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- Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children. Life is the other way round.
- Four times, under our educational rules, the human pack is shuffled and cut – at eleven-plus, sixteen-plus, eighteen-plus and twenty-plus – and happy is he who comes top of the deck on each occasion, but especially the last. This is called Finals, the very name of which implies that nothing of importance can happen after it.
- Looking around at the faces of his colleagues in the Senior Common Room he felt reassured: not a Lineament of Gratified Desire to be seen.
- Changing Places ( 1978), ch. 1, p. 27.
Small World (1984)
- I'm a bit of a deconstructionist myself. It's kind of exciting – the last intellectual thrill left. Like sawing through the branch you're sitting on.
- Part II, ch. 2, p. 118.
- Language is the net that holds thought trapped within a particular culture. But if one could only strike the ball with sufficient force, with perfect timing, it would perhaps break through the netting, continue on its course, never fall to earth, but go into orbit around the world.
- Part II, ch. 2, p. 141.
- That's the attraction of the conference circuit: it's a way of converting work into play, combining professionalism with tourism, and all at someone else's expense. Write a paper and see the world! I'm Jane Austen – fly me!
- Part IV, ch. 1, p. 231.
- I respect a man who can recognize a quotation. It's a dying art.
- Part IV, ch. 1, p. 245.
- “And what else,” said Morris, with studied casualness, “do they say about this chair?” He did not really have to wait for her reply to know that here, at last, was a prize worthy of his ambition. The UNESCO Chair of Literary Criticism! That had to carry the highest salary in the profession....'Tax free, of course, like all UNESCO salaries.' Duties? Virtually non-existent...It was a purely conceptual chair (except for the stipend)...