Hidden Gems: Quotations Author's Use

Sunday, May 28, 2017
There are different types of readers in this world. There are those who get the book and skip right to the first chapter, ignoring everything else. There are those who take their time to read the author's bio on the back flap, and who take in the intricacies of the front cover, before diving in to the story.

And then, there are people like me.

Books fascinate me. Not only by the content (which, undoubtedly, is the most important part), but also by how they smell. How they feel. The covers and the pages and the dedications. One of my favorite parts, however, is the quotations authors use after their dedication pages, and before their first chapters.

The quotations span all genres, time periods, and cultures. Some are from presidents. Others from poets. I’ve seen snippets of Shakespeare, Martin Luther King, and Robert Frost.

To me, each quotation is as much a part of the book as the characters and the setting. These quotations offer a glimpse into the heart of the story. The quotation is a clue – a small puzzle piece – which tantalizes me to unlock its meaning.

I read these quotations before anything else, and then revisit them once I’ve finished the book. This simple act is as delightful as opening an unexpected gift. They provide a deeper connection to the author’s purpose. It’s as if the author and I share an inside joke or a secret story to which others are not privy. The quotations connect us beyond the story and remind me that the themes in my favorite books transcend time.

I have my favorites, of course.

Stephen King’s Needful Things:
“I have heard of may going astray even in the village streets, when the darkness was so thick you could cut it with a knife, as the saying is . . .
                         – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing:
In this decayed hole among the mountains
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind’s home.
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.
Only a cock stood on the rooftree
Co co rico, co co rico
In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust
Bringing rain

Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves
Waited for rain, while the black clouds
Gathered far distant, over Himavant.
The jungle crouched, humped in silence.
Then spoke the thunder.
                          -T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling:
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure. This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.
                           -William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude

And, lastly.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese:
And because I love this life
I know I shall love death as well.
The child cries out when
From the right breast the mother
Takes it away, in the very next moment
To find in the left one
It’s consolation.
                         -Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali

If you have never noticed these quotations before, try reading them first next time. I promise they will not disappoint.

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Yes! I've been noticing that more and more lately...the quotations on the pages right before their first chapters. It says a lot about the tone, theme, and purpose of the work. Thanks for sharing some of your favorites, Beth! :)

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