Posts Tagged ‘Oscar Wilde’

I read for fun this week.  Only Dull People Are Brilliant at Breakfast is a collection of Oscar Wilde quotes, one of Penguin’s Little Black Classics series.

It’s more like reading poetry than reading a novel because you can skip about, read out of order, pick and choose the lines that interest you. In this particular case there’s about 50 pages of quotes covering life, art, Englishness and intelligence, amongst other things.

When you read quotes in a block, you start to notice patterns, repetition, typical language.  You start to notice why one phrase is amusing and one is not, and why some ideas resonate. I enjoy the chance to analyse and reflect; I don’t really stop and think about what I am reading in the same way when I am reading a novel.

I personally prefer the more comedic comments.  They take the words away from lecturing and towards the feeling of a shared joke.  That’s one thing I have noticed over and over: these quotes feel like a friend talking to me.

This isn’t the most standard read, and I fully appreciate that not everyone enjoys reading books of quotations, but from a writing point of view it’s great.  There’s wonderful use of language, witticism that can be reviewed and analysed, and clever ideas worth exploring.

And it’s fun to read. Which is my primary focus when choosing a book for a Tuesday!

Happy reading



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As  a break today, I decided to flick through a book of quotes by writers, called ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Great Writers’.  I don’t know about you, but I often find these quotes, when taken out of context, less inspiring than perhaps they first appeared.  Context is often key.

Having said that, I found one today that I wanted to share.  The quote was in a speech made by Rudyard Kipling, in 1923:

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind

I’ve been coming back to this quote since I read it, and I still don’t know how I feel about it.  Are words really like drugs?  Or is it more accurate to say writers long to fill their worlds with them, collect them like a philatelist collects stamps, or a numismatist collects currency?  Is there even a word for collectors of words, of language?  Dictionarist, Lexiconist?

So many questions, so little chance to know.  All I can do is share my thoughts as they are, right now.

Words are like gemstones.  We start with rough chunks, and we polish them to make them shine.  Each word in our language – whatever language we speak – has been hewn from our past and presented to us like a gift.  Sometimes new gems are found, and we polish them for future generations.

We string words together into shining, shimmering ropes of language.  They are our currency and our trade, as writers; they are what we bequeath to others.

If all that sounds a little melodramatic for you, I hope you can at least agree with one point: words need to be displayed to their advantage, so people can see the best of them.


In the book challenge, I’ve read three this week, so am building up a little cushion in case I come across another Moby Dick that takes ages and never gets finished!

Book 7 – The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins.  This seemed really long – it took about 12 hours to finish which is quite long for me – although I’m not sure how long it is in its physical form.  Another one from the 100 Best Books list, it was quite fun, a little overlong, but neat and tidy at the end.  The multiple viewpoint characters meant that some parts were more enjoyable for me than others, but it was worth reading even if I never do so again!

Book 8 – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving.  Ok, this was a bit of a cheat as it’s a short story, but after The Moonstone I wanted something short!  This was fun, and entertaining,  and not much of a ghost story, at least to me – it seemed more satire than anything else.  Enjoyable, and my interpretation was that it was very tongue in cheek.

Book 9 – The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde.  Another play, and in typical Oscar Wilde fashion the conversations were sparky and vaguely ridiculous, the characters drawn cleverly in just a few lines.  I can imagine the giggles in a theatre, watching this performed; it made me smile.  Short, and sweet.

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