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Jan 3 / King Kaufman

For those days when one Quote of the Day is not enough

Welcome to a new year of Bleacher Report Blogging. I trust you made it through the holidays without doing major damage to yourself or your most obnoxious relatives—many of us skirt that hazard by being the most obnoxious relative—and you’re ready for another year of writing dangerously.

Those of you who enjoy this Blog’s Quote of the Day feature, and you know who you are, will probably enjoy a site I happened upon over the weekend, Advice to Writers.

It’s a quote-of-the-day site, weekends included, compiled by Jon Winokur, whom you might recognize as the compiler and editor of, among many others, “The Portable Curmudgeon,” a quote book I was given as a gift by two friends when I was in my 20s. They inscribed it, “Don’t be a grouch.”

The quotes are often quite a bit longer than the ones you’ll find around here, where we aim for the pithy. Some recent ones I like are John Berryman on ignoring both praise and blame, Joyce Carol Oates on being daring and, a particular favorite, Jacques Barzun on cultivating an awareness of words, and not just when you write:

The price of learning to use words is the development of an acute self-consciousness. Nor is it enough to pay attention to words only when you face the task of writing—that is like playing the violin only on the night of the concert. You must attend to words when you read, when you speak, when others speak. Words must become ever present in your waking life, an incessant concern, like color and design if the graphic arts matter to you, or pitch and rhythm if it is music, or speed and form if it is athletics.

Barzun is a historian who in 1954 wrote something I suspect is not quite as true as it was then, but is still a pleasant thought: “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game—and do it by watching first some high school or small-town teams.”

Barzun is still alive. He’s 104 years old. Here’s a conversation with him from September 2010.

  • Michael Schottey

    Not sure if Barzun was ever in New Ulm, MN (my college town) but it certainly fit the bill. Small town of 15K but has a host of Minor League/Major League players from the area and the entire town still comes out for the American Legion games. I don’t think Terry Steinbach has had to buy a beer in his hometown since he was 18.