She didn't believe, ever, that Jesus was going to deliver her to anything, anywhere. She said she absolutely did not believe that after two thousand years a white man was going to come back from his own lynching to help out Clara Williams or take her hand or be her friend.

You cannot fake effort; talent is great, but perseverance is necessary.

The real problem with happiness is neither its pursuers nor their books; it's happiness itself. Happiness is like beauty: part of its glory lies in its transience.

I'm overall a big fan of President Obama.

Intimacy is being seen and known as the person you truly are.

It is a wonderful, moving, heart-filling experience to sit with the man or woman you love and your beloved children and know that all are happy to be just where they are with each other and loving one another. This doesn't happen very often.

I've written the best work I know how. And I'm appreciative of the people who read it and care about the work - and that's pretty much the end of that.

I couldn't ask her anything. There wasn't a single question to which I'd get the answer I wanted.

Every woman's body is an intimate landscape. The hills, the valleys, the narrow ledges, the riverbanks, the sudden eruptions of soft or crinkling hair. Here are the plains, the fine dry slopes. Here are the woods, here is the smooth path to the only door I wish to walk through. Eleanor's body is the landscape of my true home.

I wasn't surprised to find myself in the back of Mr. Klein's store, wearing only my undershirt and panties, surrounded by sable.

The past is a candle at great distance: too close to let you quit, too far to comfort you.

If the characters are not alive to me, it doesn't matter how good the sentences are. It just becomes all cake and no frosting.

Carny people'd punch you in the face before they'd let you tell them your troubles and strangle their own selves before they'd tell you theirs.

To hold happiness is to hold the understanding that the world passes away from us, that the petals fall and the beloved dies. No amount of mockery, no amount of fashionable scowling will keep any of us from knowing and savoring the pleasure of the sun on our faces or save us from the adult understanding that it cannot last forever.

I do not say what I feel, and people often take that for shyness, even kindness.

My grandmother tended to divide life into 'nice' and 'not so nice.' Life in America, her apartment, her grandchildren: 'nice'; life before 1915: 'not so nice.' That's all I heard.

'Normal' is not clinical, it's not autobiographical, and I don't claim to be objective. It's strictly my perceptions and thoughts about the people that I met and the stories that I heard. It was never meant to be an academic work.

The great pleasure for me in writing short stories is the fierce, elegant challenge.

I met Jay Jonhson. I won him the way poor people occasionally win the lottery: Shameless perseverance and embarrassingly dumb luck, and every time I see one of those sly, toothless, beaten-down souls on TV holding a winning ticket, I think, Go, team.

These were my people: the abandoned, the unloved, the phenomenally unlucky.

My writing process, such as it is, consists of a lot of noodling, procrastinating, dawdling, and avoiding.

I usually don't have to do a lot of research in my work, as I'm writing about something I'm already familiar with.

I get to tell the most interesting stories I know how to tell with the most interesting sentences I know how to compose - and people who aren't related to me read them. To be paid to write things that matter to me is extraordinary.

We finished off a small pie and when we got home I washed the tomato sauce out of her hair, which I had expected, but also out of her underwear, which I think must be the sign that you have really, really enjoyed your lunch.

Be real and be unashamed, even of your faults. I do truly know what my husband is made of and vice versa.

There are two trilogies I admire: Robertson Davies's 'The Deptford Trilogy' and Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials.'

He said, You know what Oscar Wilde said—women are meant to be loved, not understood. Applies to both of them, darling. And I nodded, although it seemed to me that I was going to be a woman too and I would like it if someone thought they should understand me.

As children, we think our mother has always been a mother, but it is just one of the roles you may have the opportunity to play. They don't define you as a human being.

People tend to forget that in our country, we'd pretty much all be immigrants, except for the Native Americans.

She said she remembered when Republicans compared President Roosevelt to Hitler and to Stalin and to Mussolini. She said she used to see people wearing I HATE ELEANOR buttons walk past her on the sidewalk and she wanted to spit, she wanted to kill them.

You know, the crisis passes, the crucible cools, and there we are, slightly improved, not much altered.

I think the most important thing in the world is being brave. I'd rathe be brave than beautiful. Hell, I'd settle for acting brave.

Men do not know what they do not know, and women should not tell them.

The truth is I never think of any subject as taboo.

Everyone has two memories. The one you can tell and the one that is stuck to the underside of that, the dark, tarry smear of what happened.

My vision of the future was like the paintings I'd seen of the Old West, mysterious, serious, with great beauty at every vista and terrible things happening whenever any people appeared.

Some people are your family no matter when you find them, and some people are not, even if you are laid, still wet and crumpled, in their arms.

My father would have been spectacularly ill-suited to working for an institution of any kind, and I suspect that, to a lesser degree, that's true of me, too.

Actual happiness is sometimes confused with the pursuit of it; and the most mindless and crass how-tos can get jumbled in with the modestly useful, the appealingly personal, and the genuinely interesting.

But in the morning everything can, and must, be seen. Daylight takes us; it peels us like fruit.

She believes in will. It is so frail and delicate at night that she can't even imagine the next morning, but it is so wide and binding by the middle of the next day that she cannot even remember the terrible night. It is as if she gives birth every day.

Learning to listen, letting people finish their sentences, and most of all, the habit of noticing the difference between what people say and how they say it. {on the habits of psychoanalytic training and practice applied to fiction writing} The gap between what people tell you and what's really going on is what interests me.

I find the 1940s very compelling. It is a very excitable period in the U.S. when, whether out of necessity or not, everybody was reinventing themselves.

Clara said that Billie Holiday woke up crying. Clara said that if you sing the blues, you know that if you can't make friends with grief, you've got to at least make way for it.

I assume as a writer that most of the time I'm going to fall down and fail.

AB: It's a great gift. It was the training: to listen, to observe. Those skills are very much what you need as a writer. Keep your mouth shut and see what's happening around you. Don't finish people's sentences for them. Don't just hear what they say, but also how they behave while they're saying it. That was great training for writing.

My father certainly believed that one could make a living outside of an office, as he did. And that if I didn't want to work for other people, there wasn't any reason why I had to. He conveyed that very strongly to my sister and I - that smart people can make their own livings.

She suffered from the opposite of "phantom limb" syndrome; something essential appeared to be present, but it was not.

Nonfiction is both easier and harder to write than fiction. It's easier because the facts are already laid out before you, and there is already a narrative arc. What makes it harder is that you are not free to use your imagination and creativity to fill in any missing gaps within the story.