“On some subjects—for instance, writers’ workshops—one is tempted to pull punches or rest satisfied with oversimplified answers; but I’m assuming, as the primary reader of this book, an intensely serious beginning novelist who wants the strict truth (as I perceive it) for his life’s sake, so that he can plan his days of technique, theory, and attitude; and become as quickly and efficiently as possible a master of his craft” (p xxii).
“Suppose a vast number of civilizations are distributed throughout the universe, on the order of the number of detectable stars. Lots and lots of them. Those civilizations make up the body of a cosmic society. Cosmic sociology is the study of the nature of this super-society” (p 12).
“He seemed as he stood there to see all his age, its tumultuous life, its iron certainties and rigid conventions, its repressed emotion and facetious humor, its cautious science and incautious religion, its corrupt politics and immutable castes, as the great hidden enemy of all his deepest yearnings.”
“It had rained Saturday night, but the rain had dwindled to a stop before dawn, and across the river, above and beyond the belfry and steeple, the green whaleback of Monadnock was wreathed in gossamer wisps of fog.”
“And then, on Christmas Eve, a miracle occurred: Ting-Pei Warren, the Judeo-Christian Buddhist cat, high on catnip and tuna water, silently scaled the six-foot spruce while her family sat by the fire, making short work of a pecan-encrusted cheese log. The three of us turned just in time to see her, a silver star atop the highest bough. And just in time to see her lose her balance and take the entire tree down with her.”