Imagine sitting down with James Baldwin to gauge his thoughts on how best to live your life, and he says something like, “you have to go the way your blood beats. If you don’t live the only life you have, you won’t live some other life, you won’t live any life at all”. Or Ernest Hemmingway, who reassures you that “the first draft of anything is shit”. Even William S. Burroughs, who shares his (surprising) thoughts on opiates (“quite useless for any sort of creative work”).
As an antidote to creative block, Phaidon has sought to collect 700 quotes in order to guide readers through the most existential questions about life and love, self-doubt, booze, and the everlasting haunt of rejection. Alongside Baldwin, Hemmingway and Burroughs is Virginia Woolf, Patti Smith, Malcolm X, Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, and Sylvia Plath.
Other than outworn ‘inspirational quotes’ on websites like Goodreads or Brainyquote, the pocket-size guide mainly contains exclusive words extracted from little-known letters, memoirs and personal notebooks. Flick through a selection of our favourites above.
Every Day a Word Surprises Me, published by Phaidon, is available here now