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- I find nothing more depressing than optimism.
- We were going to live. We were going to grow up to adulthood after all.
- Exploration belongs to the Renaissance, travel to the bourgeois age, tourism to our proletarian moment. ... The explorer seeks the undiscovered, the traveler that which has been discovered by the mind working in history, the tourist that which has been discovered by entrepreneurship and prepared for him by the arts of mass publicity. ... If the explorer moves toward the risks of the formless and the unknown, the tourist moves toward the security of pure cliché. It is between these two poles that the traveler mediates.
- A guide book is addressed to those who plan to follow the traveler, doing what he has done, but more selectively. A travel book, in its purest, is addressed to those who do not plan to follow the traveler at all, but who require the exotic or comic anomalies, wonders and scandals of the literary form romance which their own place or time cannot entirely supply.
- Those whose goal it is to sell domestic dwellings hope to persuade their patsies that a house and a home are identical, and thus advertise “a lovely quarter-of-a-million-dollar home.” But since a housewrecker differs significantly from a homewrecker, the inference is clear that house and home mean different things, although the new gentility and sentimentality, issuing in the new euphemism, labor constantly to efface the difference. The Philadelphia Inquirer has spoken recently of boarding homes, and it will probably not be long before we hear of whorehomes, homes of prostitution, and bawdy homes.
- “The age of independent travel is drawing to an end,” said E.M. Forster back in 1920, when it had been increasingly clear for decades that the mass production inevitable in the late industrial age had generated its own travel-spawn, tourism, which is to travel as plastic is to wood. If travel is mysterious, even miraculous, and often lonely and frightening, tourism is commonsensical, utilitarian, safe, and social, “that gregarious passion,” the traveler Patrick Leigh Fermor calls it, “which destroys the object of its love.” Not self-directed but externally enticed, as a tourist you go not where your own curiosity beckons but where the industry decrees you shall go. Tourism soothes, shielding you from the shocks of novelty and menace, confirming your prior view of the world rather than shaking it up. It obliges you not just to behold conventional things but to behold them in the approved conventional way.
- If for Americans, at least, the Great War could sometimes be imagined as a brief, quasi-athletic lark, the Second War permitted no such melioration by the spirit of adolescent optimism. In North Africa alone, the 1st Infantry Division spent more time in mortal contact with the enemy than all the time it spent—forming up, marching, drawing equipment, lining up at the mess hall, training, bitching—in all of the First World War. And on December 7, 1941, the American navy lost in one day more men killed—2008, to be exact—than in all the days of the earlier war. The Second World War, total and global as it was, killed worldwide, more civilian men, women, and children than soldiers, sailors, and airmen. And compared with the idiocies of Verdun, Gallipoli, or Tannenberg, it was indescribably cruel and insane. It was not until the Second World War had enacted all its madness that one could realize how near Victorian social and ethical norms the First World War really was.
- And the ideal travel writer is consumed not just with a will to know. He is also moved by a powerful will to teach. Inside every good travel writer there is a pedagogue -- often a highly moral pedagogue -- struggling to get out.
- Anyone telling about his travels must be a liar, ... for if a traveler doesn't visit his narrative with the spirit and techniques of fiction, no one will want to hear it.
- If I didn't have writing, I'd be running down the street hurling grenades in people's faces.
- Bad language is so much the norm these days that there's virtually nothing said in public that if speaker and listener, writer and reader were honest and socially secure, couldn't be moved downwards towards a modest simplicity. The simple is carefully shunned by those who labour to seem what they would be.
- Well, I'm a pacifist about certain things. I'm a pacifist in the way I define national interest. I use this example frequently: If the Mexicans decided to cross the Texas border with firearms, I would be down there in a moment with a rifle and a whistle to direct the troops to repel them. If the United States is attacked, I will defend it.
- My problem is the United States' defending the interests of the Union Oil Company or the United Fruit Company. Those are not American interests. They're private-money interests, and that bothers me a great deal.
- They have experienced secretly and privately their natural human impulse toward sadism and brutality. As I say in this new book of mine, not merely did I learn to kill with a noose of piano wire put around somebody's neck from behind, but I learned to enjoy the prospect of killing that way. It's those things that you learn about yourself that you never forget. You learn that you have much wider dimensions than you had imagined before you had to fight a war. That's salutary. It's well to know exactly who you are so you can conduct the rest of your life properly.
- As a former soldier, what struck me is the absolutely heartless way that war was being pursued by the Americans, partly I think because of the race problem. The Vietnamese to us were not merely communists, they were nasty little yellow people without souls. It didn't matter how we blew them up or how we bombed them or how we burned their villages and so on. I was very struck by that. And one thing I was trying to do in The Great War and Modern Memory was to awaken a sort of civilian sympathy for the people who suffer on the ground in wartime, and that's really an act that I've been performing, oh, ever since 1945, I suppose.
- The worst thing about war was the sitting around and wondering what you were doing morally.
- Wars damage the civilian society as much as they damage the enemy. Soldiers never get over it.
- Understanding the past requires pretending that you don't know the present.
- I'll tell you why I did that. Most Americans, in their sweet innocence, think that class has to do with money. But a glance at Donald Trump and Leona Helmsley will indicate that it has very little to do with money. It has to do with taste and style, and it has to do with the development of those features by acts of character. That was one of my points: to try to separate class from mercantilism or commercialism.
- The more violent the body contact of the sports you watch, the lower the class.
- Americans are the only people in the world known to me whose status anxiety prompts them to advertise their college and university affiliations in the rear window of their automobiles.