Humorous Quotes from
Falling towards England
By Clive James
- I had already noticed with various people that the affectation of praiseworthy sentiments is not the only way of covering up reprehensible ones, but that a more up-to-date method is to put these latter on exhibition, so that one has the air of at least being forthright. ~ Proust (Le Temps retrouve)
- All censure of a man’s self is oblique praise. It is in order to show how much he can spare.~ Johnson
- Perhaps I should have pointed out more often that without her (mother's) guidance and example I might have gone straight from short pants to Long Bay Gaol, which in those days was still in use and heavily populated by larcenous young men who had chosen their parents less wisely.
- I have always admitted that I was the chief cause of all the misfortunes which have befallen me ~ Casanova
- I have rejoiced in my ability to be my own pupil, and in my duty to love my teacher. ~ Casanova
- He (Casanova) died writing his life story – which, considering the other things he might have died doing, was not the least dignified way he could have gone.
- When we got off the ship in Southampton in that allegedly mild January of 1962 I had nothing to declare at customs except goose-pimples under my while nylon drip-dry shirt.
- Their accents were far funnier than their sense of humor.
- A sperm whale feeding on a field of squid – not giant squid, just those little squidlets that form its basic diet – cruises along with its mouth open, taking everything in. That was me, open-mouthed to new experience.
- I could tell they were South Africans because (a) when they talked across me it was like being beaten up, and (b) two people from any other nation would have arranged to sit beside each other if they wanted to conduct a conversation.
- I spent the next two days sorting out tenses, expunging solecisms and re-allocating misplaced clauses to the stump from which they had been torn loose by the sort of non-writing writer for whom grammar is not even a mystery, merely an irrelevance.
- I had first met her when I was a member of the Sydney University Journalists’ Club and she had come to Australia on a theatrical tour. We had sent her a luncheon invitation which she threw us into a panic by accepting.
- She asked me if there was anything I needed. What I needed was an independent income in five figures, but to my credit – there was so little to my credit that I feel justified in the boast – I didn’t put the bite on her.
- Over the basin – an early Sung dynasty ceramic artifact which had been pieced backed together by a blind archaeologist – there was...
- This combat jacket was not the American quilted kind which actually kept you warm. It was more the British kind whose chief function was to get dirty.
- I still get so impatient with the whole time-consuming business of covering up exposed skin that I will buy the first thing that catches my eye, and that when it comes to shoes the first thing that catches your eye is the last thing you should ever put on your feet.
- My idea of fine wine was one that merely stained your teeth without stripping off the enamel.
- It was Millicent’s breasts which struck me at the time as constituting unarguable proof that the Man Upstairs was trying to find out how much he could get away with without causing a mass rebellion.
- ... Rembrandt, whose main achievement in turn was to have done all that he could with darkness, so that one day the Impressionists would show the same exhaustive virtuosity with light.
- As with many scatter-brained women her handbag was a bin, out of which she would produce, when the tea-break conversation flagged, one of those cube-shaped paperback novels by which American authors in elevator shoes take revenge on their country for its having rendered them illiterate.
- I had thought that National Insurance was meant to insure me, but judging from the size of the compulsory contributions the idea was to insure the nation.
- Millicent walked out of my life, swaying gently at the hips: a new recruit for the growing army of the untouched, another chapter in the history of what never happened. I took the loss stoically, screaming only when alone.
- I took her to see His Girl Friday, one of the funniest films ever made. She sat there like a world champion poker player. Her studied indifference might have had something to do with the way I rolled in the aisle. (Anyone who rolls from side to side in the aisle might be doing so naturally, but to roll up and down the aisle is an affectation.)
- Pandora invited me back to her flat for coffee. I told myself to stay calm and it would all drop into my lap. It did, too: a steaming hot mug of Nescafe. Nothing else.
- Professor Trethowan and his wife, gracious as always refrained from cheering aloud when I announced my departure. They merely looked very, very happy, as if a weight had been subtracted from their shoulders and added to their refrigerator.
- I always arrived late. Oliver Goldsmith, accused of the same thing, pointed out that he always left early. Lacking his self-confidence, I merely looked sheepish.
- The winter deepened into the worst since 1947, then the worst since the year after the Great Fire, then the worst since the last Ice Age.
- The fog looked romantic if your beautiful girl-friend had stepped off a bus and was materializing out of it towards you with the dark outline of her duffle-coat taking shape against the nacreous cloud. To the old people it was breath-taking in a different way.
- I still had a lot more to find out about women, but I was on the right track. It was only much later that I could be sure of this, however, because there is a wrong track which runs beside the right track for a long way.
- The Beatles mouthed and mimed to fame in screaming theatres whose seats had to be heat-dried afterwards because they were soaked with the love-juices of pubescent girls.
- She thought I was wonderful and I found it hard not to agree.
- Everything went fine until Milan, because the pilot was making all the hard decisions. After that I was on my own.
- Spending all my remaining money on a ticket to Florence was rendered needlessly complicated by the fact that none of the ticket-sellers had ever heard of the place. At last their supervisor showed up and set them straight by informing them that the city they had always referred to as ‘Firenze’ was in reality called Florence.
- Lady Dilwick’s decisiveness was aided by her technique of not letting anyone else finish a sentence. This habit was later to be made familiar by Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, but at the time it was a new one on me.
- Maurice’s patent leather pumps were three sizes too big for me so Lady Dillwick padded them with Kleenex. Trepidatiously setting off, I reached the taxi before the heels of the shoes left the house.
- Here was my first lesson on the resolutely maintained untidiness and ill-health of the English upper orders. In baggy evening dress and old before their time, they displayed gapped and tangled teeth in loosely open mouths. Gently shedding dandruff, they lurched across the lawn. When they stood at the bar they looked like Lee Trevino Putting.
- Some people are different from the rest of us, and so are the rest of us.
- Dalziel, for as long as I cared to remember, had drawn women like mosquitoes to a sleeping man.
- Women went silly about him. It was because he had no time to be silly about them. The rest of us chased women and looked foolish doing it. He let them chase him and looked fine.
- A dominant personality doesn't have to believe in its own will. All it needs is the inability to recognize the existence of anybody else's.
- The party was never at our place, because Hearty McHale, rather than see us enjoy ourselves, would have called for an air strike to destroy her own house.
- Dingo drove the way he drank, as if he wanted to die.
- Dinner was meat – not hunks of meat, as in Australia, but pathetic scraps of meat, as in Britain – which the girls upstairs transformed into edible dishes by heating it in secret ways and adding bits of stuff to it.
- When I finally embraced abstinence it was because of the simple urge to work a longer day. Thus, without joining Alcoholics Anonymous, I was at last able to leave Piss-Artists Notorious.
- Our nostrils invaded by an unfamiliar sweet odour, Dave, Reg and I went out into the yard one chill night and found it inhabited by murmuring people in fancy dress, passing, after one dainty puff each, an oddly defeated-looking roll-your-own cigarette around in a circle.
- Like most people who smoked umpteen cigarettes a day, I tasted only the first one. The succeeding umpteen minus one were a compulsive ritual which had no greater savour than the fumes of burning money.
- In London there was no home cooking worthy of the name. When you were in funds you ate out. But only the people whose faces appeared in such publications as Town and Queen could afford to eat in restaurants serving food which would leave them looking and feeling better instead of worse.
- In recent years, perhaps encouraged by competition from McDonald’s, the British hamburger has become a credit to the nation. At the time of which I speak, it looked like a scorched beer-coaster or a tenderized disc brake.
- In Italy, for the same price as a typical British hamburger meal including sweet, a builder’s labourer could eat like a king – rather better in fact, because pasta dishes gain from being kept simple.
- The door to her affections opened so suddenly that I can forgive myself for falling through it, but not for flailing straight across the room and toppling out of the window.
- She knew much more about Renoir than I did but imparted the knowledge more mercifully than I would have done had the positions been reversed.
- Think twice before you get mixed up with a writer, and ten times before you marry one. Writers want things to be over, so that they can write the elegy.
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