100 phrases culled from The New York Times list of “100 Notable Books of 2018”

The following phrases appear in The New York Times list of “100 Notable Books of 2018.” There is one phrase culled from each blurb on the list.

slow burn

latest novel

bizarre story

tour de force

stunning debut

homage of sorts

explores this idea

tactile immediacy

fragmented novel

fascinating paean

grapples seriously

searching account

harrowing account

harrowing memoir

fascinating portrait

expansive narrative

novel that ricochets

fast-paced account

stunning new novel

bristling intelligence

impassioned account

incisive new collection

magisterial new novel

bighearted family saga

breezy, appealing style

impressive debut novel

bewitching debut novel

remarkable debut novel

private and public twists

stylish and inspired collection

deeply and lovingly personal

describes the years of research

reveals surprising connections

world of scams and seductions

our history and our current age

dire consequences for democracy

darkly comic and profound novel

memoir of an unstable childhood

powerful and realistic page turner

mammoth autobiographical novel

devastatingly beautiful debut novel

blazingly moral and devastatingly sidelong

capturing the themes of identity and reinvention

written by the actress herself and not a ghostwriter

seemingly quiet but ultimately volcanic collection

recounted here with great lyricism and emotion

sometimes fanciful, always gossipy portrait

navigate the political and the personal

tense, moment-by-moment account

illuminates her narrator’s inner life

public and private responsibilities

searing autobiographical novel

the personal and the political

more political than economic

vivid, slightly surreal history

writes about new research

sweeping, sobering account

deep dive into the question

unnerving cautionary tale

searingly passionate book

deeply reported account

monumental biography

heralds America’s future

much more complicated

posthumous collection

law professor recounts

marvelous debut novel

nervy, obsessive novel

shattering work of art

important biography

recounts her struggle

first major biography

semi-surreal sendup

landmark translation

thinly veiled memoir

satisfying slow burn

unbelievable debut

forgotten histories

reads like a thriller

fast-paced thriller

mine the question

capture the chaos

infinitely capable

rousing defense

widens the lens

singular portrait

sparkling novel

eloquent novel

riveting exposé

gritty depiction

noted historian

searing memoir

writerly passion

road-trip novel

think differently

page after page

Pulitzer finalist

tells his story

timely novel

wry catalog

“Thus do authors beget authors” — Washington Irving on Plagiarism and Creation


Now and then one of these personages would write something on a small slip of paper, and ring a bell, whereupon a familiar would appear, take the paper in profound silence, glide out of the room, and return shortly loaded with ponderous tomes, upon which the other would fall, tooth and nail, with famished voracity. I had no longer a doubt that I had happened upon a body of magi, deeply engaged in the study of occult sciences. The scene reminded me of an old Arabian tale, of a philosopher shut up in an enchanted library, in the bosom of a mountain, which opened only once a year; where he made the spirits of the place bring him books of all kinds of dark knowledge, so that at the end of the year, when the magic portal once more swung open on its hinges, he issued forth so versed in forbidden lore, as to be able to soar above the heads of the multitude, and to control the powers of Nature.

My curiosity being now fully aroused, I whispered to one of the familiars, as he was about to leave the room, and begged an interpretation of the strange scene before me. A few words were sufficient for the purpose. I found that these mysterious personages, whom I had mistaken for magi, were principally authors, and were in the very act of manufacturing books. I was, in fact, in the reading-room of the great British Library, an immense collection of volumes of all ages and languages, many of which are now forgotten, and most of which are seldom read: one of these sequestered pools of obsolete literature to which modern authors repair, and draw buckets full of classic lore, or “pure English, undefiled,” wherewith to swell their own scanty rills of thought.

Being now in possession of the secret, I sat down in a corner, and watched the process of this book manufactory. I noticed one lean, bilious-looking wight, who sought none but the most worm-eaten volumes, printed in black letter. He was evidently constructing some work of profound erudition, that would be purchased by every man who wished to be thought learned, placed upon a conspicuous shelf of his library, or laid open upon his table—but never read. I observed him, now and then, draw a large fragment of biscuit out of his pocket, and gnaw; whether it was his dinner, or whether he was endeavoring to keep off that exhaustion of the stomach, produced by much pondering over dry works, I leave to harder students than myself to determine.

There was one dapper little gentleman in bright-colored clothes, with a chirping gossiping expression of countenance, who had all the appearance of an author on good terms with his bookseller. After considering him attentively, I recognized in him a diligent getter-up of miscellaneous works, which bustled off well with the trade. I was curious to see how he manufactured his wares. He made more stir and show of business than any of the others; dipping into various books, fluttering over the leaves of manuscripts, taking a morsel out of one, a morsel out of another, “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.” The contents of his book seemed to be as heterogeneous as those of the witches’ cauldron in Macbeth. It was here a finger and there a thumb, toe of frog and blind worm’s sting, with his own gossip poured in like “baboon’s blood,” to make the medley “slab and good.”

After all, thought I, may not this pilfering disposition be implanted in authors for wise purposes? may it not be the way in which Providence has taken care that the seeds of knowledge and wisdom shall be preserved from age to age, in spite of the inevitable decay of the works in which they were first produced? We see that Nature has wisely, though whimsically provided for the conveyance of seeds from clime to clime, in the maws of certain birds; so that animals, which, in themselves, are little better than carrion, and apparently the lawless plunderers of the orchard and the corn-field, are, in fact, Nature’s carriers to disperse and perpetuate her blessings. In like manner, the beauties and fine thoughts of ancient and obsolete authors are caught up by these flights of predatory writers, and cast forth, again to flourish and bear fruit in a remote and distant tract of time. Many of their works, also, undergo a kind of metempsychosis, and spring up under new forms. What was formerly a ponderous history, revives in the shape of a romance—an old legend changes into a modern play—and a sober philosophical treatise furnishes the body for a whole series of bouncing and sparkling essays. Thus it is in the clearing of our American woodlands; where we burn down a forest of stately pines, a progeny of dwarf oaks start up in their place; and we never see the prostrate trunk of a tree mouldering into soil, but it gives birth to a whole tribe of fungi.

Let us not then, lament over the decay and oblivion into which ancient writers descend; they do but submit to the great law of Nature, which declares that all sublunary shapes of matter shall be limited in their duration, but which decrees, also, that their element shall never perish. Generation after generation, both in animal and vegetable life, passes away, but the vital principle is transmitted to posterity, and the species continue to flourish. Thus, also, do authors beget authors, and having produced a numerous progeny, in a good old age they sleep with their fathers, that is to say, with the authors who preceded them—and from whom they had stolen.


From Washington Irving’s story-essay “The Art of Book-Making.”


2014 (MMXIV) will be a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar, the 2014th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 14th year of the 3rd millennium, the 14th year of the 21st century, and the 5th year of the 2010s decade.

The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year.

The United Nations designated 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming and Crystallography.

Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier.’

New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.


Year 1914 (MCMXIV) was a common year starting on Thursday in the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Wednesday in the Julian calendar. It was the year that saw the beginning of what became known as World War I.

Latvia will officially adopt the euro currency and will become the eighteenth Eurozone country.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.

The 2014 Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia.

Have a new soul.


Year 1814 (MDCCCXIV) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Thursday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar.

Comet Holmes (17P/Holmes) will reach perihelion.

Each age has deemed the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer.

A new nose.

Ring out the old, ring in the new.

An annular solar eclipse will occur.


Year 1714 (MDCCXIV) was a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Thursday of the 11-day slower Julian calendar.

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.

Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.

New feet.

Faye’s Comet will reach perihelion.

The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.

New backbone.


Year 1614 (MDCXIV) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Saturday of the 10-day slower Julian calendar.

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup will be held in Brazil.

I will bestir myself.

New ears.

The Sky City skyscraper is planned for completion in Changsha, Hunan, China.

And try to be wise if I cannot be good.


Year 1514 (MDXIV) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will cross the orbit of Neptune after travelling for over eight years. New Horizons is scheduled to reach its mission target, Pluto, in 2015.

New eyes.

The Scottish independence referendum will be held.

The first unmanned flight test of NASA’s Orion spacecraft is scheduled to be launched.


Year 1414 (MCDXIV) was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar.

The Catalan independence referendum will be held.

Hark, it’s midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year.

A commercial cure for baldness is predicted to become available.

New hair?


Art and cultural property crime—which includes theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines—is a looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses in the billions of dollars annually.

Jan van Eyck: The Just Judges.

Early to mid-1800s: Burkel paints After the Hunt (c. 1830), Amalfi Cave (c. 1845), and The Horse Round-up (c.1861-1863).

In October 1969, two thieves entered the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo, Italy and removed the Caravaggio Nativity from its frame. Experts estimate its value at $20 million.

Vincent van Gogh: View of the Sea at Scheveningen(1882).

1925: All three Burkel paintings are acquired and subsequently exhibited by the Pirmasens Museum in Germany.

On December 31, 1999, during the fireworks that accompanied the celebration of the millennium, a thief broke into the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England and stole Cezanne’s landscape painting View of Auvers-sur-Oise. Valued at £3 million, the painting has been described as an important work illustrating the transition from early to mature Cezanne painting.

Johannes Vermeer: The Concert (c.1658–1660).

On September 8, 2011, Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair by Pierre Auguste Renoir was stolen during an armed robbery in a Houston home. The masked robber is described as a white male, 18 to 26 years old, who weighs about 160 pounds and is approximately 5’10” tall. He was armed with a large-caliber, semi-automatic handgun. A private insurer is offering up to $50,000 for information leading to the recovery of the painting.

Rembrandt: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633).

May 13, 1942: To avoid Allied bombings, the Burkel paintings were taken to a local air-raid shelter outside of Pirmasens.

Approximately 100 paintings stolen from a Florida family’s art collection in a fine art storage facility. This collection included works by Picasso, Rothko, Matisse and others that were recovered from Chicago, New York and Tokyo.

Vincent van Gogh: Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884).

Radu Dogaru’s mother, hoping to free her son from prosecution, told the police that on a freezing night in February, 2013, she placed seven stolen paintings — which included Monet’s 1901 Waterloo Bridge, London; Gauguin’s 1898 Girl in Front of Open Window” and Picasso’s 1971 Harlequin Head — in a wood-burning stove used to heat saunas and incinerated them.

September 19, 1945: The Pirmasens Museum reports that “about 50 paintings which had been stored in the air-raid shelter at Husterhoh School during the war have been lost during the arrival of the American troops on March 22, 1945.” The works were later smuggled to the U.S. by unknown individuals.

Jean-Baptiste Oudry: The White Duck (1753).

Mid-1960s: A New Jersey man purchases the Burkel paintings.

How Picassos, Matisses, Monets and other precious masterpieces may have met a fiery fate in a remote Romanian village, population 3,400, is something the police are still trying to understand.

Amadeo Modigliani: La Femme à l’éventail (Modigliani) (1919).

Late 1980s: The Burkel paintings are handed down to the New Jersey man’s daughter.

Caspar David Friedrich: Landschaft mit Regenbogen (c. 1810).

October 25, 2005: The William H. Bunch Auction and Appraisal Company in Pennsylvania advertises the sale of the Burkel paintings on the Internet and through the print media. Heike Wittmer, Pirmasens Museum Director and Archivist, spots the paintings for sale and alerts German authorities. U.S. Embassy officials contact the FBI, which halts the sale and takes custody of the paintings from the consignor, who voluntarily agrees to their return to Germany.

Rembrandt’s Self Portrait (1630): Recovered in a sting operation in Copenhagen carried out in cooperation with ICE and law enforcement agencies in Sweden and Denmark. The FBI had previously recovered Renoir’s The Young Parisian. Both paintings had been stolen from the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm in 2000.

February 10, 2006: The Burkel paintings are repatriated to Germany by the U.S.

Pablo Picasso: Le pigeon aux petits pois(1911).

In December 2002, two thieves used a ladder to climb to the roof and break in to the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. In just a few minutes the thieves stole two paintings: Van Gogh’s View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, valued at $30 million. Dutch police convicted two men in December 2003, but did not recover the paintings.

Forensic analysis of ash found in Mrs. Dogaru’s stove, conducted by Romania’s National History Museum, found nails and tacks that indicated that at least three had been burned.

Franz Marc: The Tower of Blue Horses 1913 (missing since 1945).

Carl Spitzweg: Der Liebesbrief 1845-1846 (missing since 1989).



It was an icy day.

Pierre Pinoncelli damaged two of the eight copies of Fountain by Marcel Duchamp with a hammer.

The attacks were separated by 13 years: The latest on January 4, 2006 at Centre Pompidou in Paris.

And in Nîmes in 1993.

Where he also urinated into it before using the hammer.

Accordingly, in our Mongolian age all change has been only reformatory or ameliorative, not destructive or consuming and annihilating.

The substance, the object, remains.

All our assiduity was only the activity of ants and the hopping of fleas, jugglers’ tricks on the immovable tight-rope of the objective, corvée -service under the leadership of the unchangeable or “eternal.”

I have seen

The old gods go

And the new gods come.

The Stone Breakers (FrenchLes Casseurs de pierres) was an 1849–50 painting by the French painter Gustave Courbet.

It was a work of social realism, depicting two peasants, a young man and an old man, breaking rocks.

The painting was first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1850. It was destroyed during World War II, along with 154 other pictures, when a transport vehicle moving the pictures to the castle of Königstein, near Dresden, was bombed by Allied forces in February 1945.

Day by day

And year by year

The idols fall

And the idols rise.

Damage then recovery, damage then recovery.

We buried the cat,

then took her box

and set fire to it

in the back yard.

Even to his death, Duchamp retained a sense of humor.

The evening of 1 October 1968 had been a pleasant one, dinning at home with his friends Man Ray and Robert Lebel. Shortly after his guests had left, it happened suddenly and peacefully. Just before retiring at 1:05 A.M. his heart simply stopped beating.

Those fleas that escaped

earth and fire

died by the cold.

Courbet died, age 58, in La Tour-de-Peilz,Switzerland, of a liver disease aggravated by heavy drinking.

But he hammered his poor heart to death, Lord, Lord,
    He hammered his poor heart to death.

“D’ailleurs, c’est toujours les autres qui meurent;” or “Besides, it’s always the others who die”.


I worship the hammer.



A rose is a rose is a rose.

The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!

The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Antimetabole. Repetition of two words or short phrases, but in reversed order to establish a contrast. It is a specialized form of chiasmus.

Sometimes a cigar.

Freedom from morality.

Epiphora. The repetition of a phrase or word at the end of several sentences or clauses.

Sisyphus was son of King Aeolus of Thessaly and Enarete, and the founder and first king of Ephyra.

Epizeuxis. Emphasizing an idea using one word repetition.

Everything becomes and recurs eternally – escape is impossible! – Supposing we could judge value, what follows?

Conduplicatio. The repetition of a word in various places throughout a paragraph.

So one must be resigned to being a clock that measures the passage of time, now out of order, now repaired, and whose mechanism generates despair and love as soon as its maker sets it going?

Inque tuo sedisti, Sisyphe, saxo.

Parachesis. Repetition of the same sound in several words in close succession.

New means against the fact of pain.

Epistrophe. The repetition of a word or phrase at the end of every clause.

Are we to grow used to the idea that every man relives ancient torments, which are all the more profound because they grow comic with repetition?

Antanaclasis. The repetition of a word or phrase to effect a different meaning

Tantalus was made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches, with the fruit ever eluding his grasp, and the water always receding before he could take a drink.

Anadiplosis. The repetition of the last word of a preceding clause.

The enjoyment of all kinds of uncertainty.

That human existence should repeat itself, well and good, but that it should repeat itself like a hackneyed tune, or a record a drunkard keeps playing as he feeds coins into the jukebox?

Anaphora. The repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of every clause.

Wu Gang, known for endlessly cutting down a self-healing Bay Laurel on the Moon.


Experimentalism, as a counterweight to this extreme fatalism.

Polyptoton. The repetition of a word or root in different cases or inflections within the same sentence.

Abolition of the concept of necessity. Abolition of the “will.”

The most famous facet of Naranath Branthan’s life is his apparently eccentric habit of rolling big stones up the hill and letting them roll down back, and laughing thunderously on seeing this sight

Polysyndeton. The repeated use of conjunctions within a sentence, particularly where they do not necessarily have to be used.

Abolition of “knowledge-in-itself.”

Nothing is harder to understand than a symbolic work. A symbol always transcends the one who makes use of it and makes him say in reality more than he is aware of expressing.

A rose is a rose is a rose.



Knock knock.

An art thief is a man who takes pictures.

Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.

It was the blurst of times.

Take my wife—please.

You have a better chance of stopping a serial killer than a serial thief in comedy.

I shot an elephant in my pajamas.

I have a scoop for you. I stole his act. I camouflaged it with punchlines, and to really throw people off, I did it before he did

Satire is tragedy plus time. You give it enough time, the public, the reviewers will allow you to satirize it. Which is rather ridiculous, when you think about it.

Ducks will never hug! This devastating thought will consume my evening.

I’m wild about his turnip tops.
Likes the way he warms my chops!
I can’t do without my kitchen man.
Now when I eat his donut
All I leave is just the hole.
And if he really needs it,
He can use my sugar bowl!

I’d like to give my kid an interesting name. Like a name with no vowels … just like 40 Fs, that’s his name.

Just realized ducks can’t hug and now I can’t sleep.

Rice is great when you’re hungry and you want 2,000 of something.

I think I am, therefore I am. I think.

I intend to live forever, or die trying.

We all pay for life with death, so everything in between should be free.

Life is a four-letter word.

#1: Hey, I hear you got a job as a salesman.
#2: Sure did. Pays real good.
#1: What do you sell?
#2: I sell salt.
#1: Is that right? I’ll be. I sell pepper.
#2: Shake!

Let’s face it, some people have a way with words. Other people, uhh . . . oh . . . not have way, I guess.

I’d like to have 19 kids. I think naming them, that’s going to be fun. I already have names picked out. First kid — boy, girl, I don’t care — I’m naming it Rrrrrrrrrrrr.

A burrito is a sleeping bag for ground beef.

The funniest food: ‘kumquats.’ I don’t even bring them home anymore. I sit there laughing and they go to waste.

Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.

What are three words a woman never wants to hear when she’s making love?
“Honey, I’m home!”

Just realized giraffes can’t hug and now I can’t sleep.

My real name is bdbdbdbdbdbd. My sister’s name was yullyullyull.

You’re watching a guy do your material and people are laughing, but they’re laughing because they think this performer has a brilliant mind and he’s a funny person.

Just realized horses can’t hug and now I can’t sleep.

A drunk was in front of a judge. The judge says, “You’ve been brought here for drinking.”
The drunk says “Okay, let’s get started.”

I think he sort of got some of my jokes in his head and got sloppy.

Who’s there?

Turtles. Zebras.

Little tiny hairs.

It takes forever to cook a baked potato in a conventional oven. Sometimes I just throw one in there, even if I don’t want one. Cause by the time it’s done, who knows?

The Aristocrats!


line up all the empty bottles

the long-necked beer bottles

the wine bottles

Stand to attention all the empty bottles, yes …

the long-necked beer bottles from the antique stores,

steam off the labels and line the bottles up, the green ones
with the brown, black, yellow and clear ones.

The beer bottles whose labels have been torn off by
bleak, neurotic fingers

Is a pillow bottle a disciplinary form of some metaphor?

The bottles afloat on all the seas, those with messages in
them and those without any.

What I viewed there once, what I view again /Where the physic bottles stand

On the table’s edge,—is a suburb lane, / With a wall to my bedside hand.

Line up the bottle that killed Malcolm Lowry with the bottle
that killed Dylan Thomas ( I think that’s a record ! ).

I don’t know how many bottles of beer
I have consumed while waiting for things
to get better

line up the bottle that killed Malcolm Lowry with the bottle that killed Dylan Thomas

Lie still, sleep becalmed, sufferer with the wound
In the throat, burning and turning.

Rage, rage

and the bottles that killed all the drunken poets nobody’s heard of and the poets who spoke all their lines into their bottles

Because their words had forked no lightning

Yes, line up all the empty bottles; yes …

the bottles that killed all the drunken monkeys,
poets nobody’s heard of and the poets who spoke all their
lines into their bottles and all that weren’t smashed on frozen
roadsides, when flung from car windows.

Nevertheless, I am happy
Riding in a car with my brother
and drinking from a pint of Old Crow.
We do not have any place in mind to go,
we are just driving.

because I’m telling you now, right now…
the party’s over.


All, all is theft, all is unceasing and rigorous competition in nature; the desire to make off with the substance of others is the foremost – the most legitimate – passion nature has bred into us and, without doubt, the most agreeable one.

Georges Simenon wrote more than 500 novels.

Property is theft.

Art is either plagiarism or revolution.

Isaac Asimov wrote 506 novels.

Ideas improve. The meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author’s phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with the right idea.

Alexandre Dumas wrote 277 novels.

The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.

Opportunity makes a thief.

Rolf Kalmuczak: maybe 3,000 novels. More than 100 pseudonyms.

Hunger makes a thief.

Want of money and the distress of a thief can never be alleged as the cause of his thieving, for many honest people endure greater hardships with fortitude. We must therefore seek the cause elsewhere than in want of money, for that is the miser’s passion, not the thief’s.

Ursula Bloom—over 500 novels.

James Joyce wrote four novels.

James Joyce wrote three novels.

James Joyce wrote only three novels.

It’s nice to sometimes get things out of life, rather than stealing from other artists. I’m trying to steal from the real people.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

They’re stealing my ideas. They’re imitating my shots.



Criminal man has lost all enterprise and originality.

And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.

Those with no memory insist on their originality.

Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.

Great poets steal.

The one and the only.

All my best thoughts!

Stolen by the ancients.

Ah! Gooblazqruk brukarchkrasht!

Truth! stark, naked truth, is the word; and I will not so much as take the pains to bestow the strip of a gauze wrapper on it, but paint situations such as they actually rose to me in nature, careless of violating those laws of decency that were never made for such unreserved intimacies as ours; and you have too much sense, too much knowledge of the originals, to sniff prudishly and out of character at the pictures of them.

Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses.

Mature poets steal.

Nothing new except what has been forgotten.

It’s not a real leg, only a false leg.

And there’s a mighty difference between a living thump and a dead thump.

O! Weeshwashtkissinapooisthnapoohuck?

An original artist is unable to copy. So he has only to copy in order to be original.

Let a splinter swerve.

It hath it original from much grief, from study, and perturbation of the brain.

Great artists steal.

The original papers, together with the scarlet letter itself—a most curious relic—are still in my possession, and shall be freely exhibited to whomsoever, induced by the great interest of the narrative, may desire a sight of them. I must not be understood affirming that, in the dressing up of the tale, and imagining the motives and modes of passion that influenced the characters who figure in it, I have invariably confined myself within the limits of the old Surveyor’s half-a-dozen sheets of foolscap. On the contrary, I have allowed myself, as to such points, nearly, or altogether, as much license as if the facts had been entirely of my own invention. What I contend for is the authenticity of the outline.

Necessary to any originality: the courage to be an amateur.

It is all for the taking.

Great artists.

We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.

The great artist who is truly schizophrenic will break the wall, reaching the unknown country where he does not belong to any age, any environment, any school.

And all that poets feign of bliss and joy.

Now, do you doubt that your bird was true?


You pray to the gods? Let me grant your prayers.

It is the honourable characteristic of Poetry that its materials are to be found in every subject which can interest the human mind.

The evidence of this fact is to be sought, not in the writings of Critics, but in those of Poets themselves.

Criticism is a genre of literature or it does not exist.

To imagine is to misinterpret, which makes all poems antithetical to their precursors.

Who are your parents? Do you know?

The strength of any poem is the poems that it has managed to exclude.

The death of Patroclus, Iliad XVI:

Even as he spoke, the shadow of death came over him. His soul fled from his limbs and went down to the house of Hades, bemoaning its fate, leaving manhood and youth.

Every poem is a misinterpretation of a parent poem.

There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long.

New poems originate mainly from old poems.

Ivan Goncharov was essentially deranged in the last thirty years of his life.

And insisted that every word Turganev published had been stolen from him.

All unknowing you are the scourge of your own flesh and blood, the dead below the earth and the living here above, and the double lash of your mother and your father’s curse will whip you from this land one day, their footfall treading you down in terror, darkness shrouding your eyes that now can see the light!

The primary struggle of the young poet is against the old masters.

The father is perceived as an obstacle.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

The death of Hector, Iliad XXII:

Even as he spoke, the shadow of death came over him. His soul fled from his limbs and went down to the house of Hades, bemoaning its fate, leaving manhood and youth.

The ephebe must clear imaginative space for himself through a creative misreading of the strong poets of the past.

The old God, the Father, took second place; Christ, the Son, stood in His stead, just as in those dark times every son had longed to do.

Only strong poets can overcome this anxiety of influence.

Picasso: He was my one and only master. Cézanne! It was the same with all of us—he was like our father.

Lesser lights become derivative flatterers and never achieve poetic immortality for themselves.

No poem, not even Shakespeare or Milton or Chaucer, is ever strong enough to totally exclude every crucial precursor text or poem.

To you, your father should be as a god;
One that compos’d your beauties, yea, and one
To whom you are but as a form in wax
By him imprinted, and within his power
To leave the figure or disfigure it.

Mom and pop, they will fuck you up.

Under the wide and starry sky,

Dig the grave and let me lie.

Glad did I live and gladly die,

And I laid me down with a will.

Poetic misreading or misprison proper.

A corrective movement in his own poem. A swerve.

A breaking device, a movement towards discontinuity with the precursor.

But they were fucked up in their turn.



How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child.

The return of the dead.

As though the later poet himself had written the precursor’s characteristic work.

To imagine after a poet is to learn his own metaphors for his acts of reading.

A poem is not an overcoming of anxiety, but is that anxiety.

This be the verse you grave for me:

Here he lies where he longed to be.

Man hands on misery to man.

There are no interpretations but only misinterpretations.


The first century Roman poet Martial used the Latin word plagiarius to complain that another poet had kidnapped his verses.

Plagiarius: kidnapper, seducer, plunderer, one who kidnaps the child or slave of another.

Anglicized by Johnson in 1601.

Plagiary, adjective. 1. Stealing men; kidnapping. 2. Practicing literary theft.

Based on the Indo-European root *-plak, “to weave” (seen for instance in Greek plekein, Bulgarian “плета” pleta, Latin plectere, all meaning “to weave”).

Listen Fates, who sit nearest of gods to the throne of Zeus, and weave with shuttles of adamant, inescapable devices for councels of every kind beyond counting.




If, while riding a horse overland, a man should come upon a woman spinning, then that is a very bad sign; he should turn around and take another way.

Wonderful, wonderful, yet again the sword of fate severs the head from the hydra of chance.

When shall we three meet again

In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

As we, or mother Dana, weave and unweave our bodies from day to day, their molecules shuttled to and fro, so does the artist weave and unweave his image.

In the 19th century there was a literary scandal when the leading Sterne scholar of the day discovered that many of the quintessentially Sternean passages of Tristram Shandy had been lifted from other authors.

Typically, a passage lamenting the lack of originality among contemporary writers was plagiarised from Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy.

Now academics call the plagiarism “intertextuality.”

When the hurlyburly’s done,

When the battle’s lost and won.




Olaudah Equiano was born in 1745 in Eboe, in what is now Nigeria. When he was about eleven, Equiano was kidnapped and sold to slave traders headed to the West Indies.

When our women are not employed with the men in tillage, their usual occupation is spinning and weaving cotton, which they afterwards dye, and make it into garments.

“I did so, sir, for my sins,” said I; “for it was by his means and the procurement of my uncle, that I was kidnapped within sight of this town, carried to sea, suffered shipwreck and a hundred other hardships, and stand before you to-day in this poor accoutrement.”




Plagiarism begins at home.

Nothing is said which has not been said before.

Originality: Judicious imitation.

Perhaps the efforts of the true poets, founders, religions, literatures, all ages, have been, and ever will be, our time and times to come, essentially the same—to bring people back from their present strayings and sickly abstractions, to the costless, average, divine, original concrete.




I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal My words every one from his neighbor.


There are known knowns.

I know that I know nothing.

We are unknown to ourselves, we men of knowledge.

There are known unknowns.

But there are also unknown unknowns.

And unknown knowns.

The disavowed beliefs, suppositions and obscene practices we pretend not to know about, even though they form the background of our public values.

The idea of a soul, or of that unknown something for which the word “soul” is our hieroglyphic, and the idea of living organism, unite so spontaneously, and stick together so inseparably, that no matter how often we sunder them they will elude our vigilance and come together, like true lovers, in spite of us. Let us not attempt to divorce ideas that have so long been wedded together.

Therefore good and ill are one.

There’s nothing either good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.

Well, um, you know, something’s neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so, I suppose, as Shakespeare said.


The largest art theft in world history occurred in Boston on March 18, 1990 when thieves stole 13 pieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Collectively worth $300 million.

$400 million.

At least $500 million.

Among the pieces stolen was Vermeer’s The Concert, which is considered to be the most valuable stolen painting in the world.

Also among the pieces stolen: Landscape with an Obelisk, which previously was attributed to Rembrandt.

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt’s later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships.

He died within a year of his son, on October 4, 1669 in Amsterdam, and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Westerkerk. 

More than half the subjects of Rembrandt’s etchings are portraits and studies of the human figure; about one-quarter are scriptural or religious. There are two dozen landscapes, and the remainder are allegorical and fancy compositions.

Rembrandt was his own most frequent model.

At least 40 paintings and 31 etchings. Maybe 60. Maybe 70.

Frida Kahlo produced 143 paintings, 55 of which are self-portraits.

Because I am so often alone.

Because I am the subject I know best.

The most acclaimed self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci is critically, irreparably damaged.

The portrait has got blotches, stains and spots, a condition called foxing.


Leonardo’s self-portrait measures 33.5 by 21.6 centimetres (13.2 by 8.5 inches).

Any list of most famous paintings  would be incomplete without the mention of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.

This infamous portrait of Lisa del Giocondo was completed some time between 1503-1519 and currently on display at the Musee du Louvre in Paris.

Leonardo used a pyramid design to place the woman simply and calmly in the space of the painting.

Between 1851 and 1880, artists who visited the Louvre copied Mona Lisa roughly half as many times as certain works by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Antonio da Correggio, Paolo Veronese, Titian, Jean-Baptiste Greuze and Pierre-Paul Prud’hon.

And in 1911, Louis Béroud.

The Mona Lisa’s fame was emphasized when it was stolen on 21 August 1911.

On 22 August 1911, Louis Béroud walked into the Louvre and went to the Salon Carré where the Mona Lisa had been on display for five years. However, where the Mona Lisa should have stood, he found four iron pegs.

French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who had once called for the Louvre to be “burnt down,” came under suspicion; he was arrested and put in jail. Apollinaire tried to implicate his friend Pablo Picasso, who was also brought in for questioning, but both were later exonerated.

(In 1900 Apollinaire would write his first pornographic novel, Mirely, ou le petit trou pas cher, which was eventually lost).

The 1991 film Hudson Hawk (1991) centers on a cat burglar who is forced to steal Da Vinci works of art for a world domination plot.

A colossally sour and ill-conceived misfire.

In 1812 France was devastated when its invasion of Russia turned out to be a colossal failure in which scores of soldiers in Napoleon’s Grand Army were killed or badly wounded.

Napoleon’s conquests in Europe were followed by a systematic attempt, later more tentatively echoed by Hitler, to take the finest works of art of conquered nations back to the Louvre in Paris for a grand central museum of all Europe.

Napoleon boasted:

We will now have all that is beautiful in Italy except for a few objects in Turin and Naples.

The contents of nearly all the tombs of the Pharaohs were already completely looted by grave robbers before the invasion of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE.

Rome was sacked seven times.

King Shishak of Egypt attacked Jerusalem and took away the treasures of the Lord’s temple and of the royal palace. He took everything, including the gold shields that Solomon had made.

In the Book of Jeremiah 15:11 the Lord says:

Jerusalem, I will surely send you away for your own good. I will surely bring the enemy upon you in a time of trouble and distress. I will give away your wealth and your treasures as plunder. I will give it away free of charge for the sins you have committed throughout your land.

Sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, 1204.

The Sack of Baghdad, 1258.

Hernán Cortés and the looting of the Aztec gold.

Adolf Hitler was an unsuccessful artist who was denied admission to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.

The Third Reich amassed hundreds of thousands of objects from occupied nations and stored them in several key locations, such as Musée Jeu de Paume in Paris and the Nazi headquarters in Munich.

Later, storing the artworks in salt mines and caves for protection from Allied bombing raids.

These mines and caves offered the appropriate humidity and temperature conditions for artworks.

Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man was confiscated from a Polish family by the Nazis in 1939 for Hitler’s Führermuseum in Linz.

It disappeared in 1945 shortly before the end of the Second World War.

On 1 August 2012, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the painting had been found in a bank vault in an undisclosed location.

Thirty years after it was stolen, Camille Pissarro’s Le Marche aux Poissons was returned to the French.

Authorities believe they know who stole art from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the largest art heist in U.S. history.

Eventually they will resurface. Somebody will rat somebody else out. It’s really only a matter of time.

A drawing stolen from an ice cream shop is now back in the hands of its creator.