E. L. Doctorow quotes

  • Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Writing #Exploration

  • The act of composition is a series of discoveries.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Writing #Discovery #Composition

  • The three most important documents a free society gives are a birth certificate, a passport, and a library card.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Giving #Library #Important

  • Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Writing #Journey #Night

  • The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Novelists #Historian

  • Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Inspiration #Writing #Talking

  • Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Writing #Schizophrenia #Form

  • Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader - not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Nature #Rain #Writing

  • I am often asked the question How can the masses permit themselves to be exploited by the few. The answer is By being persuaded to identify with them.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Answers #Permit #Mass

  • I like commas. I detest semi-colons — I don’t think they belong in a story. And I gave up quotation marks long ago. I found I didn’t need them, they were fly-specks on the page.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Thinking #Long #Needs

  • History is the present. That's why every generation writes it anew. But what most people think of as history is its end product, myth.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Truth #Writing #Thinking

  • What we call fiction is the ancient way of knowing, the total discourse that antedates all the special vocabularies....Fiction is democratic, it reasserts the authority of the single mind to make and remake the world.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Writing #Vocabulary #Knowing

  • I am telling you what I know—words have music and if you are a musician you will write to hear them.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Writing #Musician

  • Planning to write is not writing.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Writing #Planning

  • We're always attracted to the edges of what we are, out by the edges where it's a little raw and nervy.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Littles

  • A novelist is a person who lives in other people's skins.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Writing #People #Skins

  • In the twentieth century one of the most personal relationships to have developed is that of the person and the state. It's become a fact of life that governments have become very intimate with people, most always to their detriment.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Government #People #Facts

  • Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Book #Writing #People

  • Congress is so beholden to the money that any solution in the general interest will be frustrated and subverted by the corporate interests who feel they will be damaged by progress, fair play and justice.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Play #Justice #Frustrated

  • Most people are quiet in the world, and live in it tentatively, as if it were not their own.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #People #World #Quiet

  • A writer's life is so hazardous that anything he does is bad for him. Anything that happens to him is bad: failure's bad, success is bad; impoverishment is bad, money is very, very bad. Nothing good can happen... Except the act of writing.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Writing #Doe #Life Is

  • And so do people pass out of one's life and all you can remember of them is their humanity, a poor fitful thing of no dominion, like your own.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #People #Humanity #Dominion

  • Anyone at any age is able to tell the story of his or her life with authority.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Age #Stories #Able

  • Uncharged with invisible meaning, the visible is nothing, mere clay; and without visible circumstance, a territory, to connect to, our spirit is shapeless, nameless, and undefined.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Territory #Clay #Purpose

  • A writer of books has to admit that film is the enemy, and that in my case I have been sleeping with the enemy.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Book #Sleep #Enemy

  • I lived in New York for a couple months. It seemed to me at first an incredibly clean place with well-dressed people and washed cars and bright-painted red-and-yellow streetcars and white buildings.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #New York #Couple #Yellow

  • All over the world today, not just in the totalitarian countries, assiduous functionaries in Ministries of Truth are clubbing history dumb and rendering language insensible.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Country #Dumb #Ministry

  • It may be that the most avid readers of new fiction in America today are film producers, an indication of the trouble were in.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Avid #America #Fiction

  • There is no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction; there's only narrative.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Fiction #Narrative #Nonfiction

  • Like art and politics, gangsterism is a very important avenue of assimilation into society.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Art #Important #Crime

  • There are moments when I cannot bear this unremitting consciousness. It knows only itself. Awake, I am in a continuum with my dreams. I feel my typewriters, my table, my chair to have that assurance of a solid world, where things take up space, where is not the endless emptiness of insubstantial thought that leads to nowhere but itself. My memories pale as I prevail upon them again and again. They become more and more ghostly. I fear nothing so much as losing them altogether and having only my blank endless mind to live in.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Dream #Memories #Typewriters

  • The theory for admitting accomplice testimony that is uncorroborated is that conspiracy is by its nature secretive and that only the parties to it can know it occurred. But in practice this means the accomplice's guilt is modified to the degree that he can convict the defendant.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Party #Mean #Practice

  • It proposed that human beings, by the act of making witness, warranted times and places for their existence other than the time and place they were living through.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Existence #Witness #Humans

  • Banks and churches and courtrooms all depend on the appurtenances of theatre. On illusion. Banks, the illusion of stability and honourable dealings to the rot and corruption of capitalist exploitation. Churches the illusion of sacred sanctuary of purposes of pacifying social discontent. Courtrooms of course designed to promote the illusion of solemn justice. If there was true justice why would such trappings be necessary? Wouldn't a table and chairs and an ordinary room serve just as well?
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Justice #Church #Theatre

  • We dress them [children] in the presumptions of the world. They are the bright small face of hope. They are the last belief we have, the belief in making them believe.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Children #Believe #Dresses

  • We make a mistake to condescend to the past as if it were preparatory to our own time.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Mistake #Past

  • I've always felt, as a writer, that radicals are fascinating because they're relations, they have a place in the American family. They're the relatives everyone wishes would go away. They're the embarrassments to decorum and good taste.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Wish #Going Away #Radicalism

  • It is the immigrant hordes who keep this country alive, the waves of them arriving year after year.... Who believes in America more than the people who run down the gangplank and kiss the ground?
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Running #Country #Believe

  • Writing is immensely difficult. The short forms especially.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Writing #Form #Difficult

  • When you're working well, you don't do research. Whatever you need comes to you.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Needs #Research #Wells

  • When I'm writing, I like to seal everything off and face the wall, not to look outside the window. The only way out is through the sentences.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Wall #Writing #Looks

  • Things that appear on the front page of the newspaper as 'fact' are far more dangerous than the games played by a novelist, and can lead to wars.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #War #Games #Novelists

  • I did have a feeling then that the culture of factuality was so dominating that storytelling had lost all its authority.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Feelings #Culture #Storytelling

  • A new reader shouldn't be able to find you in your work, though someone who's read more may begin to.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #May #Able #Reader

  • Movies are too literal.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Movie

  • The theory of the teacher with all these immigrant kids was that if you spoke English loudly enough they would eventually understand.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Teacher #Teaching #Kids

  • I have committed many sins in my life. This precise sin-the sin against poets-is without absolution.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Sin #Poet #Committed

  • Poems have ideas. The ideas of poems come out of their emotions and their emotions are carried on images.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Ideas #Emotion

  • The poem is a cry of the unborn heart. Yes, because the poem perfectly embodies the world, there is no world without poem.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Heart #World #Cry

  • And though the newspapers called the shooting the Crime of the Century, Goldman knew it was only 1906 and there were ninety-four years to go.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Years #Shooting #Four

  • We are all good friends. Friendship is what endures. Shared ideals, respect for the whole character of a human being.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Character #Good Friend #Endure

  • I've known several cases of writers who decide to write about something and they research the hell out of it and when they're ready to write, they can't move because they are so burdened. I start writing. Whatever I need somehow comes to hand.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Moving #Writing #Hands

  • The difference between Socrates and Jesus is that no one had ever been put to death in Socrates' name. And that is because Socrates' ideas were never made law. Law, in whatever name, protects privilege.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Jesus #Law #Names

  • I knew he was unreliable, but he was fun to be with. He was a child’s ideal companion, full of surprises and happy animal energy. He enjoyed food and drink. He liked to try new things. He brought home coconuts, papayas, mangoes, and urged them on our reluctant conservative selves. On Sundays he liked to discover new places, take us on endless bus or trolley rides to some new park or beach he knew about. He always counseled daring, in whatever situation, the courage to test the unknown, an instruction that was thematically in opposition to my mother’s.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Mother #Beach #Children

  • My memories pale as I prevail upon them again and again. They become more and more ghostly. I fear nothing so much as losing them altogether and having only my blank endless mind to live in.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Memories #Mind #Losing

  • I try to avoid experience if I can. Most experience is bad.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Trying

  • I thought I would lose, so I didn't prepare a speech.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Speech

  • The Shadow had no imagination. He neither looked at naked women nor thought of ridding the world of dictators like Hitler or Mussolini.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Imagination #Shadow #Naked

  • And so the ordinary unendurable torments we all experienced were indeed exceptional in the way they were absorbed in each heart.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Heart #Ordinary #Way

  • The music of the Stones pounds the air like the amplified pulse of my erection.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Air #Pulse #Stones

  • Satire's nature is to be one-sided, contemptuous of ambiguity, and so unfairly selective as to find in the purity of ridicule an inarguable moral truth.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Moral #Purity #Satire

  • There is music in words, and it can be heard you know, by thinking.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Reflection #Thinking #Heard

  • Because like all ***** you value propriety. You are creature of capitalism, the ethics of which are so totally corrupt and hypocritical that your beauty is no more than the beauty of gold, which is to say false and cold and useless.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Gold #Useless #Ethics

  • Implications of treason are fed like cubes of sugar to the twelve-headed animal which is justice. In ... opening remarks. In the way questions are asked. In support of lines of questioning where cases of treason are cited and the Judge endorses the relevance of the citation.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Animal #Justice #Judging

  • The images of things are not the things in themselves.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

  • I can walk into a bookstore and hand over my credit card and they don't know who the hell I am. Maybe that says something about bookstore clerks.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Hands #Clerks #Credit

  • I am led to the proposition that there is no fiction or nonfiction as we commonly understand the distinction: there is only narrative.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Fiction #Narrative #Nonfiction

  • The writer isn't made in a vacuum. Writers are witnesses. The reason we need writers is because we need witnesses to this terrifying century.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Writing #Scary #Needs

  • Time seems to me a drift, a shifting of sand. And my mind is shifting with it. I am wearing away.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Time #Mind #Shifting

  • Stories distribute the suffering so that it can be borne.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Suffering #Stories

  • Someone dying asks if there is life after death. Yes, comes the answer, only not yours.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Dying #Answers #Life After Death

  • It was evident to him that the world composed and recomposed itself constantly in an endless process of dissatisfaction.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #World #Process #Endless

  • Dad is always hiding in his book.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Dad #Book #Hiding

  • So that individuation may be compared to a pyramid in that it is only achieved by the placement of the top stone… The Jews, Ford said. They ain't like anyone else I know. There goes you theory up ***** creek. He smiled.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Pyramids #May #Stones

  • Communists have no respect for people, only for positions.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #People #No Respect #Communist

  • Leo Crowley, Harry [Truman]'s Foreign Economic Administrator, tells Congressmen the theory...: 'If you create good governments in foreign countries, automatically you will have better markets for ourselves.' With that honeycunt staring you in the face, you'd forget your grammar too.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Country #Government #Harry Truman

  • You can't remember sex. You can remember the fact of it, and recall the setting, and even the details, but the sex of the sex cannot be remembered, the substantive truth of it, it is by nature self-erasing, you can remember its anatomy and be left with a judgment as to the degree of your liking of it, but whatever it is as a splurge of being, as a loss, as a charge of the conviction of love stopping your heart like your execution, there is no memory of it in the brain, only the deduction that it happened and that time passed, leaving you with a silhouette that you want to fill in again.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Sex #Memories #Heart

  • Every major work of art is a transgression, but the artist is not necessarily, by nature, a transgressor.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Art #Transgression #Artist

  • The philosophical conservative is someone willing to pay the price of other people s suffering for his principles.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Philosophical #People #Suffering

  • Longing, the hope for fulfillment, is the one unwavering passion of the world's commerce.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Passion #World #Longing

  • Facts are the images of history, just as images are the facts of fiction.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Fiction #Facts

  • A novel is a printed circuit through which flows the force of a reader's own life.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Fiction #Flow #Force

  • The voice of the Constitution is the inescapably solemn self-consciousness of the people giving the law unto themselves.
    -- E. L. Doctorow

    #Self #Law #Voice