For My Part


“For my part, even at my then early age (and ever since), I preferred those of any church or creed that could be religious without becoming professional or doing a lockstep.”

— William S. Hart in My Life East and West (1903)

Dogs & Sleep

“Here is some of what I have found in my bed: mulch, grass, leaves, tiny little black things that seem (thank God) inanimate, brownish streaks I don’t want to examine, feathers, twigs, gravel, muddy paw prints, and plain dirt. I never look closely anymore; I assume the worst…

“I used to feel about king-size beds the way I do about Hummers and private jets and granite countertops, but over the past seven years I gained three dogs and thirty pounds, and my old bed, a humble queen, just didn’t cut it anymore. It was either lose the the weight, lose the dogs, or buy something bigger. King-size is what I needed, and king-size is what I got.”

— Abigail Thomas in “Sleeping with Dogs on a King-Size Bed” in Woof!: Writers on Dogs (2008), edited by Lee Montgomery

Taking Notes

“The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in a way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle. Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.”

— Joan Didion in “On Keeping a Notebook” in Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1966)

Zane Grey


The covers of westerns are fun, too. I remember reading a Zane Grey novel while at Camp Becket in the Berkshires. The library was over the boathouse, and the books, most from the 1920s and 1930s, smelled like the lake and old paper, made to be read by flashlight in a bunk-bed while creatures rustled outside in the deep forest night.


Never Intended

“I was never intended for a job like this. I realize it more and more every day, but I will stick it out till I break down. To be nervous, over-imaginative, terribly sensitive to suffering, is a poor equipment for the man who starts out to drive wounded on the battlefield. I am haunted by the thought that my car may break down when I have a load of wounded. Once indeed it did, and a man died while I waited for help. Now I never look at what is given me. It might unnerve me.

“I have been at it for over six months without a rest. When an attack has been going on I have worked day and night, until as I drove I wanted to fall asleep at the wheel.

“The winter has been trying; there is rain one day, frost the next. Mud is up to the axles. One sleeps in lousy barns or dripping dugouts. Cold, hunger, dirt. I know them all singly and together. My only consolation is that the war must soon be over, and that I will have helped. When I have time and am not too tired, I comfort myself with scribbling.”

— Robert Service, circa 1915, while driving ambulances in World War I, in Ballads of a Bohemian (1921)