When I was a teenager I used to write down favourite quotes and stick them on my bedroom wall and mirror. I had dozens of them by the time I left for university. I remember there were a lot of Oscar Wilde aphorisms, because they seem immensely clever and worldly when you first discover them, but there were also some lines of poetry, beautiful combinations of words that spoke to me.
These days when I read, I don’t take note of the same kind of things I did back then. When I pick out quotes for my reviews, I’m choosing lines that demonstrate the style of the book. They might well be clever and/or beautiful, but not in the same way as those words on my old wall. Teenage me was searching for words to live by: inspiration, hope, advice, wisdom. Older me looks for a more abstract beauty in words, a sense of originality, ultimately something I truly admire.
Those teenage quotes are still with me, as in I remember most of them, though I expect the actual scraps of paper are long gone and if not, I’m pretty sure the ink will have faded to almost nothing. But though the quotes I pick out these days are arguably better, chosen for purer reasons, I never remember them. Even as I’m closing the final pages of a book in which I have underlined dozens of passages that I loved, I won’t remember any of them.
This might be partly a comment on my failing memory, or on how much more information I have crammed into my brain in the years since I was a teenager, but I find it a little sad I don’t retain nuggets of literature in that way anymore. Perhaps I need to read more poetry, as the rhythms lend themselves to being memorised. I love the idea of being able to quote whole poems (something else I did as a teenager – why yes I was tad pretentious) but worry what other information I’d be squeezing out.
Do you remember good quotes from books you read? Do you keep note of quotes you like?