Quotes from Books I Read in 2004

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  • The Messenger - Douglas Niles:
    Darkness settled across Black Ice Bay, but the prince of ogres didn't budge from his post. Instead, he watched the sparkling lights of his home, remembered the smells of scented oil, roasting whale meat, and the day's catch of fish. A slit of brightness appeared in the base of the mountains, where it merged with the dark water. The gap slowly widened as the Seagate, operated by hundreds of slaves turning great capstans, trundled open. His ship had been spotted, and the ogres made ready to welcome their prince and his crew. Grimwar thought of the slaves, the throng of captives crammed below the deck, of the victories that had marked the campaign along the Icereach coast.
    He hoped his father would be pleased.
  • Going Postal - Terry Pratchett:
    After all, what could a master criminal buy? There was a shortage of seaside properties with real lava flows near a reliable source of piranhas...
  • Trick or Treat Murder - Leslie Meier:
    'This place is a firetrap. It ought to be torn down.'
    Sue Finch bit neatly into a crisp apple, closed her eyes, and raised her face to the warm October sun while she chewed. She was sitting on the ramshackle porch of the Ezekiel Hallett house, once the grandest mansion in Tinker's Cove. Now, it was little more than a decaying pile of timber.
  • Earth Power - Scott Cunningham:
    The Moon glow mystically in the star-scattered sky as a lone figure moves down a deserted beach.
    It stops, bends and grasps a grey stick washed up on the shore by the restless sea. Pushing its blunt end into the wet sand, the figure sketches a symbol.
    A wave crashes. The figure moves back, and just as the incoming water sweeps over the symbol a gust of wind rises, blowing back the tightly-wrapped scarf. A woman's face appears in the soft moonlight.
  • Star Spangled Murder - Leslie Meier:
    'So do you think one of the lobstermen might have killed her by mistake, thinking she was Wesley? Were tempers running that high around here? Over the poaching, I mean?'
    'It's hard to say,' said Beetle. 'Men get upset over a lot of things: women, money, politics. Lobsters, too.'
  • Murder Can Cool Off Your Affair - Selma Eichler:
    Listen, I was still throwing bouquets at myself for waking up at eight that morning. (Keep in mind that it was a Saturday.) But six o'clock? And on a regular basis? If I were in that situation (God forbid!) it wouldn't take long before the only way you could induce me to leave my bed at that hour would be to set it on fire. 'I hope it's a good job,' I remarked.
  • A Catered Wedding - Isis Crawford:
    'It has been my experience,' Gertrude said as she peeled the paper off the muffin's sides, 'that if you repeat something enough it becomes true.'
    'So why are you doing this?' Libby asked her. 'You don't have to.'
    'Your mother would have wanted me to. So I am. Even if the object of your affection is from the petite bourgoisie.'
    'You are a snob,' Libby said.
    Gertrude grinned. 'Indeed I am.'
  • The Solace of Open Spaces - Gretel Ehrlich:
    In June I moved again--all the way across the Basin to a rambling house near a town of fifty, 'including the dead ones'. Though the rightness of anything had long since vanished, I had a chemical reaction to this old-fashioned ranching community. I was loved, hated, flirted with, tolerated. I fitted in. The post office, miniature-sized and adorned with deer antlers, provided a hitch rail out front. I rode my horse there every day. Mail was handed out in person by a postmaster who had a haggard, beaten look. He once stood in the middle of the road, trying to shoot a crop duster's plane out of the sky.
  • Don't Cry for Me Hot Pastrami - Sharon Kahn:
    I know we're in trouble when the wooden handicapped ramp leading to the side entrance of the temple disappears--replaced by a swaying gangplank. The sight of Rabbi Kevin Kapstein hardly relieves my fears--he's wearing a white yachting cap as he waves the board members off the gangplank and into a transformed Blumberg Social Hall.
  • The Chocolate Frog Frame-Up - JoAnna Carl:
    I didn't solve the murder on purpose. It was an accidental process that began when I stood up and realized my pantyhose were drooping.
  • The Chocolate Bear Burglary - JoAnna Carl:
    A snowmobile's motor started, close to me. Resentfully, I turned toward the sound. And from the drive of the Bailey's summer cottage--a house I knew was empty that time of year--a purple snowmobile came barreling out onto the road.
    It headed straight for me.
  • Distant Fires - Scott Anderson:
    I believe that it is in a person's nature to exert considerable effort to avoid labor and save time. This thought ran through my mind during the 20 minutes it took us to secure the gear in the canoe. With the splash cover wrapped tightly about our waists we took one last look at the flume below us and plunged into the raging waters.
    Some seconds later I realized that the time we had spent designing the quick-release mechanism of the spray cover had been unnecessary. Under certain circumstances almost any design converts to quick-release. Being strapped in an overturned canoe was one of those circumstances, and Steve and I proved adequately that at such a time a quick thrust against the canoe bottom turns the entire spray cover into a release mechanism.
  • Murder With Peacocks - Donna Andrews:
    I was just beginning to feel relaxed when, speaking of the devil, Barry bounded in with all the grace of a half-grown Saint Bernard.
    'Look what I've got!' He dangled the [wedding] garter from his finger and leered in what I suppose he thought was a charming manner.
    'It's you, Barry,' I said. 'Wear it in good health.'
    'You know what I get to do with it!'
    'Get lost, Barry,' I said, holding out my glass for more champagne.
    'Ah come on,' he said, reaching for my leg. I grabbed the scissors and feinted at his hand with the point. He froze. 'Barry, if you lay one hand on my leg, I will stuff that garter down your throat and then cut it into shreds. I am not in a good mood, and besides, I know damn well that you didn't catch that thing, you just finally found your car keys.'
  • Yukon Wild: The Adventures of Four Women Who Paddled 2,000 Miles Through America's Last Frontier - Beth Johnson:
    This was self-indulgence at its best. You know you're on vacation when you wake up from your afternoon nap and ou're in the middle of the two-mile-wide Yukon River. I woke up slowly, gradually, gently, trailing a finger in the cold water and rubbing it on my eyes to shake off the heavy sleep of the sun's warmth. I scanned the hills and bends for clues to whether I'd been asleep for half a mile or five miles. There was no clue to time, partly because the sun seemed to move little during the day, but mostly because more than a month ago we had ceased winding our only timepiece.
    Today, we saw neither motorboat nor airplane. We passed no villages. The only sounds were our own paddling or snoring, a page turning in a paperback, a gull's mewing, the faraway rumble of a thunderstorm, an occasional breath of wind playing with my hair. Sometimes before I take a big trip, I look forward to having the time to contemplate the answers to life's big questions. But a good trip is when ou're so much at peace that you cease seeking the answers and forget the questions.
    Today, floating down this river through these rolling hills, I forgot the questions.
  • Lost in My Own Backyard: A Walk in Yellowstone National Park - Tim Cahill:
    In the morning the grasses were frosted over, glittering in the sun, and we could see the snow-covered ridge of the Tetons in the southern distance. A bull moose was trotting alongside of the meadow, near a fringe of trees. Moving out ahead, a female was running rapidly away and not about to just give it up at all. The male animal was making a series of revolting sounds: it started with a kind of eh-eh-eh, followed by a tormented swallowing, and then a noise like someone seriously vomiting ('Mate with me! Oh God I'm sick. Mate with me!').
  • Hark! - Ed McBain:
    Gloria knew that someone was in her apartment the moment she unlocked the door and entered. She was reaching into her tote bag when a man's voice said, 'No, don't.' Her fingertips were an inch away from the steel butt of a 0.380 caliber Browning.
  • The Deep Blue Good-By - John D MacDonald:
    The thunderheads built high that Thursday afternoon, and after a long hot silence, the winds came and the rain roared down. The sound of the rain terrified her. She could hear, in the sound of the rain, a hundred people all talking and laughing at once, as though a huge cocktail party filled all the other rooms of the sterile house. She became so agitated I had to give her the second one of the quieting pills.
  • The Jasmine Moon Murders - Laura Childs:
    Theodosia Browning rested her steaming cup of tea atop a marble gravestone and gazed at the ghostly tableau unfolding before her. Tendrils of fog swirled across dry, brittle ground. Lights flickered and dimmed from towering monuments and obelisks. Shimmering figures in Civil War-era costumes slid silently out from behind ancient tombstones that tipped and canted in all directions.
  • Candyfreak - Steve Almond:
    I. The author has eaten a piece of candy every single day of his entire life.
    I want you to look at that sentence and think about it briefly and, if you're so inclined, perhaps say a little prayer on behalf of my molars. This would not be unwarranted, and for supporting evidence I refer you to Elizabeth Gulevich, a highly competent doctor of dental surgery who spent most of the early seventies numbing my jaw.
  • Lost City - Clive Cussler:
    Before Austin could ask Grosset what he meant, the car pulled up, they said their adieus and he was on his way to the train station. As Austin sat back in his seat he pondered the Frenchman's warning. Grosset seemed to be saying that the Fauchards had more than one skeleton in their family closet. The same thing could be said about any rich family on the face of the earth, Austin mused. The fortunes that built grand houses and status were often based on a foundation of slavery, opium dealing, smuggling or organized crime.
    With nothing more to go on than nuance, Austin turned his thoughts to meeting Skye once more, but Grosset's words continued to eacho in his mind like the tolling of a distant church bell.
    It is said that they have a past.
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - Mary Roach:
    Out behind the University of Tennessee Medical Center is a lovely, forested grove with squirrels leaping in the branches of hickory trees and birds calling and patches of green grass where people lie on their backs in the sun, or sometimes the shade, depending on where the researchers put them.
    This pleasant Knoxville hillside is a field research facility, the only one in the world dedicated to the study of human decay. The people lying in the sun are dead. They are donated cadavers, helping, in their mute, fragrant way, to advance the science of criminal forensics.
  • The Black Stocking - Constance and Gwenyth Little:
    He forced himself to turn and look at her--and shuddered. She looked horrible--a nurse without a head. He tried to say something and saw that she had raised her arm and that a small revolver gleamed with deadly menace in her hand.
    There was no sound, but he saw a wisp of smoke and relaxed into a darkness that was shot through with golden stars which presently burned out into nothing.
  • River Days - Michael Tougias:
    Paddling beneath the covered bridge, I'm startled to see a moose in the water, bringing up huge mouthfuls of aquatic plants. This thing is big! I can hear it chewing; water drips from its long, homely snout. From the seat of the kayak a moose looks even more massive than it does on land. Seeing one up close and personal is a thrill. Absorbed in its eating, the moose apparenty has not heard, smelled or seen me.
    I'm tempted to glide within ten feet and snap a picture of this ungainly and comical looking creature, but I learned my lesson once in Maine when I paddled too close to a bull moose. It let out a guttural grunt and made a false charge, all 1,200 pounds of it. Now I give the moose plenty of room. Finally it spots me and gives a puzzled look.
  • The Haunted Hillbilly - Derek McCormack:
    'Nobody upstages Ernest Tubb!'
    Thunder. Lilac sheets of lightning. The night engrossing ink.
    A bat makes a moustache on the moon.
  • McNally's Chance - Vincent Lardo:
    'Gillian?' Sabrina said as if amazed that I would ask. 'Gillian had the best of everything. I enrolled her in a fancy Swiss school from day one.'
    'You sent your daughter to the first grade in Switzerland?' I exclaimed.
    'What's wrong with that? Little Swiss children go to the first grade in Switzerland.'
    'They live there, Ms. Wright.'
    'My daughter lived there, Mr McNally. You don't think she got on a little yellow jet every morning toting a lunch pail.'
    The woman was insufferable, but I have to add, infectious.
  • McNally's Dilemma - Vincent Lardo:
    'And we were well chaperoned,' I continued. For effect, I raised my right hand, and in lieu of a Bible, I placed my left hand on Lady C's Palm Beach telephone directory. 'Nothing--I repeat--nothing inappropriate passed between Veronica Manning and moi.' Surely a kiss or two could not be construed as inappropriate? Besides, how binding was the Palm Beach telephone directory?
  • Murder Can Ruin Your Looks - Selma Eichler:
    And while I admit that my one and only murder case turned me into a coward, the truth is, I hadn't been all that brave to begin with.
  • Murder Can Rain On Your Shower - Selma Eichler:
    It happened right in the middle of the salad course.
    Suddenly, the woman seated directly across from me dropped her fork and pitched forward on her elegant, damask-covered chair, uttering strange, guttural sounds and snatching frantically at her throat.
    And at that moment Ellen's bridal shower turned into a death watch.
  • Winner of the National Book Award - Jincy Willett:
    This is a whole subclass of book vandals, the Deleters, and they are to me the most horrific. Often they delete the sex words, often neatly, with razor blades. Sometimes they razor out whole pages, whole chapters--page whatever-it-was of The Group; half of Myra Breckinridge. Sometimes they grind a smaller axe, and so we get the single-book offender. Someone went through a biography of John Barrymore and obliterated all reference to his first wife. Someone took out every reference to John and Robert Kennedy in a book on Marilyn Monroe. (And every reference to Monroe in a recent study of the Kennedys. I think of him--surely it's a male--as The Keeper of the Flame.)
  • Winter Creek: One Writer's Natural History - John Daniel:
    Climbing is a spell, strenuously cast. Rope and hardware, hands and feet, simple will. If the spell breaks, there's only gravity.
  • Word Made Flesh - Jack O'Connell:
    You are already a ghost.
  • Woodswoman - Anne LaBastille:
    That first winter I perversely spent Christmas Eve alone at the cabin, not having any family to join nor wishing to visit well-meaning friends or neighbors. Temperatures dropped to minus 26 degrees on my back porch. Hawk Hill later reported minus 42 degrees! The moon was full. I stepped out into this glorious night insulated with long johns, three pairs of wool socks, two pairs of mittens, a turtleneck shirt, Icelandic wool sweater, heavy lumberjack pants, and jacket with hood. Strapping bear paws to my boots, I took a short walk through the forest beyond the cabin. Small firs had become marshmallow mounds. The creek had vanished into a musical under-ice rivulet. Drifts were decorated with wedding cake frillery. In the intense cold, my harnesses creaked and my fingers tingled ... Across the bare canopy of the forest, sparkling stars were strung upon brittle branches. It was a magical night--a night fitting to be Christmas Eve.
  • Pattern Recognition - William Gibson:
    She knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien's theory of jet lag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can't move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.
  • Twelve - Nick McDonell:
    In the spring Jessica runs track and good for her, but tonight, right now, she has not gone into the bathroom to relieve herself. She has gone into the bathroom to do some coke before that drunk boy comes back. Everyone else smokes weed and drinks. They think it's crazy to do coke except on special occasions, like proms. Not Jessica. So out comes the little Baggie filled with white powder. A chemist would have found the contents of this bag interesting. It is not cocaine. It is something else--number twelve, the boy called it when he handed it to her and said to save it for them for later--and as soon as Jessica takes her first hit, everything changes.
  • Running the Amazon - Joe Kane:
    By plane, Pucallpa is about a hundred miles from Atalaya, but by boat on the Ucayali it is four times that. There are no reliable maps of the river--it floods every year, changes course by many miles, and wipes out entire villages in a single swipe. The survivors move on, and a year later the village pops up somewhere else entirely, a collection of thatch huts where before there had been only bush and bank.
    'Where is Tabacoas?' one asks in Iparia. 'Tabacoas?' comes the response. 'It used to be one day from here, but it is farther now.'
  • Bitter Sweets - GA McKevett:
    A speaker, mounted on an L bracket over her head, crackled and spit out a 'cryin in my beer over you' country song. Starving, Savannah grabbed the nearest bowl of peanuts and began munching on them. At the other end of the bar, Dumpty hitched his belt up over his tractor tire-sized stomach and waggled his tongue obscenely at her. Opening her own mouth wide, she showed him her half-chewed peanuts. 'Gross,' he said, his libido bubble apparently pricked. Picking up his beer and his change off the bar, he retired to the back corner of the room.
  • Texas Hero - Merline Lovelace:
    Nick was now a millionaire many times over. His cover as a jet-setter gave him access to the world of movie princes and oil sheikhs. It had also led to a number of discreet affairs with some of the world's most beautiful women. A true connoisseur, he could understand why Jack Carstairs had sacrificed his military career for a fling with Elena Maria Alazar. The background dossier compiled by OMEGA's chief of communications had painted a portrait of an astonishingly vibrant, incredibly intelligent woman.
    Not unlike OMEGA's chief of communications herself, Nick thought. A mental image of Mackenzie Blair replaced that of Ellie Alazar and produced a suddent tightening just below his Italian leather belt. Both amused and perturbed by the sensation, Nick offered his assurances to Colonel Esteban.
  • Darkly Dreaming Dexter - Jeff Lindsay:
    I opened up the throttle when I cleared the canal, heading out the channel and then southeast, toward Cape Florida. The wind in my face and the taste of the salt spray helped clear my head, made me feel clean and a little fresher. I found it a great deal easier to think. Part of it was the calm and peace of the water. And another part was that in the best tradition of Miami watercraft, most of the other boaters semmed to be trying to kill me. I found that very relaxing. I was right at home. This is my country; these are my people.
  • No Way To Treat a First Lady - Christopher Buckley:
    She knew there was no merit to Boyce's stunning allegation, and that was why it scared her. It was so outrageous, so unbelievable, that one-third of the jury would believe it. People believe unbelievable things because it's self-flattering to think that you are intellectually daring enough to accept what others find preposterous. It's why people believe in UFOs, assassination conspiracies, certain religions, and the possibility that the Boston Red Sox will someday win the World Series.
  • Sabriel - Garth Nix:
    Touchstone could see the Dead now, and had no difficulty hearing them. They were chanting and clapping, decayed hands meeting together in a steady, slow rhythm that put all the hair on the back of his head on edge. A ghastly noise, hard sounds of bone on bone, or the liquid thumpings of decomposed, jellying flesh. The chanting was even worse, for very few of them had functioning mouths.
  • Cottonwood - Scott Phillips:
    'The old man disappeared into the other room without a word, and I asked Kate if she was communing with the spirits yet and she said, "I sure am, and what they're telling me right now is to kill you daid." Well I grabbed my rifle and charged out that door over to my horse. Sun was just going down, and I could hear Kate laughing while I rode away. I bet you I could hear her for half a mile or more, carried on the wind. I was scared to death she was following me until I finally got back here.'
    'And how'd she act after that, in town?' the hotelier prompted her.
    'Just like nothing was ever doing. I'd see her in here and she'd say "Morning, dearie," like we was still the best of friends.'
    Mrs. Kearney excused herself and went upstairs and we poured a couple glasses of whiskey.
    'Bear in mind that Mrs. Kearney also believes that the phantom of Andrew Jackson comes to her in the night and satisfies her carnally,' he said as the door upstairs closed. 'But who knows but there's a germ of truth to that business with the Benders?'
  • The Cat Who Talked Turkey - Lillian Jackson Braun:
    One of Qwilleran's 'Quill Pen' columns recently made this statement: 'A town without a bookstore is like a chicken with one leg.'
  • Paddling My Own Canoe - Audrey Sutherland:
    At dusk I sit content inside the cabin. It is the shack until I have cleaned it and lighted the candle; then it becomes the cabin. A moment ago I stepped outside and walked across the wet grass to the edge of the wall next to the catwalk. The sea and rocks surrounded my feet, the peaks and glittering sky were an infinite universe above. Then I turned and saw the candle through the window, the light in the wilderness, the reassurance that there was one small refuge in it all, enough for one small human.
  • The Carnivorous Carnival - Lemony Snicket:
    When my workday is over, and I have closed my notebook, hidden my pen, and sawed holes in my rented canoe so that it cannot be found, I often like to spend the evening in conversation with my few surviving friends.
  • The Hostile Hospital - Lemony Snicket:
    It was not the sort of shelter the children had in mind, never in their entire lives, but as they huddled together they guessed it might do. For the Baudelaire orphans--if indeed they were still orphans--the shelter of Count Olaf's trunk would have to do, until something better came along.
  • The Vile Village - Lemony Snicket:
    No matter who you are, no matter where you live, and no matter how many people are chasing you, what you don't read is often as important as what you do read ... If you are baking a pie for your friends, and you read an article entitled, 'How to Build a Chair' instead of a cookbook, your pie will probably end up tasting like wood and nails instead of crust and fruity filling.
  • The Devil's Cup: Coffee, The Driving Force in History - Stewart Lee Allen:
    The monks Diglas mentioned are from the Capuchin order of the Catholic Church, the namesake for both kapuziner and cappuccino. The story of how the order became associated with the drink begins in the Italian village of Assisi. It was here, around 1201, that a fellow named Giovanni began to act a little odd. He wandered around naked. He talked to birds. If it had happened today, he would have been institutionalized. But it was the medieval period, so he was canonized. We know him today as St Francis of Assisi.
  • The Cat Who Robbed a Bank - Lillian Jackson Braun:
    After a long career as a newspaperman, he was seldom excited and certainly never thrilled.
  • Asylum - John Saul:
    Harvey Connally had no more patience with harbingers of evil than he did with skulkers in the night.
  • Day of Reckoning: The Stereoscope - John Saul:
    The chest of drawers was exactly where it had been on Tuesday afternoon, apparently untouched by anything more sinister than the raccoon.
  • In the Shadow of Evil: The Handkerchief - John Saul:
    She hesitated, and something dropped from the ceiling into her hair.
    Twisting her neck to look up, she saw the spiders.
  • Ashes to Ashes: The Dragon's Flame - John Saul
    Its gusts gathered force throughout the night, unleashing a howling monster that tore branches from the bare trees, clawed shingles from the roofs, and rattled at the windows of every house, as if searching for ways to enact its fury upon the people within. Clouds, torn to shreds by the raging wind, scudded across the sky in grayish tatters, swirling across the moon so that dark shadows moved through the streets like thieves slithering from house to house.
  • Twist of Fate: The Locket - John Saul:
    The full moon stood high in the night sky above Blackstone, bathing the stones of the old Asylum atop North Hill in a silvery glow, even penetrating the thick layers of grime that covered its windows so that its dusty rooms were suffused with a dim light. Though the dark figure who moved silently through these rooms needed no light to guide him, the luminescence allowed him to pause now and then to savor the memories this place held for him: vivid memories.
  • An Eye for an Eye: The Doll - John Saul:
    The previous day's clouds had long since swept out to sea, and a full moon stood high in the sky. Atop North Hill, the Asylum was silhouetted against a sky sparkling with the glitter of millions of stars while the night itself seemed infused with a silvery glow. No one, though, was awake to see it, save a single dark figure that moved through the ruptured stone wall into the silent building that had stood empty for nearly forty years.
  • Bloody Mary - Gabrielle Kraft:
    'But here's the thing. Something's rotten in the state of Delaware,' Phalen said with a suspicious frown. 'I dunno why, but I got suspicious. I go down to the office this morning, whip through the books. I used to be an accountant before I hooked up with Happy, and even a quick run-through tells me I got a cash flow problem.'
    'Yeah? What kind of a cash flow problem?'
    'I ain't got a cash flow.'
    'That's a problem.'
  • Veronika Decides to Die - Paul Coelho:
    Then once more, a deep peace flooded through her and Veronika again looked out at the starry sky and at the new moon, her favorite, filling the room she was in with gentle light. The impression returned of Infinity and Eternity walking hand in hand; you only had to look for one of them--for example, the limitless universe--to feel the presence of the other, Time that never ends, that never passes, that remains in the Present, where all of life's secrets lie. As she had been walking from the ward to that room, she had felt such pure hatred that now she had no more rancor left in her heart.
  • Buck Naked - Joyce Burditt:
    By the time lunch was over, I had heartburn and finger-shaped bruises on my thigh. Between the soup and the salad, he grabbed me and squeezed hard. I pried his fingers off my thigh, then reached between his legs and squeezed equally hard. Steve's face drained white with shock. Maybe where he comes from, nice girls don't give what they get, but I've always believed that no expression of affection should go unreturned. As everyone at the table stared at him he slithered sideways off his chair and fell to the floor curled up like a ball.
  • Gunpowder Green - Laura Childs:
    Theodosia Browning reached up and removed the tortoiseshell clip that held her auburn locks tightly in place. As if on cue, the brisk wind from the Charleston Harbor lifted her hair, just as it did the graceful, undulating flags that flew from the masts of the yachts bobbing in the harbor.
  • A Catered Murder - Isis Crawford:
    'Why don't you like him?'
    'I already told you. He's a sleaze.'
    'How do you know that?'
    &#32'Because I do.'
    'That's not an answer.'
    &#32'Sure it is. I felt that way about the last guy you were dating too, and I was right. You know, the one that went around yelling Olé and clicking his heels.'
    'Of course he yelled Olé and clicked his heels. He was a flamenco dancer.'
    &#32'He was a bigamist from Boise, Idaho.'
    Bernie started to giggle. 'So he was a little absentminded.'
  • Straight Man - Richard Russo:
    The student center is normally a short walk, now a somewhat larger one, thanks to the massive excavation out of which will grow, this summer, the new College of Technical Careers building. Ground-breaking ceremonies were scheduled earlier in the month until one of the dignitaries, our local congressman, waving enthusiastically to imaginary constituents for the benefit of TV cameras, missed the first step getting off his charter plane and broke his ankle on the second, making it necessary to conduct the ground-breaking ceremonies later this afternoon, after the excavation has been dug. They'll have to find a camera angle for that first symbolic shovelful of earth that does not include the enormous pit. In truth, this hole fills me with misgivings, and not because a Pennsylvania congressman has fallen in the line of duty trying to dedicate it.
  • Ecology of a Cracker Childhood - Janisse Ray:
    The creation ends in south Georgia, at the very edge of the sweet earth. Only the sky, widest of the wide, goes on, flatness against flatness. The sky appears so close that, with a long-enough extension ladder, you think you could touch it, and sometimes you do, when clouds descend in the night to set a fine pelt of dew on the grasses, leaving behind white trails of fog and mist. At night the stars are thick and bright as a pint jar of fireflies, the moon at full a pearly orb, sailing through them like an egret. By day the sun, close in a paper sky, laps moisture from the land, then gives it back, always an exchange. Even in drought, when each dawn a parched sun cracks against the horizon's griddle, the air is thick with water.
  • Partly Cloudy Patriot - Sarah Vowell:
    When I invited my mom and dad to come to New York City to have Thanksgiving at my house, I never expected them to say yes. Not only had they never been to New York, they had never been east of the Mississippi. Nor had they ever visited me. I've always had these fantasies about being in a normal family in which the parents come to town and their adult daughter spends their entire visit daydreaming of suicide. I'm here to tell you that dreams really do come true.
  • Armadillo - William Boyd:
    In these times of ours--and we don't need to be precise about the exact date--but, anyway, very early in the year, a young man not much over thirty, tall (six feet plus an inch or two), with ink dark hair and a serious-looking, fine-featured but pallid face, went to keep a business appointment and discovered a hanged man.
  • The Frumious Bandersnatch - Ed McBain:
    Both men were wearing suits and ties. When these shrewd defense-lawyer shysters started working you over, it was always best for the jury to think you were gentlemen instead of roughnecks or rogues like some of the cops you saw on television these days. Actually, Parker and Weeks did occasionally behave like roughnecks and/or rogues, but it didn't pay to let the jury know this when you were testifying that you went in with all the proper No-Knock documentation.
  • The Washington Square Enigma - Harry Stephen Keeler:
    As Harling stepped forward and stood staring down in utter amazement at the body on the floor, he became conscious of a peculiar thing.
    The two eyes of the body were open and stared upward with an unseeing stare, but protruding from the right orb, at least a full inch, was the stout, steel shaft of an ordinary, ornamental hat pin--an item of purely feminine accoutrement from which, however, the ornamental head had evidently been snapped off in the struggle.
  • Chocolate Quake - Nancy Fairbanks:
    Heretofore, I hadn't taken my mother's situation seriously. She'd been in jail before. In fact, she has a felony conviction for leading a group of women into a psychiatrist's office and demonstrating how to protect oneself against a rapist by kneeing him in the balls. The psychiatrist had been drugging his patients and having sex with them and was saved from jail himself by promising to take no more female patients. He got probation and lost his license to practice. He also had to have a testicle removed after my mother's visit.
  • The book, the film, the t-shirt - Matt Beaumont:
    I was beginning to question Rebecca's judgment. There was the 'kissing girls' thing, but there was also the dump [Chinese Elvis, an Elvis-karaoke Chinese restaurant in Southeast London] she'd brought us to. I'm so not a snob, but we were surrounded by total lowlifes. They were crazed by alcohol and monosodium glutamate and were probably armed to the teeth. Goaded by the presence of a Major Hollywood Personality, they were capable of literally anything.
  • Aunt Dimity: Snowbound - Nancy Atherton:
    The holidays nearly killed me.
  • Red Wine Goes With Murder - Paula Carter:
    At first all she saw were the half-filled bottles of wine she and Beau and Buddy had tasted. Then, when she turned her head, she saw that the lid to the stainless steel vat where the wine was being processed was open. That was when she saw the corpse, floating faceup, arms widespread.
    The face was awash with red wine, but she recognized it immediately.
    Hillary leaned forward for a better look. 'Oh my Lord, that's Paul Hayes! What's a Baptist doing in a wine vat?'
  • The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars - Joel Glenn Brenner:
    The chief executive of Mars Inc., who runs the company with his older brother, Forrest Jr., is obsessed with anonymity. All details of his personal life are a carefully guarded secret. He is loathe to appear in public, resisting requests even to address his workers at closed company gatherings. He has not been photographed since college, when he posed for his Yale yearbook, and, according to those who work closely with him, he is apt to wear disguises when conducting business with corporate outsiders ...He has never signed a hotel registry and owns nothing in his own name. He shuns the media, and except for one brief interview that he granted me in 1991, he has never talked with the press.
  • Death in a Willow Pattern - W J Burley:
    'Mad, isn't it?'
    She was startled. The voice came from behind her and she had heard no one. A youngish man in dirty corduroy slacks and a polo-necked jersey, stocky, with a great mop of unruly black hair, a ready smile showing good teeth and a vague resemblance she couldn't place.
    'But all the Leighs are mad ... This was one of the particular follies of great-great-great-grandfather Joseph Leigh, the second owner of Peel Place after they booted the Vanes out. Born 1749, departed this life in the fear of the Lord 1828. He had good reason to fear the Lord, by all accounts, having seduced or raped everything approximately eligible within a radius of ten miles. They bedded him down in the church finally under half a ton of masonry to keep him there. If you don't believe it, you can go and see for yourself. I'm Edward Leigh, by the way, who are you?'
  • Mad Season - Nancy Means Wright:
    It was an average farm, for these parts anyway, the farmhouse in need of paint, the two cement-block stave silos with WILLMARTH SONS in peeling letters, the barn sturdy, painted red. Farmers kept up their barns before their houses, Colm knew that from his work in real estate. The land had a bluish cast, like it was about to grass. Decent soil, he supposed. Not the rich loamy black soil the settlers found when they walked up into the Republic of Vermont, but good earth nonetheless.
  • A Fit of Tempera - Mary Daheim:
    'Spring River', or so Judith had dubbed the work, since that had been Riley's title if only by default, was the work of a once-great artist. On the other hand, it had looked like hell on the staircase landing.
  • Shades of Earl Grey - Laura Childs:
    Scurrying across the Italian marble floor of the Lady Goodwood Inn, Theodosia Browning glanced up at the gleaming painting of the inn's venerable founder and matriarch. With her glowing porcelain skin, heavy necklace of blue topaz, and pale peach organza gown cinched tightly about her waist, she was the very picture of Southern femininity. A woman with a properly demure manner who also conveyed a fine aristocratic bearing. Yet her watchful eyes seemed to betray a certain wistfulness, as though Lady Goodwood would prefer to step out of her formal portrait and mingle with the carefree throng that milled about below.
  • Fowl Prey - Mary Daheim:
    Judith glanced at Joe, who was squeezed in between Tess and Aunt Deb. He leaned forward, handing Judith the butter plate before he took the beans from Tess. 'I'm putting together a new field hockey team this spring,' he said in a low voice. 'Interested?'
    Judith tipped her head to one side as she placed a pat of butter on her plate. 'Maybe.' She gave Joe a sweet little smile. 'It all depends on whether or not you can give me a real good puck.'
    Joe spilled the beans.
  • Eat, Drink and Be Buried - Peter King:
    His full name was Max Rittmeister, but everyone knew him as Max the Knife. He had a large bald head and a scar on one cheek that he claimed he had received while dueling as a student in Heidelberg. Another version said he'd inflicted it on himself with a carving knife while drunk, but nobody repeated that version within earshot of Max. He was big and powerfully built. He had been a POW in England during the war after being shot down as a rear gunner in a Dornier bomber. When the war was over, after a brief sojourn in bomb-shattered Germany, he returned to England and resumed his life as a butcher.
  • Swann - Carol Shields:
    This is happiness, he wants to tell them, these scrawled notes, these delicate tangled footnotes, which, with a little more work, a few more weeks, will evolve into numbered poems of logic and order and illumination. The disjointed paragraphs he is writing are pushing toward that epic wholeness that is a human life, gold socketed into gold.
  • Strawberry Shortcake Murder - Joanne Fluke:
    Hannah glanced down at the hunk of meat on his fork and snapped her mouth shut. How anyone could eat well-done beef was beyond her. She'd given her order the standard way, Thirty seconds on one side, thirty seconds on the other side and slap it on the plate. If you can't do that, bring it to me raw with a book of matches.
  • Sand in My Bra and Other Misadventures - edited by Jennifer L Leo:
    The Swiss man told us he also had canoed by the hysterical Ernie in the tower, but hadn't stopped for him. He simply waved and kept paddling, thinking Ernie in his army fatigues must be an escaped lunatic from the military. 'This sometimes happens in Switzerland. The army drives them mad and they head for the wilderness. I didn't want to go near him.' (from "The Summer of the Lost Ham" by Laurie Gough)
  • Snowjob - Ted Wood:
    The bar was called Brewskis, which said it all. A typical Vermont apres-ski place for people trendy enough to use pet names for a drink.
  • Night Ferry to Death - Patricia Moyes:
    Emmy Tibbett was in a bad temper. This was a sufficiently rare event to make it worthy of remark and explanation.
  • Lake Effect - William Jaspersohn:
    'Can you find her?' The lake lay low and flat through the wide window, its surface dark and thickly rippled near shore, but blue and sharply sparkling toward the middle. Beyond it, miles away, Jay Peak, humped and rounded like a green dome, stood above the lesser hills, its granite pale brown against the deep green, its tram towers tipped and craggy in the haze.
  • Casting in Dead Water - David Leitz:
    According to a friend of mine who is with the U.S. Geological Service, what causes and dictates Mud Season's debut and duration is the permafrost. The sun and warm air of spring thaw the ground above the permafrost and then it just sits there like soupy unbaked chocolate cake batter waiting until the frozen layer below it melts. Vermont's charming unpaved, country roads become nightmares of almost unnavigable, axle-deep, sucking goo. Schools close, loggers play cards all day, and the Whitefork River, already deep and treacherous with snowmelt, turns the color of cafe au lait.
  • City of Light - Lauren Belfer:
    'How wide it is,' she said. 'Do you see how each tilt of a wave takes on a different reflection? That's never really been captured in the paintings of Niagara--all those separate tilts. A sky or a cloud or a tree reflected in each one. Sometimes I stand here and think how easy it would be to wade in and touch those tilts. To be part of them. To let the water buoy me and carry me gently on its back. That color. That green. The river water's filled with air--that's what gives it the color. Did you know?' She glanced sharply at me, but she didn't wait for an answer. 'Sometimes I want to float there. To be part of the color. The air in the water would hold me up. It would be comforting, to be part of that color.'
  • WLT: A Radio Romance - Garrison Keillor:
    'They come from North Dakota, from a little town called Stacy,' said the Reverend. 'Out on the prairie, where the wind blows all the time and the trees grow up bent and the idea of civilization is a hundred years too late. Everybody who stays in Stacy winds up being exactly like their mother and dad except a little worse. From November to May you feel as if you're living on the moon, and in January, nature makes a serious attempt to kill you, so religion is sort of an occasional hobby compared to people's faith in gin and bourbon.'
  • Plane Insanity: A Flight Attendant's Tales of Sex, Rage and Queasiness at 30,000 Feet - Elliott Hester:
    During one unforgettable flight, Big Bertha allegedly stormed into the cockpit when the captain demanded to be fed before the first-class passengers. Angered by his insolence, she raised her dress, peeled the super-queen pantyhose from her sumo wrestler hips, pointed to a private place which hadn't seen action since the days before airline deregulation, and said, 'Dinner is served, Captain! but hurry up, I ain't got all day.' (from "The Motley Crew")

I loved Big Trouble! Did you see the movie before reading the book?

No! I had no idea there even was a movie until you posted. I bet it's fabulous. IMDB lists one for 1986 and 2002; it's the latter, isn't it?

I tend to suspect all movies that begin with the words "Big Trouble" of fabulosity, based solely on my love affair with "Big Trouble in Little China". Ah, I was warped early.

I love this list. The quotes and passages you pick inevitably entice me. If it weren't all I could do to stay on top of my movie and magazine deluge, I'd want to read all these just based on the passages you excerpt.

I'm glad you enjoy the list! It's my favorite one so far. And I confess, picking out salacious quotes to draw folks towards the books is my aim.

Except for Death in a Willow Pattern. My word, that was a stinker.

I think you might have an error in your markup; I don't recall everything being underlined last time I visited, but I might be wrong.

Thanks for catching that!

How are you liking Straight Man?

I finished it this weekend, and I have to say that I liked it enough to seek out other things by this author. I think it will definitely appeal more to people who live and work in academia, or have ever dealt in any way with an English department, but it also has tons of other things to recommend it.

I have no history with academia (except being a student), but I loved it. You may well be right about it appealing more to that niche though. As for other Russo books, the only other one I've read is Empire Falls, which is also excellent, but quite different and darker. Nobody's Fool is one of my favorite movies, but I can't count that as having read the book. :-)

Is this a recommendation for Empire Falls (the book) then? I mean, I really enjoyed Straight Man, but I was putting off figuring out which of Russo's books to read next. I don't know if you've seen how long my to-be-read lists are. :D

If you're in the market for another, then yeah, it's a recommendation. Not a particularly informed recommendation, but a recommendation nonetheless. And I read reviews of a bunch of his books when I was deciding which ones to read, and it seemed to be pretty well regarded critically.