Feature: Quotes for the New Year

Some pithy quotes to keep in mind for the New Year.

Photo:: Wolfgang Schmidt

Bill McKibben — “China is shutting coal mines as fast as it can build wind turbines.” Photo: Wolfgang Schmidt.

By Harvey Blume



• About 10 minutes later, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo arrived.

As he and Judy Clark sat down, he wanted to know about her crime, the 1981 Brinks Robbery, and her motivation.

“Were you on drugs?” Mr. Cuomo asked.

“No,” Ms. Clark replied. “I was on politics.”

— Jim Dwyer


• As Putin once remarked to a child, “Russia’s borders don’t end anywhere”—before adding, “That’s a joke.”

— Emily Nussbaum


• Alain Badiou, often considered France’s greatest living philosopher, has helped to turn anti-Judaism into an intellectual point of pride. To Badiou, and his epigone Slavoj Žižek, Judaism is the enemy of utopianism; just as Jews denied Christ, so Jewish liberals today deny the transcendent dimension of the revolutionary Event.

— Adam Kirsch


• Something very profound happened to Israel during the six day war. For the first time we seized land, we took land by conquest, and suddenly the religious Jew saw the Bible not as a historical story, but as a contemporary operations manual. Yes, I want Israelis to have access to the Wailing Wall, but I don’t need to own it. Nor do I need to own any of these holy places. It’s new and it’s profoundly un-Jewish.

— David Grossman


•  Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin.

— Frank Rich


• The temperature was nearly a million billion billion billion degrees. Time and space churned like boiling water. Of course, such things are unimaginable.

— Alan Lightman

 Had the Mafia withheld its unofficial blessing from the film, any number of unexpected impediments might have interfered with the production of “The Godfather,” like labor troubles, missing scenery or missing cast members.

— Sam Roberts


• What is most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine.

— Susan Sontag


• For us “coastal elites” who understand evolution, genetics and science, nothing we say to those in flyover country is going to be listened to because not only are we fighting against an anti-education belief system, we are arguing against god

— Forsetti Justice


• A poem or a short story in Faulkner’s view was too small, too soon over, to encompass the big thing on his mind—the great submerged obsessive guilty burden of slave times, when all whites knew but few said that slaves were not only unpaid laborers but unpaid sexual servants.

— Thomas Powers


• Prairie-dog alarm calls are the vocal equivalent of wartime telegrams: concise, abrupt, stripped to essentials.

— Ferris Jabr


• “Last year, it was still quite humanlike when it played,” Mr. Ke said after the game. “But this year, AlphaGo became like a god of Go.”

— Paul Mozur


• China is shutting coal mines as fast as it can build wind turbines.

— Bill McKibben


• In my youth, when she’d join my father for a drink after work–“Just one, I have to get dinner on the table”–that was a happy sound. Now it was like a trigger being cocked.

— David Sedaris


•  I remembered a friend telling me how he watched a Haredi man on a plane meticulously following the rules for laying tefillin while flagrantly disobeying the pilot’s instructions for everyone to sit down.

— Peter Beinart


New Year


• Theirs was an insular community in which sexual selection–for Darwin, a central motor of mammalian evolution–had for centuries favored slender, nearsighted, stoop-shouldered young men rocking back and forth as they pondered the complex, heavily annotated, often esoteric tractates of Jewish law.

— Stephen Greenblatt


• Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?

— George R.R. Martin


• People who worry about the fate of democracy still write (and read) books. Those who are determining it prefer to tweet.

— Elizabeth Kolbert


• The retreat from the Continent was a perilous time for Britain. The Germans were willing to throw everything into making it as dangerous and costly as possible for the island people. Britain’s French allies were full of suspicion about what they were depicting for propaganda purposes as a treacherous retreat. The British government was in disarray, with senior government ministers even proposing negotiating with the enemy in order to minimize the terrible ultimate cost that they now saw as inevitable. Everyone was crying out for leadership.

But enough about Brexit; what about Christopher Nolan’s new movie about Dunkirk?

— Andrew Roberts


• Scotland and Wales were asserting a sense of difference in devolved parliaments and, in the Scottish case, in growing demands for independence. What could not be predicted, though, was that the decisive nationalist revolution would occur not in Scotland or Wales, but in England.

— Fintan O’Toole


• What happens in philosophy stays in philosophy, by and large, and a good thing it does, too.

— Daniel Dennett


• I have noticed that even faiths that we used to think of as being gentle, like the Buddhists, are behaving very badly in Myanmar. So my attitude to the church is twofold. Firstly it’s where I belong – I’m a cultural Christian. Secondly, I have learned to have a grave suspicion of all religious power wielded politically.

— Philip Pullman


• He hasn’t shown us his taxes; how can he make a plan for tax if he’s hiding his taxes from us? I believe that every presidential candidate should see a psychiatrist before they’re allowed to stand. I truly believe he has brought a whole dark cloud over the world. Climate, immigration, everything.

— Grace Jones


• When I think of Akiba, greatest of all the rabbis, I recall not only his eloquence and his heroic martyrdom at the hands of the Romans, but also his apocalyptic blunder in hailing the insurgent Bar Kochba as the Messiah, an error that contributed to one of the major Jewish catastrophes, a holocaust exceeded only by the Germans just half a century ago.

— Harold Bloom


• Actually, Trump voters are not the only people I hate. I also hate Jill Stein voters and Gary Johnson voters and Bernie deadenders with their ridiculous delegates math and people with consciences so delicate they could not bring themselves to pull the lever for Hillary so they didn’t vote at all. I hate everyone who thought there was no “real” difference between the candidates because Hillary was a neoliberal and a faux feminist and Trump was not so bad. I especially hate everyone who thought that electing a reactionary monster would be okay because it would—or could, or might, who can tell?—bring on the revolution. Looking at you, Susan Sarandon and Slavoj Zizek! You are idiots and my heart seethes with wrath against you.

— Katha Pollitt


• When I read the classical inception of Beauty and the Beast, I always think they are on equal terms. Nobody can see past his ugliness, and nobody can see past her beauty. She cannot be seen as intelligent, complex, capable of darkness, for the same reasons that he cannot be seen as capable of love or kindness.

— Guillermo del Toro


• I travel around the world, eat a lot of shit, and basically do whatever the fuck I want.

— Anthony Bourdain


• I still have the absurd notion that, as with any other ailment, age and infirmity will run its course and I will recover from it.

— Alan Bennett


FOR 2018

Harvey Blume is an author—Ota Benga: The Pygmy At The Zoo—who has published essays, reviews, and interviews widely, in The New York Times, Boston Globe, Agni, The American Prospect, and The Forward, among other venues. His blog in progress, which will archive that material and be a platform for new, is here. He contributes regularly to The Arts Fuse, and wants to help it continue to grow into a critical voice to be reckoned with

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