A while back, Buzzfeed, a source for all things pop culture, and my college-aged daughters' only source for news (does that give you pause like it does me?), asked their readers to submit their favorite lines from literature. Now there's a request to send me reeling. Choosing a favorite line is akin to choosing my favorite child, or worse, my favorite book. Impossible.
What makes a sentence speak to us, stop us in our tracks, jump out of the page and into our very soul? I suppose it's different for each of us, and each instance is different as well. Some lines conjure up a memory, dust it off, and make it sparkle. Some shine a light on a darkness we didn't know existed or a speck of beauty otherwise overlooked. Some are a balm; others a deep belly laugh. And some leave us in awe at the simple beauty of the thing.
Whatever it is, I know I can no more choose a favorite, or even 100 favorites, to save my life. That's playing fast and loose with literary magic. Buzzfeed published their 51 favorite submissions here. That they ended with an odd number, rather than a clean fifty, tells me a whole lot of wrangling took place as they whittled down their list. An impasse was clearly reached.
So rather than attempt something so brazen or haphazard as a list of favorites, here are few I love, for all the various, glorious reasons. Please know there are hundreds more. I would ask Tracy to submit some of hers as well, but today her head is spinning with only one: "The brothers in orange are undefeated and unbowed."
SOME BUZZFEED SUBMISSIONS I LOVE
“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” —J. D. Salinger, A Girl I Knew
“What are men to rocks and mountains?” —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
“In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” —Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank
“I would always rather be happy than dignified.” —Charlotte Brontë , Jane Eyre
“It frightened him to think what must have gone to the making of her eyes.” —Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.” —Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
“It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” —J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
"At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great."—Willa Cather, My Ántonia
"Isn't it pretty to think so?"—Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
"Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same."—Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
“‘Dear God,’ she prayed, ‘let me be something every minute of every hour of my life.’”—Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
SOME OTHERS I LOVE, HUGE EMPHASIS ON SOME
"It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us." —Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It
"We can love completely what we cannot completely understand." —Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It
“A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty.” —Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
"Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting." —Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
“It is a lovely oddity of human nature that a person is more inclined to interrupt two people in conversation than one person alone with a book.” —Amor Towles, Rules of Civility
"So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?" —Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
"No bathroom on earth will make up for marrying a bearded man you hate." —Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle
"I longed for the cushion of family that was theirs." —Ivan Doig, Last Bus to Wisdom
“With him, life was routine; without him, life was unbearable.” —Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
“No hour is ever eternity, but it has its right to weep.” —Zora Neal Hurston, Their Eyes were Watching God
"It's come at last, she thought, the time when you can no longer stand between your children and heartache.” —Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
“Men are more interesting in books than they are in real life.” —Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
“I believe that if we are going to write about life and death, we should not do it from the cheap seats.” —Rick Bragg, All Over but the Shoutin'
If I don't stop now, I never will. Although it induces great anxiety over the many I've left out. It's your turn: what sentences speak to you?