My career still strikes me as miraculous. That a boy raised on Marine bases in the South, taught by Roman Catholic nuns in backwater Southern towns that loathed Catholics, and completed his education with an immersion into The Citadel—the whole story sounds fabricated, impossible even to me. Maybe especially to me.

Generosity is the rarest of qualities in American writers.

I can forgive almost any crime if a great story is left in its wake.

Scarlett (O'Hara) taught that one could be hungry and despairing, but not broken and not without resources, spiritual in nature, that precluded one from surrendering without a fight.

The American male is a quivering mass of insecurities. If a woman makes the mistake of loving him, he will make her suffer terribly for her utter lack of taste. I don't think men can ever forgive women for loving them to the exclusion of all others.

She had camouflaged the vinegar factory in her character with a great honeycomb along the sills and porches of her public self.

According to Margaret Mitchell, the Civil War destroyed a civilization of unsurpassable amenity, chivalry, and grace.

Yet I can walk away from best friends and rarely think of them again. I can close a door and not look back. There's something about my soul that's always ready to go, to break camp, to unfold the road map, to leave at night when the house inspection's done and the civilians are asleep and the open road is calling...

I wanted to become the seeker, the aroused and passionate explorer, and it was better to go at it knowing nothing at all, always choosing the unmarked bottle, always choosing your own unproven method, armed with nothing but faith and a belief in astonishment.

By carefully editing what I thought would harm her, I turned my childhood into something as glamorous as forbidden fruit.

Teaching is a record of failures. But the glory of teaching is in the attempt.

I never once approached greatness, but toward the end of my career, I was always in the game.

It's politics . . . It makes everybody stupid. When you grow up, you'll know what I mean.

What's important is that a story changes every time you say it out loud. When you put it on paper, it can never change. But the more times you tell it, the more changes will occur. A story is a living thing; it moves and shifts.

I could rent Caesar out at birthday parties. Halloween parties. I could take pictures of Caesar eating a piece of birthday cake. Or a picture of a kid riding Caesar on his birthday. We could build a saddle.

Somewhere, the billion dreams of the town since its origin stirred in a maelstrom far from the reach of the shrimpers' nets. Old dreams still burned with the power of their one night on earth, but burned deep and forbidden in regions denied to men.

I'm sorry your bad dream died," I said as I left her and walked toward the gate. "And I'm sorry I ever met you, Annie Kate.

South Carolina is not a state; it is a cult.

Thought you didn't believe in God, I said to Savannah as we moved slowly past the Coast Guard base at the end of the Charleston peninsula. I don't, Savannah answered, but I believe in Luke and he believes in God and I always believe in God when I truly need him. Situational faith, I said.

We set down feasts for each other and treated our love with tongues of fire. Our bodies were fields of wonder to us.

Every industry is going to be affected (by the aging population). This creates tremendous opportunities and tremendous challenges.

My friends had always come from outside the mainstream. I had always been popular with the fifth column of my peers, those individuals who were princely in their solitude, lords of their own unpraised melancholy.

We had made the error of staying small – and there is no more unforgivable crime in America.

In family matters you can get over anything. That's one thing you'll learn as an adult. There's a lot you have to learn which is a lot worse than that. You'd never think of forgiving a friend for some of the things your parents did to you. But with friends it's different. Friends aren't the roll of the dice.

Throughout my career I've lived in constant fear that I wouldn't be good enough, that I'd have nothing to say, that I'd be laughed at, humiliated—and I'm old enough to know that fear will follow me to the very last word I'll ever write.

If not for sports, I do not think my father would have ever talked to me.

Few things linger longer or become more indwelling than that feeling of both completion and emptiness when a great book ends. That the book accompanies the reader forever from that day forward is part of literature's profligate generosity.

But even her demons she invested with inordinate beauty, consecrated them with the dignity of her attention.

No story is a straight line. The geometry of a human life is too imperfect and complex, too distorted by the laughter of time and the bewildering intricacies of fate to admit the straight line into its system of laws.

It was but one of the things that made friendship with me an ambivalent enterprise.

Over the years he began displaying that rarest of intellectual gifts—the ability and willingness to change his mind and do it in an orderly, well-reasoned way.

The reading of great books has been a life-altering activity to me and, for better or worse, brought me singing and language-obsessed to that country where I make my living. Except for teaching, I've had no other ambition in life than to write books that mattered.

I lit a cigarette and began puffing on it as I drank one quick beer after another. I was neither a drinker nor a smoker nor a fighter, but I had planned to be all three on this day.

Before I met the Jesuits, I'd never encountered another group who thought that intellect and arrogance were treasures beyond price and necessities in waging wars against blasphemers, heretics.

I've always admired people who give accurate directions, and the tribe is small.

A breeze lifted off the ocean and several hundred notes from the wind chimes tinkled like ice shaken in silver cups. They altered the mood of the forest the way an orchestra does a theater when it begins tuning up its instruments.

I have always been attracted to male writers who can demonstrate their love and affection for women with ease, yet not draw attention to themselves.

In Charleston, more than elsewhere, you get the feeling that the twentieth century is a vast, unconscionable mistake.

I think that my mother, Frances Dorothy Peck, modeled her whole life on that of Scarlett O'Hara.

If I catch a fish before the sun rises, I have connected myself again to the deep hum of the planet. If I turn on the television because I cannot stand an evening alone with myself or my family, I am admitting my citizenship with the living dead.

As his children, we were treated as some species of migrant workers who happened to be passing through. My father was the only person I ever knew who looked upon childhood as a dishonorable vocation one grew out of as quickly as possible.

When I was in a kitchen I could no longer feel the pressure of the world on my shoulders; for me cooking has always been a high form of play, and teaching someone how to make a meal memorable was a combination of thrill and gift that I never tired of giving.

Honor is the presence of God in man.

You're worried about your mother dying, aren't you, Leah said, putting her cheek on my forearm. I can tell.

It enclosed us in its laceries as we watched the moon spill across the Atlantic like wine from an overturned glass. With the light all around us, we felt secret in that moon-infused water like pearls forming in the soft tissues of oysters.

When we cuss each other out, call each other the vilest names on earth, and put each other down with thoughtless cruelty, it is the only way we know and the only language we have to express our ardent love for each other.

I don't know when my parents began their war against each other – but I do know the only prisoners they took were their children.

Fierce praying was a way of finding entrance and prologue into my own writing.

As we took the court for the second half, I made a secret now to myself that I would never listen to a single thing that Mel Thompson said to me again. I would obey him and honor him and follow him, but I would not let him touch the core of me again. He was my coach, but I was my master.