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To quote, or not to quote, and How? is the question

Those of you who have an intimate relationship with words and text will understand the dilemma. When you come across a powerful text it is instinctual to want to take it, memorize it, hold it with you for as long  as you can. And yet it is not yours. You didn’t write it. You didn’t think it. Although you wish you did. Worse, you wish you had a chance to share it with the world, and a reason to do so. It’s your precious gem, your discovery, and you want to share its beauty and worth with everyone. Yet where? Why? It’s almost as if you have to discover, again, the perfect moment to take out your gem and wear it for all the world to see. So you become a seeker, a seeker of opportunities to show off your find. Never despair. The moment will come. And when it does, be ready. If you do not have the gift of word memory, as it seems some do, then either have them written down, or know where to find them.

There are websites, like that of  Nigel Rees, dedicated to sharing with the world the wonderful things that brilliant people say. One can even subscribe for free to a monthly newsletter and gorge oneself at regular intervals. Or download the 2 hour compilation album of Quote… Unquote’s Greatest Hits (click on image above). There are also websites dedicated to specific writers or thinkers. I think of websites dedicated solely to Churchill quotes, or wikiquotes of Oscar Wilde, to name perhaps the most quoted in the English language. Or if you don’t have a specific fabulous person that you love to resurrect regularly, then it is terribly easy to find a zillion quotes, by simply googling “quotes on wisdom” for example. We live in a day and age where we shall find, as long as we seek.

However, it is never easy to take out one’s gems for the world to see. Most often, our simple thoughts pale in comparison to the wise words or poetic musings of the world’s greatest thinkers. Like a plain woman putting on ostentatious, sparkling jewels may lend herself to ridicule, we too must be careful what precious finds we ornament our writings with, and how. As a general rule, be guided by sincerity. Consider the why of your intertextuality. Is it to enrich, to share, to dazzle? Or is it a pompous attempt to look smart, rubbing one’s writer’s elbows with the lofty thoughts of those we barely understand? Once you have elucidated your inner motivation, proven its purity, then it is important to mingle your texts skillfully.

The other day, while listening to La Matinale de France Musique (which I highly recommend as the best way to survive any Parisian traffic jam), I had the chance to listen to a man who quotes well. Not only was his own message wise and worthy of my passing it on to you here, but he also enriched my day with the thoughts of those who are gone, yet whose voices we still should hear. I leave you now with Christophe Bourseiller interviewing Jean-Claude Guillebaud, who quotes two authors. I found both quotes and both authors, and promptly translated them into English, just for the simple pleasure of manipulating their written word. For those of you who are game, I will offer a cookie to the first person who finds the two wise men who are quoted, and posts the two quotations here in English. Hope you enjoy.

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