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Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction

Charles Baxter

Top 10 Best Quotes

“When all the details fit in perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story.”

“There is such a thing as the poetry of a mistake, and when you say, "Mistakes were made," you deprive an action of its poetry, and you sound like a weasel.”

“The twentieth century has built up a powerful set of intellectual shortcuts and devices that help us defend ourselves against moments when clouds suddenly appear to think.”

“You can’t reconstruct a story—you can’t even know what the story is—if everyone is saying, “Mistakes were made.” Who made them? Everybody made them and no one did, and it’s history anyway, so let’s forget about it. Every story is a history, however, and when there is no comprehensible story, there is no history.”

“The loss of innocence, and the arrival of knowingness, can become an addiction.”

“When you say, “I fucked up,” the action retains its meaning, its sordid origin, its obscenity, and its poetry. Poetry is quite compatible with obscenity.”

“The act of writing anything can be as much consent as creation.”

“Say what you will about it, Hell is story friendly. If you want a compelling story, put your protagonist among the damned. The mechanisms of hell are nicely attuned to the mechanisms of narrative. Not so the pleasures of Paradise. Paradise is not a story. It's about what happens when the stories are over.”

“Prose writers, by contrast, are unreliable friends: They are always studying you to see if there’s anything in your personality or appearance that they can steal for their next narrative.”

“As one gets older, the story of Hansel and Gretel becomes more interesting only when told from the point of view of the witch.”

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Book Keywords:

consensual-reality, pathetic-fallacy, fiction, sanity, discovery, villainy, overdetermination, character, deniability, destiny, writing, politics, anthropomorphization, plot, mistakes, passive-voice, mystery, perfection

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