Literary Quotations
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CORMAC MCCARTHY QUOTES


All the Pretty Horses (1992)

A goodlookin horse is like a goodlookin woman.... They're always more trouble than what they're worth. What a man needs is just one that will get the job done.

--Part I

Word gets around when the circus comes to town.

--Part II

Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real. The events that cause them can never be forgotten.

--Part II

Beware gentle knight. There is no greater monster than reason.

--Part II

Pain for the old was no longer a surprise.

--Part III

The societies to which I have been exposed seemed to me largely machines for the suppression of women.

--Part IV

For me the world has always been more of a puppet show. But when one looks behind the curtain and traces the strings upward he finds they terminate in the hands of yet other puppets, themselves with their own strings which trace upward in turn, and so on.

--Part IV

Those who have endured some misfortune will always be set apart but that it is just that misfortune which is their gift and which is their strength and that they must make their way back into the common enterprise of man for without they do so it cannot go forward and they themselves will whither in bitterness.

--Part IV

It was always himself that the coward abandoned first. After this all other betrayals came easily.

--Part IV

The closest bonds we will ever know are bonds of grief. The deepest community one of sorrow.

--Part IV

It was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they'd have no heart to start at all.

--Part IV

Blood Meridian (1985)

When God made man the devil was at his elbow. A creature that can do anything. Make a machine. And a machine to make the machine. And evil that can run itself a thousand years, no need to tend it.

--Chapter II

Do you know what happens with people who cannot govern themselves? That's right. Others come in to govern for them.

--Chapter III

The wrath of God lies sleeping. It was hid a million years before men were and only men have power to wake it. Hell ain't half full.

--Chapter III

There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto.

--Chapter III

God don't lie.... And these are his words.... He speaks in stones and trees, the bones of things.

--Chapter IX

The voice of the Almighty speaks most profoundly in such things as lives in silence themselves.

--Chapter X

The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day.

--Chapter XI

Notions of chance and fate are the preoccupations of men engaged in rash undertakings.

--Chapter XII

The man who believes that the secrets of the world are forever hidden lives in mystery and fear. Superstition will drag him down. The rain will erode the deeds of his life. But that man who sets himself the task of singling out the thread of order from the tapestry will by the decision alone have taken charge of the world and it is only by such taking charge that he will effect a way to dictate the terms of his own fate.

--Chapter XIV

The truth about the world ... is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning.

--Chapter XVII

The universe is no narrow thing and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other part. Even in this world more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way. For existence has its own order and that no man's mind can compass, the mind itself being but a fact among others.

--Chapter XVII

It makes no difference what men think of war.... War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner.

--Chapter XVII

Suppose two men at cards with nothing to wager save their lives. Who has not heard such a tale? A turn of the card. The whole universe for such a player has labored clanking to this moment which will tell if he is to die at that man's hand or that man at his. What more certain validation of a man's worth could there be? This enhancement of the game to its ultimate state admits no argument concerning the notion of fate. The selection of one man over another is a preference absolute and irrevocable and it is a dull man indeed who could reckon so profound a decision without agency or significance either one.

--Chapter XVII

What joins men together ... is not the sharing of bread but the sharing of enemies.

--Chapter XXII

Men's memories are uncertain and the past that was differs little from the past that was not.

--Chapter XXIII

The Road (2006)

Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world.

Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever.... You might want to think about that.

Not all dying words are true.

How does the never to be differ from the what never was?

If you break little promises you'll break big ones.

All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.

He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe.

Each memory recalled must do some violence to its origins. As in a party game. Say the word and pass it on. So be sparing. What you alter in the remembering has yet a reality, known or not.

If trouble comes when you least expect it then maybe the thing to do is to always expect it.

Perhaps in the world's destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made. Oceans, mountains. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. The silence.

The breath of God was his breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time.

The Sunset Limited (2006)

The sun don't shine up the same dog's ass ever day.

Belief ain't like unbelief. If you a believer then you got to come finally to the well of belief itself and then you don't have to look no further. There ain't no further. But the unbeliever has got a problem. He has set out to unravel the world, but everthing he can point to that ain't true leaves two new things layin there.

I think for the most part people are good to start with. I think evil is somethin you bring on your own self. Mostly from wantin what you ain't supposed to have.

Even God gives up at some point. There's no ministry in hell.

Everything you do closes a door somewhere ahead of you.

I want the dead to be dead. Forever. And I want to be one of them. Except that of course you can't be one of them. You can't be one of the dead because what has no existence can have no community. No community. My heart warms just thinking about it. Silence. Blackness. Aloneness. Peace. And all of it only a heartbeat away.

If people saw the world for what it truly is. Saw their lives for what they truly are. Without dreams or illusions. I don't believe they could offer the first reason why they should not elect to die as soon as possible.

Suttree (1979)

They say death comes like a thief in the night, where is he? I'll hug his neck.

If it is life that you feel you are missing I can tell you where to find it. In the law courts, in business, in government. There is nothing occurring in the streets. Nothing but a dumbshow composed of the helpless and the impotent.

What family has no mariner in its tree? No fool, no felon. No fisherman.

What deity in the realms of dementia, what rabid god decocted out of the smoking lobes of hydrophobia could have devised a keeping place for souls so poor as this flesh. This mawky wormbent tabernacle.

How surely are the dead beyond death. Death is what the living carry with them. A state of dread, like some uncanny foretaste of a bitter memory. But the dead do not remember and nothingness is not a curse. Far from it.

He could hear the long wild sough of the wind in the high forest as he lay there in his blanket staring up at the heavens. The cold indifferent dark, the blind stars beaded on their tracks and mitered satellites and geared and pinioned planets all reeling through the black of space.

There are no absolutes in human misery and things can always get worse.

Last words are only words.

To know what will come is the same as to make it so.

Even the damned in hell have the community of their suffering.