It was either W. Somerset Maugham or Oscar Wilde who said that “Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit” and it was Dorothy Sayers who said “I have a quote for everything; it saves original thought.” But whether it shows my intelligence or suggests to others a lack thereof, I love quotes.
I highlight lines in books, not so as to facilitate a return to a central argument or discussion topic, but rather to memorize the poignant things that writers have penned about life; my Dracula, The Alchemist and The Picture of Dorian Gray are all striped with dayglo yellow and I flip from inky sunbeam to inky sunbeam whenever I want my Facebook status to read something other than “oh god, why won’t she talk to me?” I have a twenty-page thread on the Adult Swim forums packed right to the rim with my favorite anime/manga quotes and am thinking of making a separate one for some of the more exhilarating lines from Doctor Who (’cause, damn, Ten and Eleven can turn a phrase).
I love quotes when they eloquently mirror something from my own life, look at something I already understand from a new perspective or drip with the kind of sensuous, malicious evil that poisons the mind and soul with black dreams of Luciferian grandeur. I love quotes when they refer to other quotes, illumine my own hidden emotions with poetic grace or allude to some far-off Great Day that will dawn and the light that fills the world. Reading them sends shivers up my spine and makes me absolutely giddy. I think that if I could just collect a quote for every single situation, my ability to quote would be a serviceable substitute for confidence.
I miss the days when books could refer so frequently to old books and poems that fully half of the manuscript could be attributed to people other than the author. Back in the day, quoting an obscene number of literary pieces proved to everyone that a particular person belonged in the higher echelons of society. Unfortunately, we now have such things as copyright litigation and intellectual property law (being half-facetious, I actually place a great deal of worth in both these things) that seem to make it difficult, if not impossible, to write a novel that reads like an episode of the Gilmore Girls or an “I Love the 80s” marathon (my secret dream). We live, love and learn by the light of quotation; it’s the evidence that we have been collecting the knowledge synthesized by our intellectual forerunners. Hell, it’s practically the entirety of the English major. Quotes are beautiful and badass and I’ll worship them forever on the altar of shared collective intelligence. So long as I have a highlighter, J.K. Rowling and Alexandre Dumas will be doing all my talking for me.