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).
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  • ''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).
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  • ''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).
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  • ''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).
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  • ''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).
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  • ''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).
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  • ''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).
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  • ''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).
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  • ''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

Never Learned to Ride

Because one summer afternoon
the peace was broken
by a crash
followed by the wail of sirens
police and ambulance
already too late
keeping the crowd back
still close enough to see
white tennis shoes
and red blood
in the gutter —
Dad counting heads
making sure
we were all here
standing just outside
the front door
staring at the small
details of death
blood and white tennis shoes
and a broken bike
all we could see
of the collision
between our paperboy
and the truck turning the corner
too fast to stop —
So Mama saw to ...

Read the full of Never Learned to Ride

Never Learned to Ride

Because one summer afternoon
the peace was broken
by a crash
followed by the wail of sirens
police and ambulance
already too late
keeping the crowd back
still close enough to see
white tennis shoes

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