The Book Meme: Day 24

Day 24 - Best quote from a novel

Another fine mess. Given the ridiculous number of novels I love, and the fact that I could probably find multiple beloved quotes from many of them, this entry could be longer than all the others combined. I mean, lord, I could start picking Catch-22 quotes on page one and run them pretty much until Yossarian dodges the knife and runs off.

Also, it unfairly assumes that there aren't worthy quotes from nonfiction books, which is just total nonsense. So I'm going to dodge the question entirely by posting my favorite quote from a work of nonfiction. In The Song of the Dodo, which remains the best science book I've ever read, David Quammen's breathtaking recreation of the last hours of the only remaining dodo is a standout, and a passage worthy of inclusion on any list of great writing:

"Imagine a single survivor, a lonely fugitive at large on mainland Mauritius at the end of the seventeenth century. Imagine this fugitive as a female. She would have been bulky and flightless and befuddled--but resourceful enough to have escaped and endured when the other birds didn't. Or else she was lucky.

Maybe she had spent all her years in the Bambous Mountains along the southeastern coast, where the various forms of human-brought menace were slow to penetrate. Or she might have lurked in a creek drainage of the Black River Gorges. Time and trouble had finally caught up with her. Imagine that her last hatchling had been snarfed by a feral pig. That her last fertile egg had been eaten by a monkey. That her mate was dead, clubbed by a hungry Dutch sailor, and that she had no hope of finding another. During the past halfdozen years, longer than a bird could remember, she had not even set eyes on a member of her own species.

Raphus cucullatus had become rare unto death. But this one flesh-and-blood individual still lived. Imagine that she was thirty years old, or thirty-five, an ancient age for most sorts of bird but not impossible for a member of such a large-bodied species. She no longer ran, she waddled. Lately she was going blind. Her digestive system was balky. In the dark of an early morning in 1667, say, during a rainstorm, she took cover beneath a cold stone ledge at the base of one of the Black River cliffs. She drew her head down against her body, fluffed her feathers for warmth, squinted in patient misery. She waited. She didn't know it, nor did anyone else, but she was the only dodo on Earth. When the storm passed, she never opened her eyes. This is extinction." 

That one still gets me.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on July 30, 2018 7:43 AM.

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