My favourite literary snippets

As we all know, sometimes you pick up a book/kindle/newspaper or whatever, and those words on the page just hit you. They soak into your blood, firing neurons of imagination and hooking you like literary crack. Sometimes it can be just a little snippet. The first line or a little description, perfectly written. Here are some of the snippets, quotes and excerpts that get my brain making that happy little noise inside my cranium. Enjoy!

Picture by Elle Ward
 William Hughes Mearnes – Antigonish (1889)

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away…

When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door… (slam!)

Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away

There is just something about this poem that reaches down into the animal part of my psyche and tells me to be utterly afraid. The first and last stanzas are often used in isolation and they’re the most evocative, but I think the whole poem really needs to be read with the lights on. And with this one in mind, there’s a quote from the eminent Stephen King which I think sums up that animal compulsion which gives the unfounded fear of the dark which we all have:

The thing under my bed waiting to grab my ankle isn’t real. I know that, and I also know that if I’m careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never be able to grab my ankle.

We’ve all been there right? We’d like to think that it was back when we were kids, with the covers over our head, trying to breath quieter so the thing wont get us. But you and I both know it was far more recent than that…


Anyways, on the back of Stephen’s awesome quote, I’d like to share one of my favourite lines from a book. The opening of The Gunslinger, which I think is a brilliant piece of understated genius:

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

They always say that you should try to intrigue your readers in the first few pages of any book. With this opening line, Stephen (I like to pretend we’re on first name terms. It’s creepier) managed to make me think “Shit, who is he and what’s he done?”. Good work, King, good work.

Picture by Elle Ward

I know I seem to be obsessed with Dark Towers (and I am, no doubt about it) this description from one of my favourite books, Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan, may have been one of the most influential sections of literature to ever grace my brain:

This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.

Yowza. Creep-tastic! I want to go and read it all again now. It’s officially back on The List.

But I’ve been a bit dark so far so I want to share some Pratchett with you. However, as it turns out, everything he’s ever written (particularly in the Discworld series) is absolutely hilarious and I’m struggling to not only hold my stomach while reading, but to pick from the plethora of geniosity that is Pratchett. So here’s just a couple to tide you over. Hope you haven’t had recent abdominal surgery, because you’re about to burst your stitches:

“Sodomy non sapiens,” said Albert under his breath.
“What does that mean?”
“Means I’m buggered if I know.”


“I’m not going to ride on a magic carpet!” he hissed. “I’m afraid of grounds.”

“You mean heights,” said Conina. “And stop being silly.”

“I know what I mean! It’s the grounds that kill you!”

                                                          Rincewind and his unquestionable logic (Sourcery)

Well, that’s it for now, folks. I hope that’s given you a little insight into what has made my brain tick over the years.


Thanks for reading.


4 thoughts on “My favourite literary snippets

  1. I agree with Pratchett, not afraid of flying, afraid of crashing etc!
    Thanks for teh poem, never read the wholething before it is awesome.

  2. Ughh…-Shudders-

    I remember hearing that poem when I watch ‘Sapphire & Steel’ with my dad for the first time. Creepy. That one and the ‘Tommyknocker’ poem (I think it’s a Stephen King book?) My dad was very into his horror. Me, not so much (in terms of reading it, anyway).

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