Inspirational Quotes from Walter Kirn

The reason con artists get away with what they get away with is, their victims are ashamed of their own blindness and their own gullibility, and they tend to just quietly go away.

Walter Kirn

I love reference books, especially collections of memorable quotations, world almanacs, and atlases. Facts to me are like candy or popcorn, small, tasty delights, and I like to gorge on them now and then.

Walter Kirn

E-mails, phone calls, Web sites, videos. They’re still all letters, basically, and they’ve come to outnumber old-fashioned conversations. They are the conversation now.

Walter Kirn

Uncertainty doesn’t make life worth living, quite, but it does make striving and gambling worth attempting.

Walter Kirn

What is it in people, or just in people like me, that would rather let a lie go by, would rather wish it away or minimize it, than point it out and cause the liar embarrassment?

Walter Kirn

Novelists who pretend to understand what keeps them scribbling are really just guessing. A profound, unmet childish need to be acknowledged? Maybe. It hardly matters, though. The termite that asks itself why it keeps chewing risks becoming sluggish and inefficient, as does the writer who grows self-conscious in the middle of chapter five.

Walter Kirn

My mother used to push ‘Wuthering Heights’ on me as a boy, and I sensed from her breathy description of the story that it would make me laugh. I have no plans to find out if this is true.

Walter Kirn

A true nature is a gloomy monolith, sort of like that old black rotary phone that I had to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Grandpa on. But novelists, damn us, still need true natures – so we can give them to our protagonists. And so readers can vaguely predict how they’ll behave when we trap them in ‘situations’ that they can’t IM their way out of.

Walter Kirn

The fictionally correct have all the answers, and that’s what’s wrong with them. They’re artistic technocrats. There’s no dilemma so knotty, no question so baffling, that it can’t be smoothly neutralized by dialing up the right attitude adjustment. Poor old Hemingway. If only he’d known.

Walter Kirn

I have very specific advice for aspiring writers: go to New York. And if you can’t go to New York, go to the place that represents New York to you, where the standards for writing are high, there are other people who share your dreams, and where you can talk, talk, talk about your interests.

Walter Kirn

I remember the first time I went to Italy when I was eighteen, I was in Florence and there were all these eighteen, nineteen, twenty-year-olds gliding past on Vespas with crinkly, long, hair, and I thought I was on the set of a movie. I couldn’t believe that this was going on and I hadn’t known about it before. I was flabbergasted.

Walter Kirn

I’ve noticed that the few times I’ve traveled first class myself, you’ve already got your drink, and your coat has been taken by the time the rest of the passengers file on, and it’s hard not to feel sorry for them. They’re sort of trooping past you like cows to slaughter and you’re sitting there in your, you know, wide-body seat.

Walter Kirn

It’s no accident that most self-help groups use ‘anonymous’ in their names; to Americans, the first step toward redemption is a ritual wiping out of the self, followed by the construction of a new one.

Walter Kirn

The success that Americans are said to worship is success of a specific sort: accomplished not through hard work, primarily, but through the ingenious angle, the big break. Sit down at a lunch counter, stand back up a star. Invest in a new issue and watch it soar. Split a single atom, win a war.

Walter Kirn

In America, to be ID’d – sorted, tagged, and permanently filed – is to lose a bit of one’s soul. To die a little. This sounds like a subtle, poetic notion. It’s not. In American legal and cultural tradition, one essential privilege of citizenship is not having to prove it on demand.

Walter Kirn

I’ve been around – having gone to Princeton, and I went to Oxford after that – some pretty fancy characters in my life. And they’re just as nutty as the rest of us – sometimes worse.

Walter Kirn

There are two sides to me. One is the writer. That’s a savage person who looks at everything as a story and, you know, wants to use real life in his books. The other part is the Midwesterner, who, you know, wants to say nice things about people and be polite.

Walter Kirn

Everyone his own cinematographer. His own stream-of-consciousness e-mail poet. His own nightclub DJ. His own political columnist. His own biographer of his top-10 friends!

Walter Kirn

The future of time, of how it’s won or lost, endured or enjoyed, expanded or compressed, will depend on how it’s valued, not how it’s measured.

Walter Kirn

A sociopath doesn’t warm up their environment, doesn’t make it cozy. They don’t have to; when they’re not performing, when they’re not manipulating, when they’re all alone, there’s nothing.

Walter Kirn

I review books as a day job, and through the years I’ve come to view the contemporary memoir as, almost always, a saga of victimization, sometimes by others, sometimes by the self, and sometimes by illness or misfortune, leading, like clockwork, to healing and redemption.

Walter Kirn

We want to believe that we’re invulnerable, and that people who get tricked deserve it. Well, they don’t. And someday the arrogant types who mock the gullible are likely to get their turn to wear the dunce cap.

Walter Kirn

In a world that’s smarter than it used to be and, in some ways, smarter than it ought to be, stupidity has a way of making us seem all the more human.

Walter Kirn

A writer who isn’t writing is asking for trouble.

Walter Kirn

Ask Jeeves! Who ever used that thing? College freshmen to find out who Goethe was – that’s it.

Walter Kirn

The room-service Caesar salads with soggy croutons, the distant relatives who show up at readings pitching weird, far-fetched investment schemes, the fans who have you sign a book to ‘Cathy’ and then tell you, ‘No, it’s Kathy with a K’ – it gets challenging after a while. It tests your stamina.

Walter Kirn

I grew up in a little town in Minnesota, 500 people. I went out to Princeton, and I wasn’t very well-accepted out there by the fancy folks of Princeton University, I felt. I came away bruised and feeling rejected.

Walter Kirn

At college, I wanted to be a poet. I liked the extremely concentrated language, the atmosphere of otherworldliness.

Walter Kirn

I studied English at Princeton in the early eighties in what I consider a period of high obscurity. Professors and students ran around discussing the work of critics and philosophers that I doubt they’d read or understood.

Walter Kirn

I’m a magpie in my fiction, taking whatever looks shiny and curious to line the nest of my story.

Walter Kirn

When we have a favorite writer, it’s always the places where they grew up, lived, worked, and that they recreated on the page that we most want to visit and commune with. Faulkner’s Mississippi, Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles, etc. The mind of the reader longs to be somewhere, not just anywhere, and certainly not nowhere.

Walter Kirn

I say ‘here’s the thing’ a lot, both to alert people that I’m about to say something important and to give myself a moment to figure out what that important thing might be, because my head is so often completely empty.

Walter Kirn

Once you realize just the sort of glut of books that exists out there, it does become incumbent on you not to add to it unless you have a damn good reason.

Walter Kirn

I like to think that I could praise the good book of someone I personally dislike. I try not to comment on the person, to be insulting, but I have no trouble being insulting to the work.

Walter Kirn

I think of myself as writing realist American fiction. ‘Cynical but hopeful’ wouldn’t be the worst thing I’ve ever been called.

Walter Kirn

I think people get a sense of possibility when they’re on a plane, even romantic possibility, wondering if the perfect person is going to sit down next to them or something.

Walter Kirn

We’re on Twitter with one side of our personality, and Facebook with another, and LinkedIn with another side of our personality, and we’re toggling between them. That’s just a version of what an impostor does: shifting from one side of their personality to another with lightning speed.

Walter Kirn

Realize that the game of life is the game of, to some extent, being taken advantage of by people who make a science of it. Whether they are in government or personal life or in business, they’re everywhere.

Walter Kirn

The Bible has been through millions of rounds of exegesis and interpretation, but it hasn’t been until quite recently that it’s been taken as the absolute truth, to the point where people expect it to inform ideas about biology and life on this planet.

Walter Kirn

Every generation looks at literature through the lens of their own experience, but with the Bible, everyone gets apprehensive and thinks it’ll be too stuffy.

Walter Kirn

When I was writing about the Republican primaries, it was as though the Bible was a black box that people reached into to pull out edicts and prejudices and rules and opinions, and I wish they had fact-checked it! Especially Rick Santorum.

Walter Kirn

God is a freaking character, with enough foibles, tantrums, and paradoxical behaviors to supply a thousand screenplays. But who do you cast?

Walter Kirn

A writer is someone who tells you one thing so someday he can tell his readers another thing: what he was thinking but declined to say, or what he would have thought had he been wiser. A writer turns his life into material, and if you’re in his life, he uses yours, too.

Walter Kirn

The least sexy city is Los Angeles. And it poses as the most sexy. As you grow up, L.A. is being sold to you as home of the bikini-clad party girls. And then you get there, and it’s full of very goal-oriented, yoga-obsessed careerists.

Walter Kirn

I had the impression from reading English literature that British women were great beauties, and I only had seen Julie Christie, and she was gorgeous and sexy. I don’t know whether it was just my taste, but when I got to London, I went two years without seeing a truly attractive woman. A lot of near misses.

Walter Kirn

I’d assumed that a deal was a deal when Princeton admitted me, but I was wrong. The price of getting in – to the university itself, and to the great world it promised to open up – was an endless dunning for nebulous services that weren’t included in the initial quote.

Walter Kirn

In fourth grade, I learned that reading was serious business, not just a pleasant way to pass the time, and that like medicine or engineering, it had a definite, valuable purpose: to foster ‘comprehension.’

Walter Kirn

A president, like a college freshman, can’t know in advance which questions he’ll have to answer or what topics he’ll have to master. He has to be flexible, supple, and responsive. He has to be comfortable with multiple-choice.

Walter Kirn

Cross the wrong state border with your gun, or wake up one morning to new legislation or a new presidential executive order, and suddenly you’re the bad guy, not the good guy. No wonder some gun owners seem so touchy; they feel, at some level, like criminals in waiting.

Walter Kirn

Size has nothing to do with literature. All legs are long enough to touch the ground, and all books are big enough to fill their covers.

Walter Kirn

However old-fashioned and right-wing this may sound, the American genius for language lies in understatement, in saying things simply, pointedly and quickly, and in making new and clean and swift what otherwise might be ponderous, round and slow.

Walter Kirn

Stopping to think is fine for characters, but not for their creators. They have to work.

Walter Kirn