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On buses and trains, I always think about the inexhaustible variety of human genes. We see types, and occasionally twins, but never doubles. All faces are unique, and this is exhilarating, despite the increasingly plastic similarity of TV stars and actors.

full quotes ~ by a s byatt

I am a profound pessimist both about life and about human relations and about politics and ecology. Humans are inadequate and stupid creatures who sooner or later make a mess, and those who are trying to do good do a lot more damage than those who are muddling along.

full quotes ~ by a s byatt

Why do we take pleasure in gruesome death, neatly packaged as a puzzle to which we may find a satisfactory solution through clues - or if we are not clever enough, have it revealed by the all-powerful tale-teller at the end of the book? It is something to do with being reduced to, and comforted by, playing by the rules.

full quotes ~ by a s byatt

We talk about feelings. And about sex. And about bodies, and their gratification, violation, repair, decoration, deferred, maybe permanently deferred, mortality. Feelings are a bodily thing, and respecting them is called, is, kindness.

full quotes ~ by a s byatt

As a little girl, I didn't like stories about little girls. I liked stories about dragons and beasts and princes and princesses and fear and terror and the Four Musketeers and almost anything other than nice little girls making moral decisions about whether to tell the teacher about what the other little girl did or did not do.

full quotes ~ by a s byatt


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There are things I take sides about, like capital punishment, which it seems to me there is only one side about: it is evil. But there are two or three sides to sexual harassment, and the moment you get into particular cases, there is injustice in every conceivable direction. It's a mess.

full quotes ~ by a s byatt

In my mind's eye, Shakespeare is a huge, hot sea-beast, with fire in his veins and ice on his claws and inscrutable eyes, who looks like an inchoate hump under the encrustations of live barnacle-commentaries, limpets and trailing weeds.

full quotes ~ by a s byatt

Cyclists. I really hate them. I wish they would not be so self-righteous and realise they are a danger to pedestrians. I wish cyclists would not vindictively snap off wing mirrors on cars when they were trying to cross in front of the car at a danger to motorists and pedestrians.

full quotes ~ by a s byatt

I am not sure how much good is done by moralising about fairy tales. This can be unsubtle - telling children that virtue will be rewarded, when in fact it is mostly simply the fact of being the central character that ensures a favourable outcome. Fairy tales are not, on the whole, parables.

full quotes ~ by a s byatt

Reading a newspaper is like reading someone's letters, as opposed to a biography or a history. The writer really does not know what will happen. A novelist needs to feel what that is like.

full quotes ~ by a s byatt
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