“When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home in Omaha, Nebraska, one night.” The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

“There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself—not just sometimes, but always.” Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth.

“Some good cooks frankly admit that they have never baked a really successful loaf of yeast bread.” Editors of Sunset Magazine, Sunset Cook Book of Breads. “

“When I was young, my mother read me a story about a wicked little girl.” Mary Gaitskell, Veronica.

“I was asleep when he died.” Patti Smith, Just Kids.

“I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man.” Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground.

“The blood is still rolling off my flak jacket from the hole in my shoulder and there are bullets cracking into the sand all around me.” Ron Kovic, Born on the Fourth of July.

“So the theory has it that the universe expanded exponentially from a point, a singular space/time point, a moment/thing, some original particular event or quantum substantive happenstance, to an extent that the word explosion is inadequate, though the theory is known as the Big Bang.” E.L. Doctorow, City of God.

“Among the historically most satisfying complexities of baseball is this: The form of the playing area is both in principle indeterminate and in actuality frequently subject to deformation by external constraints.” Philip Bess, Preface to Philip J. Lowry, Green Cathedrals.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in superlative degrees of comparison only.” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

“Westward along the high Eurasian Steppe, from the border of China across Turkestan and beyond it, there flowed through it continuous centuries of nomad peoples.” Lord Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empires.

“In later years, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier’s greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini.” Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

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