There is a new and wonderful book for writers written by a good friend who is NOT an RPCV (even though my wife is convinced I don’t know anyone who wasn’t in the Peace Corps). His name is Ralph Keyes. The book is entitled, The Quote Verifier and it explores several hundred quotations that are often cited but seldom confirmed. To determine the roots of 460 such sayings, Keyes scoured old publications, accessed huge databases, watched vintage movies, consulted myriad scholars, and contacted those actually involved in coining popular quotations. His results routinely confound widespread assumptions about who said what, where, and when.
For example, “Murder your darlings.” This common admonition to writers (suggesting that they excise the parts of their work that most delight them) is widely misattributed to the likes of Samuel Johnson, Oscar Wilde, George Orwell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, and William Faulkner. Its actual author was Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, who wrote in The Art of Writing (1916), “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”
The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When by Ralph Keyes is out this month from St. Martin’s Griffin.