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Walter Tevis (February 28, 1928 – August 9, 1984) was an American novelist and short story writer.

QuotesEdit

Mockingbird (1980)Edit

All page numbers are from the trade paperback edition published by Orion Books in SF Masterworks ISBN 978-1-4072-3376-5
The chapters in the novel are not numbered. They are numbered here for ease of reference
Nominated for the 1981 Nebula Award
  • Smart is smart. I’m glad there’s some around somewhere.
    • Chapter 1 Spofforth (p. 8)
  • Noticing and thinking are sometimes a strain and a bafflement and I wonder if the Designers were aware of that when they made it almost impossible for the ordinary citizen to make use of a recorder. Or when they had us all taught that earliest learned wisdom: “When in doubt, forget it.”
    • Chapter 2 Bentley, Day Five (p. 22)
  • It is the greatest achievement of my life. Yes, I have used that word: a great achievement. My learning to read was an achievement. Nobody knows that but me.
    • Chapter 2 Bentley, Day Forty (p. 43)
  • “You know,” she said, “they teach you that robots are made to serve humans. But the way they say that word ‘serve’ it sounds like ‘control.’ My father—Simon—called it ‘politician talk.’”
    • Chapter 2 Bentley, Day Forty-Two (pp. 49-50)
  • “What is it exactly that you do with a book?”
    “You read it.”
    “Oh,” she said. And then, “What does read mean?”
    I nodded. Then I began turning the pages of the book I was holding and said, “Some of these markings here represent sounds. And the sounds make words. You look at the marks and sounds come into your mind and, after you practice long enough, they begin to sound like hearing a person talking. Talking—but silently.”
    • Chapter 2 Bentley, Day Forty-Six (p. 56)
  • I knew that there had been books in the ancient world, of course, and that most of them were probably from that time before television, but I had no idea there were that many.
    • Chapter 2 Bentley, Day Forty-Eight (p. 60)
  • All day yesterday she read a new kind of writing called poems. Some of them she read aloud. In places they were like chess—incomprehensible—and in other places they said strange and interesting things.
    • Chapter 4 Bentley, Day Seventy-Six (p. 76)
  • Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.
    • Chapter 4 Bentley, Day Seventy-Six (p. 77; catchphrase repeated often in the book)
  • They had told us how important courts were for protecting our sacred rights to Privacy and Individuality, and how helpful a judge could be, but you somehow got the idea that it was a good idea to stay away from courts altogether.
    • Chapter 4 Bentley, Day Eighty-Nine (p. 91)
  • Reading is the subtle and thorough sharing of the ideas and feelings by underhanded means. It is a gross invasion of Privacy and a direct violation of the Constitutions of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth ages. The Teaching of Reading is equally a crime against Privacy and Personhood. One to five years on each count.
    • Chapter 4 Bentley, Day Eighty-Nine (p. 92)
  • Why don’t we talk to one another? Why don’t we huddle together against the cold wind that blows down the empty streets of this city? Once, long ago, there were private telephones in New York. People talked to one another then—perhaps distantly, strangely, with their voices made thin and artificial by electronics, but they talked. Of the price of groceries, the presidential elections, the sexual behavior of their teen-age children, their fear of the weather and their fear of death. And they read, hearing the voices of the living and the dead speaking to them in eloquent silence, in touch with a babble of human talk that must have filled the mind in a manner that said; I am human. I talk and I listen and I read.
    Why can no one read? What happened?
    • Chapter 5 Mary Lou, Section Seven (p. 114)
  • Bob seems to know almost everything; but he doesn’t know when or why people stopped reading. “Most people are too lazy,” he said. “They only want distractions.”
    • Chapter 5 Mary Lou, Section Seven (p. 114)
  • I must get inside that library! I must have books again. If I cannot read and learn and have things that are worth thinking about, I would rather immolate myself than go on living.
    • Chapter 6 Bentley, Day One Hundred Twenty-One (p. 134)
  • “I’m like everybody else. This kind of living ain’t much better than being dead.” He laughed again, shaking his head from side to side. “And it ain’t much better on the outside, to tell the truth. No real work to do, except the same kind of crap you do in here. At the Worker Dormitories they told us, ‘Labor fulfills.’ Horseshit.”
    • Chapter 6 Bentley, Day One Hundred Thirty-Six (p. 136)
  • Holy Bible begins: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” It does not give the century of the “beginning,” nor is it clear who “God” is, or was. I am not certain whether Holy Bible is a book of history or maintenance or poetry. It names many strange people who do not seem real.
    • Chapter 6 Bentley, Day One Hundred Forty-Nine (p. 140)
  • We had never developed a sense of history as such; all we knew, if we ever thought about it, was that there had been others before us and that we were better than they. But no one was ever encouraged to think about anything outside of himself. “Don’t ask; relax.”
    • Chapter 6 Bentley, Day One Hundred Sixty-Nine (p. 142)
  • Whatever Jesus was, he was a thing called a “great man.” I am not certain I like the idea of “great men”; it makes me uncomfortable. “Great men” often have had very bloody plans for mankind.
    • Chapter 6 Bentley, Day One Hundred Seventy-Two (p. 143)
  • What is my Individuality good for, anyway? And is it truly holy, or was I only taught that because the robots who taught me were programmed by someone, once, to say it?
    • Chapter 6 Bentley, Day One Hundred Eighty (p. 145)
  • When literacy died, so had history.
    • Chapter 8 Bentley (p. 161)
  • It all began, I suppose, with learning to build fire—to warm the cave and keep the predators out. And it ended with time-release Valium.
    • Chapter 9 Mary Lou (p. 176)
  • The woman stared at me. “You don’t know a church of the living God when you see one?”
    I looked around me, at the aisles covered with plastic-sealed merchandise, at the racks of colored clothing and electronic equipment and rifles and golf clubs and jackets. “But this is no church,” I said. “This is a store.”
    • Chapter 10 Bentley (pp. 189-190)
  • “Would you show me how to make an omelette?”
    She looked shocked, and said nothing.
    Then from the sink the other woman’s voice said, “Men don’t cook.”
    The woman beside me hesitated a moment, and then said softly, “This man is different, Mary. He’s a Reader.”
    • Chapter 10 Bentley (p. 209)
  • I was not as awed by Rules as I had once been.
    • Chapter 10 Bentley (p. 215)
  • I looked at Annabel’s coffin in front of me and said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” saith the Lord. “He that believeth in me, though he perish, yet shall he live.”
    The words were no comfort. I wanted Annabelle to be alive and with me. I looked at all the Baleens in front of me with their heads reverently bowed and I felt no communion with them and with their faith. Without Annabel I was alone again.
    • Chapter 10 Bentley (pp. 224-225)
  • But although I had watched television in the same way many times in my life before, I found I could no longer watch it and not think. “Give yourself to the Screen,” they had taught us. It was as basic as “Don’t ask; relax.” But I could no longer give myself to it. I no longer wanted to keep my mind silent, or use it as a vehicle for disconnected pleasure; I wanted to read, and think, and talk.
    • Chapter 10 Bentley (p. 229)
  • And then I began to feel it, the whole enormous scope of it, in what had begun in some dark antiquity of trees and caves and the plains of Africa; of human life, erect and ape-like, spreading itself everywhere and building first its idols and then its cities. And then dwindling to a drugged trace, a remnant, because of a failed machine. A tiny part of a failed machine. And a more-than-human robot that would not try to repair it.
    • Chapter 11 Mary Lou (p. 239)
  • Until learning how to read I had lived in a whole underpopulated world of self-centered, drug-addicted fools, all of us living by our Rules of Privacy in some crazy dream of Self-Fulfillment.
    • Chapter 12 Bentley, October First (p. 244)
  • I feel free and strong. If I were not a reader of books I could not feel this way. Whatever may happen to me, thank God that I can read, that I have truly touched the minds of other men.
    • Chapter 12 Bentley, October First (p. 248)
  • I was in a state of yearning, and I had been for years. I was not happy—had almost never been happy.
    This is terrible! I thought. All those lies! I felt physically sick to see it all: to see myself slack-jawed as a child in front of the television, to see myself in classes being told by robot teachers that “inward development” was the aim of life, that “quick sex is best,” that the only reality was in my consciousness and that it could be altered chemically. What I had wanted, what I had yearned for even then, was to be loved. And to love. And they had not even taught me the word.
    • Chapter 12 Bentley, October Second (p. 249)
  • Biff is really stupid in most ways. It’s just that she’s very real—is very much a cat—and that makes her seem intelligent to you. I can read her whole mind at a glance, and there’s very little there. But she feels good. She would not want to be anything other than a cat.
    • Chapter 12 Bentley, October Second (p. 251)
  • “Is there a God?” I said. “I mean, are you in touch, telepathically, with any kind of God?”
    “No. I’m not in touch with anything like that. As far as I know, there is no God.”
    “Oh,” I said.
    “It doesn’t bother you,” the voice said. “You may think it does; but it doesn’t. You’re really on your own. You’ve been learning that.”
    • Chapter 12 Bentley, October Second (p. 251)
  • One of my books says that at times men have worshiped the ocean as a god. I can understand that easily. Yes.
    But the Baleens would never have understood such a thing; they would have called the idea “blasphemy.” The God they worship is an abstract and ferociously moral thing, like a computer. And the compelling, mystical rabbi, Jesus, they have turned into some kind of moral Detector. I want none of that, and none of the Jehovah of the Book of Job, either.
    • Chapter 12 Bentley, October Third (p. 254)
  • The sky at the top of the gray ocean has become much lighter now. The sun is about to rise. I will end this recording for now and stop the bus and walk outside and watch the sun rise over the ocean.
    My God, the world can be beautiful.
    • Chapter 12 Bentley, October Third (p. 255)
  • My God, the things I have read and learned since I left Ohio! And they have changed me so much I hardly recognize myself. Just knowing that there has been a past to human life and getting a slight sense of what that past was like have altered my mind and my behavior beyond recognition.
    • Chapter 12 Bentley, October Fourth (p. 255)
  • I had seen talking films as a graduate student, along with the handful of others who were interested in such things. But the films—The Magnificent Obsession, [[Dracula Strikes, The Sound of Music—had only seemed to be “mind-blowing.” They were merely another, more esoteric way of manipulating one’s mental states for the sake of pleasure and inwardness. It would never have occurred to me then, in my illiterate and brainwashed state, to observe such films as a means of learning something valuable about the past.
    • Chapter 12 Bentley, October Fourth (p. 256)
  • But most of all, it seems to me now, has been the courage to know and to sense my feelings that has come, slowly, from the emotionally charged silent films at the old library at first and then later from the poems and novels and histories and biographies and how-to-do-it books that I have read. All of those books—even the dull and nearly incomprehensible ones—have made me understand more clearly what it means to be a human being. And I have learned from the sense of awe I at times develop when I feel in touch with the mind of another, long-dead person and know that I am not alone on this earth. There have been others who have felt as I feel and who have, at times, been able to say the unsayable.
    • Chapter 12 Bentley, October Fourth (p. 256)

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