Rita Mae Brown

novelist, poet, screenwriter, activist

Rita Mae Brown (born November 28, 1944) is a prolific American writer who became famous with her first novel Rubyfruit Jungle; she is also a mystery writer and an Emmy-nominated screenwriter.


  • One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory. [1]
  • Life is too short to be miserable.
  • A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all.[2]
  • You can't be truly rude until you understand good manners.
  • No animal on the face of the earth could conceive of taxation. You and I work roughly six months a year to pay our local, state and federal taxes. If nothing else, this should convince you that animals are smarter than people.
  • Divorce is the one human tragedy that reduces everything to cash.
  • About all you can do in life is be who you are. Some people will love you for you. Most will love you for what you can do for them, and some won't like you at all. [3]
  • I finally figured out the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.[4]
  • If the world were a logical place, men would ride side saddle.
    • Sudden Death (1983)
    • Variant: "If the World Made Sense, Men Would Ride Sidesaddle" was the title of a 1993 one-man comedy by Ed Navis, performed at Wings Theatre, New York.
    • I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself. [5]
  • Normal is the average of deviance.
  • I also think living in the country gives you faith. All you have to do is get up and look at the mountains and look at the other animals to realize that your problems are mostly made up or exacerbated by humans. But human life isn't necessarily life. There's so much more out there.
  • Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
    • Alma Mater (2001), p. 108. — but not originally hers, see Misattributed below.

Starting from Scratch (1989)

  • I think the reason I choose the comic approach so often is because it's harder, therefore affording me the opportunity to show off. Also, a comic vision is my natural world view, but I've grown up in spite of myself and I can pass the comic twist if it detracts from what the characters need. Yes, the life of a saint is hard.
  • I have changed my definition of tragedy. I now think tragedy is not foul deeds done to a person... but rather that tragedy is irresolvable conflict. Both sides/ideas are right. Plot involves fragmentary reality, and it might involve composite reality. Fragmentary reality is the view of the individual. Composite reality is the community or state view. Fragmentary reality is always set against composite reality. Virginia Woolf did this by creating fragmentary monologues and for a while this was all the rage in literature. She was a genius. In the hands of the merely talented it came off like gibberish.

Quotes about Rita Mae Brown

  • I also look at people like Rita Mae Brown and some of the writers who were supported by small presses that have switched over to mainstream presses. That's all right-that's their choice. But the fact is that I'm sensitive to the publishing history of dykes and women of color. It was women who put my work in print and I'm not going to turn my back on them. Ideally, I would like to do both: publish with a small press and enlarge my audience by publishing with a mainstream press.
    • Gloria E. Anzaldua interview in ‘’Backtalk : women writers speak out’’ by Donna Marie Perry (1993)
  • I had managed to rationalize my shock and dismay when I found the narrator of Ruby fruit Jungle describing the fat Jewish girl Barbara Spangenthau as someone who "always had her hand in her pants playing with herself, and worse, she stank. Until I was fifteen I thought that being Jewish meant you walked around with your hand in your pants." In 1974, as an emerging lesbian, I didn't want to admit that the movement's leading fiction writer was basing her humor on age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes. I simply couldn't afford to take it in. So I kept silent. In those early years of struggle it seemed unworthy to make a fuss. And worse-it seemed divisive. I could not yet claim my anger. I wanted too much to belong
    • Evelyn Torton Beck "Why Is This Book Different from All Other Books?" in Nice Jewish Girls: A Lesbian Anthology (1982)
  • In the early 1970s, women started national networks of small presses, such as Daughters Inc., which published Rita Mae Brown's groundbreaking lesbian novel Rubyfruit Jungle.


  • The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you.
    • Many sources attribute this quote to Brown without giving a specific reference to her writings. The earliest located is the following variation from p. 47 of Musgrave Landing: Musings on the Writing Life by Susan Musgrave (1994), which Musgrave quotes as "Rita Mae Brown's warning": "If you become the kind of writer who calls forth heated emotional states, be careful. There are a lot of unbalanced people out there. The statistics on insanity are that one out of every four people is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's got to be you."


  • Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.
    • Brown did include this quote in her book Sudden Death (Bantam Books, New York, 1983), p. 68, but it appears she was just paraphrasing a quote that had already been written elsewhere. The earliest known appearance of a similar quote is the "approval version" of the Narcotics Anonymous "Basic Text" released in November 1981, which included the quote "Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results." A PDF scan of the 1981 approval version can be found here, with the quote appearing on p. 11 (p. 25 of the PDF), at the end of the fourth paragraph (which begins "We have a disease; progressive, incurable and fatal"). More in this article on Quote Investigator website.
  • Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
    • Brown may have used this quote in 2001 but it was in a 365 day "Quote" calendar in 1994.
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