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Debut of purple passages! A collection of lines from books I have read since 1989 when I began jotting them down in my journals, my 9 books of wishes, dreams, laments, and bursts of praise.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a purple passage as one conspicuous for its brilliance in otherwise dull writing. For this blog, I’m concentrating on only the “brilliant” part of the definition.

Although they are random in topic, I chose these quotes for at least 3 reasons: 1) they have plucked my heart-strings, 2) ignited a spark in my brain, or 3) resonated in my ear. Sometimes these ideas have even traveled to my fingers, where they become reborn as I write.

A Preview:  PurplePatch

6.16.90  I don’t call it gossip. I call it emotional speculation. Laurie Colwin Happy All the Time

7.25.90  Auntie Ying is not hard of hearing. She is hard of listening. Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

5.28.92  Mr. Brook was a somewhat pastel person. (I wonder how that differs from a vanilla one?)  Carson McCullers  Collected Stories

6.28.93  I was sneezing through a traffic light.  Son Joel on why he got a violation ticket.

12.21.95  The outline of what even well-educated people should know has been blurred past recognition by the many things we can know.   Flannery O’Connor Images of Grace, Introduction

Ah, there is also a 4th reason. I forget stuff unless I write it down. Even books I read. I had this sensation recently when I started to read (actually, re-read) neuropsychiatric Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Now who could forget reading that book and with THAT title!

In “The Curse of Reading and Forgetting,” Ian Crouch recalls having read and then unknowingly re-read parts of several books, amazed at his book-forgetting abilities. He recalls ordering a book from Amazon only to realize after encountering an episode about a cat trying to eat a snake that he’s already read THIS book. Then, he asks:

Should we reread when there is a nearly endless shelf of books out there to read and a certainly not-endless amount of time in which to do it? Should I pull out my copy of Eudora Welty’s “The Optimist’s Daughter” to relearn its charms—or more truthfully, learn them for the first time—or should I accept the loss, and move on?


I say, accept the loss and move on. “At my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.”


Quotes are selected not always because I agree with them, but because they have given me cause for pause. You will be notified when new quotes are posted. Click to link to the Purple Passages menu on my blog.

1. Have you experienced the author’s sensation of having read a book before as you began to re-read it? How about movies?

2. What other “purple” quotes come to mind as you read this post?