fire going. I had read a chapter or two of it already, in one of the little books that [the schoolmaster] used to give out on a Friday afternoon, and I was passionate for the rest. You don't use gold mines to light fires with. I laid this one down where I thought she wouldn't spot it, and got the blaze started without it, but she spotted it all right. 'Here's the book. Why didn't you use it as I told you?' she said sharply, picking it up and flicking the pages through her fingers, as if she was half a mind that it was worth saving after all. 'I thought I'd like to read it, ma'am,' I answered, as meekly as I could, because it would be heartbreaking if I lost it after all. 'Read it? Why, whatever do you want to read a book like this for?' 'I read some of it at school, ma'am, and I wanted to finish it.' She finally made up her mind that it wasn't worth taking back and threw it down on the ground, saying, 'Well you can have it, if you want to.' So I took it home and the evening was aflame with delight. [...] It was the first real book of my own that I ever had, and I have it still.
That I was reading Scott must have caught Mrs. Blore's fancy, because she lent me the rest of the Waverley novels, one after another [...] The time after tea was something to look forward to all that winter. Sitting in a kitchen chair, with the book flat on the table in front of me, another world came in, a many-coloured, sounding world of knights and travellers, and paragons among women, and rascals who were all that rascals should be, came in and pushed everything else aside while they played out their play."
"Autumnal! I had never heard the word before. It had a good sound, a golden sound, a sound of colour, and ripeness, and the maturity of things. Autumnal! I said it over to myself a time or two, and wondered if there was anybody I dared try it on, and decided there was not. [...] I was in half a mind to risk it on Father, he liked coloured words, too, but if they were to take his fancy they had to sum up a definite experience, something he could thrill over and talk about afterwards. Somebody told him once that the railway lines at Crewe were like a spider's web. He was fascinated with the thought. He knew what a spider's web was like, he had seen them, many and many a time stretched between brambles, or tall grasses, on an October morning, heavy with dew and shining as if they had been dipped in glass. The thought of railway lines being like that quite entranced him. [...] But I never thought it was necessary to stick to any one particular picture for words. You just had to let them have their way with you. They were spells to call up glowing visions. They goaded the imagination. They could bring together shreds and remembered pieces of scattered pleasures, and make them into one delightful whole. Autumnal was everything rich and splendid, and aflame with colour, in the dying summer."
"For many cultures, the practicalities of ink - legibility, permanency and consistency - have gone hand-in-glove with rather more diffuse, emotional, even reverential considerations. The ancient Chinese used inks perfumed with cloves, honey and musk. The scents, it is true, helped cover the odour of the binders used - yak skin and fish intestines were common - but these inks sometimes also contained powdered rhinoceros horn, pearls or jasper. In medieval Christian monasteries, the act of copying and illuminating manuscripts, of putting wisdom and prayer to paper, was seen as a spiritual process in itself.
Black ink also had a devotional relationship with Islam: the Arabic word for ink, midãd, is closely related to that for divine substance or matter. An early seventeenth-century recipe in a treatise on painters and calligraphers contained 14 ingredients; some, like soot and gallnuts, are obvious enough, but others - saffron, Tibetan musk and hemp oil - are far less so. The author, Qadi Ahmad, was under little doubt of ink's numinous power. 'The ink of the scholar,' he wrote, 'is more holy than the blood of the martyr.' "
" In the home of my childhood there was a room we called 'The Little Bookroom'. True, every room in the house could have been called a bookroom. Our nurseries upstairs were full of books. Downstairs my father's study was full of them. They lined the dining-room walls, and overflowed into my mother's sitting-room, and up into the bedrooms. It would have been more natural to live without clothes than without books. As unnatural not to read as not to eat.
Of all the rooms in the house, the Little Bookroom was yielded up to books as an untended garden is left to its flowers and weeds. There was no selection or sense of order here. In dining-room, study, and nursery there was choice and arrangement; but the Little Bookroom gathered to itself a motley crew of strays and vagabonds, outcasts from the ordered shelves below, the overflow of parcels bought wholesale by my father in the sales-rooms. Much trash, and more treasure. Riff-raff and gentlefolk and noblemen. A lottery, a lucky dip for a child who had never been forbidden to handle anything between covers. That dusty bookroom, whose windows were never opened, through whose panes the summer sun struck a dingy shaft where gold specks danced and shimmered, opened magic casements for me through which I looked out on other worlds and times than those I lived in: worlds filled with poetry and prose and fact and fantasy. [...]
When I crept out of the Little Bookroom with smarting eyes, no wonder that its mottled gold-dust still danced in my brain, its silver cobwebs still clung to the corners of my mind. No wonder that many years later, when I came to write books myself, they were a muddle of fiction and fact and fantasy and truth. I have never quite succeeded in distinguishing one from the other [...] Seven maids with seven brooms, sweeping for half-a-hundred years, have never managed to clear my mind of its dust of vanished temples and flowers and kings, the curls of ladies, the sighing of poets, the laughter of lads and girls: those golden ones who, like chimney-sweepers, must all come to dust in some little bookroom or other - and sometimes, by luck, come again for a moment to light."
"In the rain recently I've been trying to listen. There is not much richness in my hearing yet, but I hope it will grow. There are characters in Thomas Hardy's fiction so knowledgeable in rain that they can find their way across dark country (even when drunk) by comparing the sound of the water on different crops:
'Sometimes a soaking hiss proclaimed that they were passing by a pasture, then a patter would show that the rain fell upon some large-leafed root crop, then a paddling plash announced the naked arable, the low sound of the wind in their ears rising and falling with each pace they took.' " (Desperate Remedies)
"Dickens began Bleak House in the dark November of 1851 and finished it the following year during three months of near-continuous rain. The heavy drops fall ('drip, drip, drip upon the broad flagged pavement') when we first meet Lady Dedlock looking out blankly over a leaden landscape. 'The waters are out in Lincolnshire', and it rains for the first twelve chapters before pausing and raining again. Drops fall with the rhythm of footsteps as they might be heard on the haunted terrace, 'drip, drip, drip, by day and night', so that when Lady Dedlock has finally gone into the icy dark, and Sir Leicester lies distraught, and the house waits in grey anticipation, there is one inevitable sound: 'It is falling still; upon the roof, upon the skylight, even through the skylight, and drip, drip, drip, with the regularity of the Ghost's Walk, on the stone floor below.' "
"The best of Ted Hughes's laureate poems was Rain-Charm for the Duchy, a celebration of first rain after months of drought in 1984. Gift-wrapped as a baptismal offering for Prince Harry, it was really a bardic prayer for a whole stretch of Devon, particularly its rivers and their salmon. The rain brought out a civic streak in the poet of lonely Crow. Drops come 'sploshing' down (there's a wellington skip in the child-like word) and thunder strikes up its brass band."
"Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different. And while we're on the subject, I'd like to say a few words about escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if it's a bad thing. As if 'escapist' fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in. If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn't you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with (and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real. As J.R.R. Tolkien reminded us, the only people who inveigh against escape are jailers."
"I remember that as a child I was so absorbed in my tellings to others that they could see what I saw. I could always get an audience. Not that I looked for one, the telling was all, or rather, the seeing. I don't think I write for children, any more than the great Miss Potter. For what? Whom? Well, myself, perhaps; I never think of an audience, that would kill everything. I think all children's books are grown-up books. When children's books are children's books they are not worth reading."
"In the course of our studies, we often had to go to museums to gather ideas for our work [...] Looking for old stories demands great effort, but it is well worth it, for it puts one's imagination to work and brings contemporary people in contact with the mystical-ritualistic world of [the past]. It is a kind of dialogue with what has been, from which new stories emerge."
"If the Wild Wood ... symbolises the darker side of human psychology, it also has a place in that layer of The Wind in the Willows which examines the proper and improper role of Imagination in the individual's life. Here, it seems to stand for the tangle of rich and dangerous symbolism which threatens the mental life of even the most sober of artists. The image is not unusual; for example, Charles Williams used the wood Broceliande to carry just this meaning in his Arthurian cycle of poems, Taliesin through Logres. Williams described this wood as 'a place of making', from which either good or evil imaginings may come, and so it is with Grahame's Wild Wood.
The most striking fact about the Wild Wood is that, despite its threatening nature, Badger dwells at the heart of it; and Badger is the most wise and perfectly balanced character in the book, with his gruff common sense, his dislike of triviality (he chooses to come into Society only when it suits him) and his strength of character which can - at least temporarily - master even the excesses of Toad. Badger is, of course, a certain kind of English landed gentleman, but he is far more. He is the still centre around which the book's various storms may rage, but who is scarcely touched by them. He is, one may surmise, the deepest level of the imaginative mind, not easily accessible; perhaps he stands for inspiration, only visiting the artist when it chooses, and then behaving just as it wishes. 'You must not only take him as you find him, but when you find him,' Rat says of Badger. Above all he is not to be sought out deliberately: 'It's quite out of the question, because he lives in the very middle of the Wild Wood.' The deepest level of the imagination dwells (as surely it must) right in the middle of spiritual or psychological danger."
"If there is one thing I have learned, it is that you must have at least some emotional connection with every soul who figures in a story. You may like them, love them, find them disgusting or hate them, but you must react to them in some way. You must see them as real and treat them with the same respect you would accord someone you meet in the street. Only then can they take on any life of their own. And they do. I always love it when people I have invented start behaving unexpectedly, as real people do - being themselves, in fact."
"The Select Book Club had its offices in a courtyard near St. Paul's Cathedral. [...] On the sunlit side of the court a small bay window was dressed with the Select Book Club choices arranged with carefully contrived casualness against a draped backcloth of purple velvet. The Club had been carefully named. Select Books catered for that class of reader which likes a good story without caring much who writes it, prefers to be spared the tedium of personal choice, and believes that a bookcase of volumes equal in size and bound in exactly the same colour gives tone to any room. Select Books preferred virtue to be rewarded and vice suitably punished. They eschewed salacity, avoided controversy and took no risks with unestablished writers. Not surprisingly they often had to look far back in the publishers' lists to produce a current choice."
"... aiming for the moon and getting halfway there gets you further than if you just aim for the roof and only get halfway upstairs. People's achievements in life depend quite startlingly much on what they expect to achieve ...
[In myths and folk tales] you find all the troubles and problems of this modern age - any single one you care to name as long as it is archetypal - becoming timeless and distanced, so that you can walk round them and examine them without feeling helpless. This is where fantasy performs the same function as joking, but on a deeper level, and solves your problems while keeping you sane. It is no accident that the majority of folk tales at least have a happy ending. Most of them are very deep-level blueprints of how to aim for the moon. The happy ending does not only give you gratification as you read it, but it also gives you hope that, just maybe, a fortunate outcome could be possible. Your brain likes that. It is built to want a solution."
“Why do we want to have alternate worlds? It’s a way of making progress. You have to imagine something before you do it. Therefore, if you write about something, hopefully you write about something that’s better or more interesting than circumstances as they now are, and that way you hope to make a step towards it. “