“There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.” From the afterword to the 1979 edition of Fahrenheit 451.
“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”
“If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go in business because we’d be cynical: ‘It’s gonna go wrong.’ Or ‘She’s going to hurt me.’ Or, ‘I’ve had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore…’ Well, that’s nonsense. You’re going to miss life. You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.”
“Why would you clone people when you can go to bed with them and make a baby? C’mon, it’s stupid.” Salon, 2001.
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
“And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation. So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.” From the preface to Zen in the Art of Writing.
“We were put here as witnesses to the miracle of life. We see the stars, and we want them. We are beholden to give back to the universe… If we make landfall on another star system, we become immortal.” Speech to National School Board Association, 1995.
“I have three rules to live by. One, get your work done. If that doesn’t work, shut up and drink your gin. And when all else fails, run like hell!” From an interview with The Paris Review , 2010.
“Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one of them.” (Art by Edward Miller)
“I’m completely library educated. I’ve never been to college. I went down to the library when I was in grade school in Waukegan, and in high school in Los Angeles, and spent long days every summer in the library. I used to steal magazines from a store on Genesee Street, in Waukegan, and read them and then steal them back on the racks again. That way I took the print off with my eyeballs and stayed honest. I didn’t want to be a permanent thief, and I was very careful to wash my hands before I read them. But with the library, it’s like catnip, I suppose: you begin to run in circles because there’s so much to look at and read. And it’s far more fun than going to school, simply because you make up your own list and you don’t have to listen to anyone. When I would see some of the books my kids were forced to bring home and read by some of their teachers, and were graded on — well, what if you don’t like those books?
“I am a librarian. I discovered me in the library. I went to find me in the library. Before I fell in love with libraries, I was just a six-year-old boy. The library fueled all of my curiosities, from dinosaurs to ancient Egypt. When I graduated from high school in 1938, I began going to the library three nights a week. I did this every week for almost ten years and finally, in 1947, around the time I got married, I figured I was done. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-seven. I discovered that the library is the real school.” From an interview with The Paris Review , 2010.
“We must move into the universe. Mankind must save itself. We must escape the danger of war and politics. We must become astronauts and go out into the universe and discover the God in ourselves.” From an interview with CNN, 2010.
“If I’d found out that Norman Mailer liked me, I’d have killed myself. I think he was too hung up. I’m glad Kurt Vonnegut didn’t like me either. He had problems, terrible problems. He couldn’t see the world the way I see it. I suppose I’m too much Pollyanna, he was too much Cassandra. Actually I prefer to see myself as the Janus, the two-faced god who is half Pollyanna and half Cassandra, warning of the future and perhaps living too much in the past — a combination of both. But I don’t think I’m too overoptimistic.” From an interview with The Paris Review , 2010.
“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.” From “The Zen Writer …” in Writer’s Digest, 1974.
“I don’t believe in optimism. I believe in optimal behavior. That’s a different thing. If you behave every day of your life to the top of your genetics, what can you do? Test it. Find out. You don’t know — you haven’t done it yet. You must live life at the top of your voice! At the top of your lungs shout and listen to the echoes.” From an interview with The Paris Review , 2010.
“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a land mine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now, it’s your turn. Jump!” From Zen in the Art of Writing.