James McBride (writer)

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James McBride

James McBride (born September 11, 1957) is an American writer and musician.


  • Me personally and professionally, I haven't been that outspoken about race and class, partly because it's in my work, but in part because I don't want to get hate mail. I'm sick of trying to talk to people. I don't think you can change people. I think people have to be forced to do the right thing, so I'm not interested in trying to change people's opinion. I can illuminate, and you can see if you like. And if you can't see it, then just go buy the next book. But I'm sorry, I'm no longer interested in trying to be nice about what is right, because that doesn't work.
  • Writing is the act of failing at something all the time. Do it with a sense of humor, and it ain’t no big deal. Life is just about falling on stage and getting up, and that’s what writing is all about, too.
  • You can’t become a good writer unless you have the ability to see that everybody is seeking to ease his or her pain, and everyone’s pain is relative. Blondes don’t really have more fun. There’s always someone who’s going to be bigger or faster or stronger or a better writer or singer or architect than you are. But accepting you where you are is one of the things that fiction helps you do.
  • Most of my characters: they don't yell, they don't scream. They don't curse, by and large. They're good people. And you know what? Good people don't have to be boring. The really interesting parts of life are the parts we are not witness to. Because the man who decides to shake his neighbor's hand, or help him cut the grass, they're the true heroes…
  • I tell them that a simple story is the best story, and that time and place is really crucial to good storytelling. Establish your stories in a specific time and place and get your characters set solidly within that framework before you let them start moving from one room to the next...
  • When I was a kid, my mother told me about the time my sister got lost at the circus in New York in Madison Square Garden. ... She said out of the throng of people, suddenly after looking for a long time, she said a cop just appeared and he was holding my sister's hand — she was a little girl. My mother never forgot that picture in her mind. We never see those stories about each other. And I think the writer who wants us to have a better life must take on the responsibility of showing us those kinds of stories.

Five-Carat Soul (2017)[edit]

All page numbers are from the hardcover first edition published by Riverhead Books, ISBN 978-0-7352-1669-3, 1st printing
All orthography as in the book
  • She smiled a little bit. “Most of us has a desire to mind other folks’ business,” she said. “That’s the child in you, Butter, not the man.”
    • The Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band (p. 134)
  • You ugly enough to keep ants out of a picnic, mister.
    • The Moaning Bench (pp. 172-173)
  • I’m in the last October of life looking for a few more Aprils. I don’t want to remember no more.
    • The Christmas Dance (p. 209)
  • Sitting around bullshitting ain’t no problem for Man, who can ignore his own heart and treat his own with all kinds of trickerations and cruelty to twist the truth so he can get what he wants, shutting off parts of his mind to let evil run things. But no Animal can do that, for Animals is Higher Orders, and we speak in Thought Speak, which don’t allow but so much wiggle room when it come to truth and consequence.
    • Mr. P. & the Wind (p. 250)
  • Now he wanted more. That’s the problem with Smelly Ones. They got one thing Animals don’t got. They got ambition.
    • Mr. P. & the Wind (p. 294; “Smelly Ones” are what animals in the story call humans)
  • The rest of the stories came as they came, over the years, as I traveled over hill and dale and dusty trail, moving through life. As for the particular ache or longing that brought them on…well, if I shared every Twitter feed and eye blink and snort and nose pick with every Tom, Dick, and Mary in the world every five seconds, I wouldn’t have a thing left for me.
    • Author’s Note (p. 309)

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