“Our American professors like their literature clear and cold and pure and very dead.”

In the 1920s, Sinclair Lewis became one of the most successful writers in America. During that decade he penned a series of five hugely popular novels: Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry and Dodsworth. In 1930, Lewis became the first American writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature by the Swedish Academy that … Read more

“The rich are different”… The legendary “exchange” between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway…

  If you’re a quotation buff, you’ve probably heard of a legendary exchange about “rich people” that supposedly took place between the American novelists F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) and Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961). Fitzgerald is usually quoted as saying either “The rich are different from you and me” or “The rich are different from us.” Hemingway … Read more

“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

I’m a big fan of the Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel The Godfather and the movie that was made from it in 1972. I am also a big fan of vintage men’s adventure magazines. In fact, I write a blog about them (MensPulpMags.com). I also co-edit anthologies of classic men’s adventure magazine stories for the Men’s … Read more

“Prose = words in their best order; — poetry = the best words in the best order.”

Most of the best-known quotes by the British poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge come from his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) and Kubla Khan (1816). But one of his most famous quotations is not something he wrote. It’s a remark he made in a conversation that was jotted down by his … Read more

The secret behind the famous phrase “the heart is a lonely hunter”…

On June 4, 1940, Houghton Mifflin published the first novel by the American writer Carson McCullers, a sensitive story about misfits and social outcasts in a Southern mill town titled The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. The success of McCullers’ book made its title a familiar and oft-quoted phrase. The novel was later adapted into … Read more

“A little learning is a dangerous thing.” (A little knowledge, too, but that’s a misquote.)

Most people have heard the old line of poetry: “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” It became a proverbial saying that has been — and is still is — used and repurposed in many ways. The common variation is “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” However, that’s an misquote of the original line … Read more

“We don’t need no stinking badges!” – the misquote that became a famous quote

“We don’t need no stinking badges!” is one of the few famous lines that is both a famous quote and a misquote. It’s also the source of many variations about stinkin’ things we don’t need. The evolution of this line began in 1927 with the publication of the novel The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, … Read more

“He who destroys a good book kills reason itself.”

In the 1630s, England’s infamous “Star Chamber” (sort of a politically-oriented version of the Spanish Inquisition) banned the printing or sale of “any seditious, scismaticall, or offensive Bookes or Pamphlets.” The Star Chamber was abolished in 1641. But two years later, the British House of Commons passed a new censorship law. Although it was called … Read more

“Never play cards with a man called Doc” — and other advice from Nelson Algren…

The copyright record for the novel A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren says it was copyrighted on May 18, 1956. Traditionally, the copyright date is also a book’s initial publication date. Algren’s novel might have been released sooner if not for a dispute he had with his publishing company, Doubleday. Doubleday had … Read more

“I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”

The great American poet Robert Frost died in 1963, when he was 88 years old. But he wrote his epitaph more than two decades before that, in a poem titled “The Lesson for Today.” Frost first unveiled and recited the poem on June 20, 1941, at an event celebrating the anniversary of Harvard University’s Phi … Read more