I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very
cultivated woman and knows that he cannot say to her, `I love you
madly', because he knows that she knows (and that she knows that he
knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland.
Still, there is a solution. He can say, `As Barbara Cartland would put
it, I love you madly.' At this point, having avoided false innocence,
having said clearly that it is no longer possible to speak innocently,
he will nevertheless have said what he wanted to say to the woman: that
he loves her, but he loves her in an age of lost innocence. If the woman
goes along with this, she will have received a declaration of love all
the same. Neither of the two speakers will feel innocent, both will
have accepted the challenge of the past, of the already said, which
cannot be eliminated, both will consciously and with pleasure play the
game of irony… But both will have succeeded, once again, in speaking
Umberto Eco, Refections on the Name of the Rose
It is not necessary to inquire whether a woman would like something for
dessert. The answer is yes, she would like something for dessert, but
she would like you to order it so she can pick at it with your fork. She
does not want you to call attention to this by saying, 'If you wanted a
dessert, why didn't you order one?' You must understand, she has the
dessert she wants. The dessert she wants is contained within yours.
Merrill Marcoe, An Insider's Guide to the American Woman
"...The name of the song is called 'Haddocks' Eyes'!"
"Oh, that's the name of the song, is it?" Alice said, trying to feel interested.
"No, you don't understand," the Knight said, looking a little vexed. "That's what the name is called. The name really is, 'The Aged Aged Man.'"
"Then I ought to have said "That's what the song is called'?" Alice corrected herself.
"No, you oughtn't: that's quite another thing! The song is called 'Ways and Means': but that's only what it is called you know!"
"Well, what is the song then?" said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered.
"I was coming to that," the Knight said. "The song really is "A-sitting on a Gate": and the tune's my own invention."
Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass"
And yet I should have dearly liked, I own, to have touched her lips; to
have questioned her, that she might have opened them; to have looked upon
the lashes of her downcast eyes, and never raised a blush; to have let
loose waves of hair, an inch of which would be a keepsake beyond price:
in short, I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest
license of a child, and yet been man enough to know its value.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
It is not the critic who counts, or how the strong man stumbled, or whether
the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the
man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and
blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again; who
knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, and who spends himself in a
worthy cause, and if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that
he'll never be with those cold and timid souls who never know either victory