The Commonplace Book: A Writer’s Journey Through Quotations

Elizabeth Smither

Format: Ebook only
Pages: 200
Published: April 2011
Specs: 21.0cm x 13.8cm
ISBN: 9781869404765

Available in Ebook

You’re nothing but a piece of crockery and a bit of blood. – Epictetus

I read this on a sandwich board outside a coffee shop. I stopped, pulled out my notebook, and leaned against a shopfront.

How sharp and bloodtinglingly lovely on a clear early autumn day. The sun sharp on the shop panes, clear shadows on the foot­paths, faces outlined in a way they are not in summer. Necks with knotted scarves, half-coats. Last year’s shoes dusted and polished. I was impervious to the glances I got as I wrote down the words – perhaps I was mistaken for a reporter.

Heaven forbid it should be a poet. But that harshness in Epictetus, the Stoic, how lovely. A bit of railway cup a train has run over. A bit of blood that has gone brown, perhaps from a nosebleed during a high fever. I put the notebook back in my purse and walked on, rejoicing.

Elizabeth Smither has always kept her own collection of other people’s words: quotations, extracts, poems and pensées, the found and overheard. In The Commonplace Book she shares these witty and wise quotations with us, interspersed with incidents and memories from her own writing and life, offering a sparkling glimpse into the influences and inspirations of a far-from-commonplace writer.


More about Elizabeth Smither


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This is an archive of thoughtful browsing, reflecting moods of comfort, contentment or sheer pleasure. Always there is the sense of a writer at work whose wise sensibility is deeply experienced, inspired, for whom writing is an everyday mysterious joy. This is an unmissable literary gem. – Elizabeth Alley, NZ Listener

The Commonplace Book: A Writer’s Journey Through Quotations is pure delight from start to finish. - Elizabeth Alley, NZ Listener

[Smither] has stored away, like a squirrel, little treasures from a sparkling array of writers and thinkers from St Augustine to Monty Python. There is Anthony Hecht: "Like trailing silks, the light/ hangs in the olive trees ...". And John Steinbeck: "Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them and pretty soon you have a dozen." But it's the resonances and relationships that inspire and reflect in her own life that makes this book an autobiographical project. - Margie Thompson, NZ Herald

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