Category Archives: Quotations

Authors versus Editors

Authors versus Editors

Last Saturday, my class in substantive editing wrapped up its final meeting. To commemorate this personal milestone, here are two short quotations, taken out of context and put together for my own amusement.

Editors are ghouls and cannibals.
—Harriet Vane to Salcombe Hardy in Dorothy L. Sayers’s Busman’s Honeymoon (1937)

If only Harriet knew her editor’s feelings, every time she went off on a walking tour, stumbled on a corpse, and was late with her next book!

The author has a constitutional right to be an idiot.
—a veteran editor I know, who wishes to remain anonymous

Thankfully, I know a lot of veteran editors, so finger-pointing will prove difficult.



I would like to point out that I’m both a writer and an editor, so you can only imagine the arguments I have with myself. 

Writers are Criminals

Writers are Criminals

They didn’t shake hands but drew nearer one another.

“I never expected to meet you in a place like this,” Madrid confided. “A prison exercise yard, with a number stenciled over your heart! But then, being a detective is not far from being a criminal, is it?”

“It’s been a long time since I was a detective.”

“Ah yes, you have become a writer. Quite famous, too. I’ve read your books. Well, being a writer amounts to the same thing as being a detective. In terms of being essentially criminal, I mean. Writers steal people’s lives. Isn’t that not so?”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been a writer.”


—Madrid addressing Hammett in Owen Fitzstephen and Gordon McAlpine’s Hammett Unwritten (2013)

Lord Peter on Dangerous Women

Lord Peter on Dangerous Women

Five Red Herrings is probably my least favorite Lord Peter mystery. It strays into the problems of time-tables and train schedule alibis, which I find rather tedious.

Yet even in this novel, Sayers has some brutal observations on the mind games men and women play. I feel that she really did excel at psychological examinations. Sherlock Holmes may be a better detective, but only Lord Peter can be poetic and perceptive at the same time:


Wimsey nodded. She was lying, he thought. Farren’s objections to Campbell had been notorious. But she was the kind of woman who, if once set out to radiate sweetness and light, would be obstinate in her mission. He studied the rather full, sulky mouth and narrow, determined forehead. It was the face of a woman who would see only what she wished to see—who would think that one could abolish evils from the world by pretending they were not there. Such things, for instance, as jealousy or criticism of herself. A dangerous woman, because a stupid woman. Stupid and dangerous, like Desdemona.

—Lord Peter’s opinion of Mrs. Farren in Dorothy L. Sayers’s Five Red Herrings (1931)



Stephen Colbert on World Religions

Stephen Colbert on World Religions

As a lapsed Catholic, I love it when Colbert pokes fun at religion. It’s like watching Dogma all over again and getting all the inside jokes. This one was made a few days before the Pope announced his resignation.


“I am America’s most prominent celebrity Catholic but I believe all other faiths are equally wrong.”

—Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report (February 6, 1913 episode)   

A Fire Demon’s Humble Opinion

A Fire Demon’s Humble Opinion

I’ve been playing Lego Harry Potter: Years 5–7 during mental breaks from research. Apparently, Dumbledore agrees: Privet Drive is greater than Number 12 Grimmauld Place.


“Nobody’s safe in a wizard’s house.”


—Calcifer in Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle (1986) 

Henry Tilney as a Grammar Nazi

Henry Tilney as a Grammar Nazi

Presenting Mr. Henry Tilney, snark master and Grammar Nazi.

In this passage, my favorite Austen hero teases our dim-witted heroine, Katherine Morland:


“But now, really, do not you think Udolpho the nicest book in the world?”

“The nicest; by which I suppose you mean the neatest. That must depend on the binding.”

“Henry,” said Miss Tilney, “You are very impertinent. Miss Morland, he is treating you exactly as he does his sister. He is for ever finding fault with me for some incorrectness of language, and now he is taking the same liberty with you. The word ‘nicest,’ as you used it, did not suit him; and you had better change it as soon as you can, or we shall be overpowered with Johnson and Blair all the rest of the way.”

“I am sure,” cried Catherine, “I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should not I call it so?”

“Very true,” said Henry, “And this is a very nice day; and we are taking a very nice walk; and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! it is a very nice word, indeed! It does for everything. Originally, perhaps, it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement; people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.”


— from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817)



Chris Answers the Great Question

Chris Answers the Great Question

I once bought a John Corbett poster from Universal Studios and hand-carried it from L.A. to Manila. My sister was stoked to receive it. The poster hung in our shared bedroom for years. So this line fills my little heart with nostalgic delight.


“What do women want? Same things we do. Only in prettier colors.”

— Chris Stevens quoted in Chris-In-The-Morning: Love, Life, and the Whole Cosmic Enchilada (1993)