Mary McCarthy

(1912-1989 / Seattle, Washington)

Mary McCarthy Quotes

  • ''Liberty, as it is conceived by current opinion, has nothing inherent about it; it is a sort of gift or trust bestowed on the individual by the state pending good behavior.''
    Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), U.S. author, critic. Speech, 1952. "The Contagion of Ideas," published in On the Contrary (1961).
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  • ''Bureacracy, the rule of no one, has become the modern form of despotism.''
    Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), U.S. author, critic. repr. In On the Contrary (1961). "The Vita Activa," New Yorker (Oct. 18, 1958).
  • ''There are no new truths, but only truths that have not been recognized by those who have perceived them without noticing. A truth is something that everybody can be shown to know and to have known, as people say, all along.''
    Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), U.S. author, critic. repr. In On the Contrary (1961). "The Vita Activa," New Yorker (Oct. 18, 1958).
  • ''Labor is work that leaves no trace behind it when it is finished, or if it does, as in the case of the tilled field, this product of human activity requires still more labor, incessant, tireless labor, to maintain its identity as a "work" of man.''
    Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), U.S. author, critic. repr. In On the Contrary (1961). "The Vita Activa," New Yorker (Oct. 18, 1958).
  • ''The labor of keeping house is labor in its most naked state, for labor is toil that never finishes, toil that has to be begun again the moment it is completed, toil that is destroyed and consumed by the life process.''
    Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), U.S. author, critic. repr. In On the Contrary (1961). "The Vita Activa," New Yorker (October 18, 1958).
  • ''A wholly materialistic city is nothing but a dream incarnate. Venice is the world's unconscious, a miser's glittering hoard, guarded by a Beast whose eyes are made of white agate, and by a saint who is really a prince who has just slain a dragon.''
    Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), U.S. author, critic. Venice Observed, ch. 2 (1956).
  • ''The things of this world reveal their essential absurdity when they are put in the Venetian context. In the unreal realm of the canals, as in a Swiftian Lilliput, the real world, with its contrivances, appears as a vast folly.''
    Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), U.S. author, critic. Venice Observed, ch. 1 (1956).
  • ''When an American heiress wants to buy a man, she at once crosses the Atlantic. The only really materialistic people I have ever met have been Europeans.''
    Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), U.S. author, critic. first published in Commentary (New York, Sept. 1947). America the Beautiful, On the Contrary (1961).
  • ''The immense popularity of American movies abroad demonstrates that Europe is the unfinished negative of which America is the proof.''
    Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), U.S. author, critic. repr. In On the Contrary (1961). "America the Beautiful," first published in Commentary (September 1947).
  • ''The American character looks always as if it had just had a rather bad haircut, which gives it, in our eyes at any rate, a greater humanity than the European, which even among its beggars has an all too professional air.''
    Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), U.S. author, critic. repr. In On the Contrary (1961). "America the Beautiful," Commentary (New York, Sept. 1947).

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Best Poem of Mary McCarthy

Road Hazard

The trouble with driving
was I didn't want to learn.
I never believed
the car was innocent of guile
never trusted it to do
just what I directed
without some unexpected
deviation of its own.
My driving was a tense
negotiation
between mind and matter
between my will
and the car's inert
mechanical resistance.
This led to much anxiety
increasing exponentially
as speed and traffic grew,
resolving only
at the end of each excursion
with a full stop
releasing me mercifully
back to the safe simplicity
of moving on my ...

Read the full of Road Hazard

Road Hazard

The trouble with driving
was I didn't want to learn.
I never believed
the car was innocent of guile
never trusted it to do
just what I directed
without some unexpected
deviation of its own.
My driving was a tense

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