She Said, He Said: Quotes by Alice Munro & Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks, Alice Munro © Derek Shapton

Editor's Note:

Who doesn’t love a good quote? For more like this, check out our quotations archive.

This week marks the birthdays of two literary greats: Alice Munro, who will turn 87, and Oliver Sacks, who left us just a few years ago at the age of 82. Both of them have written extensively, and with astonishing precision, about the interior experience of being human.

Selections from their respective works pair so well together, we’ve arranged a birthday quote mashup to highlight the way one author’s thoughts can complement another’s – especially when they strive toward a common goal of understanding the nature of thought itself.

Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness, 2009
“Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind… When a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.”

Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, 1985
“If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self—himself—he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it.”

Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness, 2009
“In your life there are a few places, or maybe only the one place, where something happened, and then there are all the other places.”

Oliver Sacks, Seeing Voices, 1989
“We speak not only to tell other people what we think, but to tell ourselves what we think. Speech is a part of thought.”

Alice Munro, Away from Her, 2001
“Because if she let go of her grief even for a minute it would only hit her harder when she bumped into it again. ”

Oliver Sacks, On the Move: A Life, 2015
“When I was twelve, a perceptive schoolmaster wrote in his report, ‘Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far,’ and this was often the case.”

Alice Munro, The Love of a Good Woman, 1998
“If I decided to send this to you, where would I send it? When I think of writing the whole address on the envelope I am paralyzed. It’s too painful to think of you in the same place with your life going on in the same way, minus me. And to think of you not there, you somewhere else but I don’t know where that is, is worse.”

Oliver Sacks, Gratitude, 2015
“Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life. On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.”

Alice Munro, Friend of My Youth, 1990
“People are curious. A few people are… They will put things together, knowing all along that they may be mistaken. You see them going around with notebooks, scraping the dirt off gravestones, reading microfilm, just in the hope of seeing this trickle in time, making a connection, rescuing one thing from the rubbish.”

Oliver Sacks, On the Move: A Life, 2015
“I have to remember, too, that sex is one of those areas—like religion and politics—where otherwise decent and rational people may have intense, irrational feelings.”

Alice Munro, Runaway, 2004
“What she wants to do if she can get the time to do it, is not so much to live in the past as to open it up and get one good look at it.”

Oliver Sacks, A Leg to Stand On, 1984
“All the trouble starts when people forget they’re human.”