It [Cambridge] wasn't a holy grail in the sense that I'd never been to Cambridge. But then, when I did go, the contrast between Leeds, which was very black and sooty in those days, and Cambridge, which seemed like something out of a fairystory, in the grip of a hard frost, was just wonderful.
Deluded liberal that I am, I persist in thinking that those with a streak of sexual unorthodoxy ought to be more tolerant of their fellows than those who lead an entirely godly, righteous and sober life. Illogically, I tend to assume that if you ( Philip Larkin) dream of caning schoolgirls bottoms, it disqualifies you from dismissing half the nation as work-shy.
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My experience came before most of you were born. My school was a state school in Leeds and the headmaster usually sent students to Leeds University but he didn't normally send them to Oxford or Cambridge. But the headmaster happened to have been to Cambridge and decided to try and push some of us towards Oxford and Cambridge. So, half a dozen of us tried - not all of us in history - and we all eventually got in. So, to that extent, it [The History Boys] comes out of my own experience.
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The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.
The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something undeferring about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included. Literature, she thought, is a commonwealth; letters a republic.
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Archbishop. Why do I never read the lesson?' 'I beg your pardon, ma'am?' 'In church. Everybody else gets to read and one never does. It's not laid down, is it? It's not off-limits?' 'Not that I'm aware, ma'am.' 'Good. Well in that case I'm going to start. Leviticus, here I come. Goodnight.' The archbishop shook his head and went back to Strictly Come Dancing.
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There's very little in the substance of [THE LADY IN THE VAN] which is not fact though some adjustments have had to be made. Over the years Miss Shepherd was visited by a succession of social workers so the character in the play is a composite figure. . . . A composite too are the neighbours, Pauline and Rufus, though I have made Rufus a publisher in remembrance of my neighbour, the late Colin Haycraft, the proprietor of Duckworth's.
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Why do we not care to acknowledge them? The cattle, the body count. We still don't like to admit the war was even partly our fault because so many of our people died. A photograph on every mantlepiece. And all this mourning has veiled the truth. It's not so much lest we forget, as lest we remember. Because you should realise the Cenotaph and the Last Post and all that stuff is concerned, there's no better way of forgetting something than by commemorating it.
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I tried to explain to her the significance of the great poet, but without much success, The Waste Land not figuring very largely in Mam's scheme of things. "The thing is," I said finally, "he won the Nobel Prize." "Well," she said, with that unerring grasp of inessentials which is the prerogative of mothers, "I'm not surprised. It was a beautiful overcoat.
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If, for instance, we'd made the film after the show had been to Broadway, it would have been exactly the same film but we would have been assured that they would have understood it. We didn't have to do any alterations for Broadway. I was supposed to go a fortnight before it opened to alter anything that was necessary and there was nothing really.
The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours
I had no idea of who could play it, no notion really. Then Richard came to see us but I don't think it was decided at that meeting. The trouble is, as soon as you've chosen somebody it obscures anybody else you might have thought of. It's like going to a place that you've never been to before - you've got a picture of it and then you go there and that picture is totally wiped out by the reality.
We have fish and chips, which W. and I fetch from the shop in Settle market-place. Some local boys come in and there is a bit of chat between them and the fish-fryer about whether the kestrel under the counter is for sale....Only when I mention it to W. does he explain Kestrel is now a lager. I imagine the future is going to contain an increasing number of incidents like this, culminating with a man in a white coat saying to one kindly, "And now can you tell me the name of the Prime Minister?
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[talking about the Holocaust] 'But to put something in context is a step towards saying it can be understood and that it can be explained. And if it can be explained that it can be explained away.' 'But this is History. Distance yourselves. Our perspective on the past alters. Looking back, immediately in front of us is dead ground. We don't see it, and because we don't see it this means that there is no period so remote as the recent past. And one of the historian's jobs is to anticipate what our perspective of that period will be... even on the Holocaust.
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Remember. You are a physician. You are not a policeman nor are you a minister of religion. You must take people as they come. Remember, too that though you will generally know more about the condition than the patient, it is the patient who has the condition and this if nothing else bestows on him or her a kind of wisdom. You have the knowledge but that does not entitle you to be superior. Knowledge makes you the servant not the master.
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Kafka could never have written as he did had he lived in a house. His writing is that of someone whose whole life was spent in apartments, with lifts, stairwells, muffled voices behind closed doors, and sounds through walls. Put him in a nice detached villa and he'd never have written a word.
I can't complain that I've had a public all through my writing life, but people don't quite know what I've written. People don't read you too closely. Perhaps, after I've died, they'll look at my stuff, and read it through, and find there's more in it. That may be wrong, but that's what I comfort myself with.