50 Life Quotes of Lawrence Osborne

” Thailand was never a European colony, so even though the city is very Western on the surface, deep down it’s very Asian. It’s quite enigmatic, and I like that. I can’t get to the bottom of Bangkok, and I never will. “
” Exams are not very hard. People find them hard because they don’t work – it’s just a matter of labour. Once you actually start doing it, it’s like cracking eggs. You don’t need to be smart. As everything is in life, it’s about concentration. “
” One of the reasons I like living in Bangkok is that, although it’s a megacity, it’s very saturated with nature – the vast and brooding skies, the sudden storms and rains, the vegetation and even the animals that abound. “
” So many writers live their whole lives in rooms. You can be too civilised in the environment you have around you, too oriented towards speaking engagements and literary festivals and dinner parties. That has no interest for me these days. You get to a point where you don’t care anymore. At that point, you can start to write. “
” The best times to visit the Gobi and Three Camel Lodge are June, and September through October. By the beginning of November, it is ferociously cold, while October can swing surreally between warm days and clear, chilly nights and frosty mornings dusted with snow – perfect. “
” The orchid’s association in Chinese culture with such virtues as elegance, good taste, friendship, and fertility goes all the way back to Confucius himself, who was said to have a particular attachment to the flowers. “
” More than 700 years ago, the Song Dynasty artist Zheng Sixiao created perhaps the most beautiful image of orchids ever painted, ‘Ink Orchid.’ And still famous today is a thousand-year-old poem from the Tang Dynasty called ‘Orchid and Orange.’ “
” To me, the contemporary novel suffers from a lack of sense of place – or spirit of place, if you will. It’s not important to most writers, I must assume, or they try to research a given background on sabbatical. Not for me. I write about places I’ve lived long before I ever set pen to paper. “
” Boredom and sexual desire are a potent and explosive combination, and people will certainly risk their lives to exit a grey and boring life. “
” Muslims do drink, as anyone who has spent a wild weekend with Saudi booze tourists in Bahrain will know. Those Saudi tourists are like teenage girls in Manchester on a Saturday night. But each country and region is different. “
” Bangkok is infamously mired in lurid contradiction, but it’s also a city of subtle and distorted moods that journalism and film have hitherto mostly failed to capture. “
” At the end of the 18th century, a young British explorer named George Bogle became one of the first Westerners to penetrate the mysterious and reclusive realm of Druk Yul, or ‘Dragon Land.’ “
” The Gobi is in many ways like the old American West, filled with abandoned hamlets and buildings, traces of disappeared peoples. Across its oceanic blond grass, horses and the black silhouettes of camels move languidly, as if they are the only inhabitants. Ancient Turkic nomads left enigmatic petroglyphs carved into boulders 2,000 years ago. “
” Sometimes you can publish a first novel in a kind of lyrical flourish, but it is not really a lyrical form. The beautiful truths about the world are more hard won than that. Novels should be bleach boned. It’s a question of cumulative observation and lived suffering. It takes time. “
” I have found that whiskey is enjoyed as a refined secret pleasure in many cities – and it appears to be popular in Pakistan, as it is all over the tropical Asian world, Muslim or non-Muslim. “
” Studies in the emerging field of cellular bioenergetics, a branch of biochemistry concerned with how energy flows through living systems, suggest that molecules from orchids might be able to repair decaying mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells, in humans. “
” I don’t know where this thing about me being a travel writer comes from. It’s nothing to do with me; I hate travel writing. I don’t do it – I do it a little bit, but not much. I don’t believe in it. I think it’s over. The world is so saturated now that you don’t need it. “
” Asa Briggs was a historian of class history, so he felt obligated to bring in his driver. That’s the English class thing that is much weaker now. “
” My grandfather was an amazing cap-in-hand guy. “
” I left New York after my mother died and, rather aimlessly, had settled in Istanbul for a change of scene. It was a rather dramatic gesture on my part, since I’d lived in New York for 20 years, but I felt I needed something different – the escalating expense and pressure of New York had begun to weary me. “
” There’s a distinct unease about Americans when they are outside the United States. I can’t say quite what it is, but they are easily spooked or driven to cynicism – the country is diverse but, paradoxically, extremely insular. “
” I’ll wager there isn’t a human being on earth who doesn’t believe in luck, however rational they pretend to be in public life. In reality, most of human life is luck – and, of course, its darker, more prevalent opposite. One only has to live long enough to experience both. “
” I’ve spent most of my adult life in the United States, and there the celebrity culture has been entrenched for a long time. It has made people almost literally insane, even those who make a great show of repudiating it. Those people, like novelists, who can no longer enjoy this status are condemned to despise it. “
” One winter, I went to Erfoud to research trilobites and got to know the quarries, the dealers, and the remote mining villages. They are not easy places to visit, and this was a completely unknown corner of the world economy: children slaving away on desert cliffs to furnish wealthy collectors in San Francisco. “
” I read Gide’s ‘The Immoralist’ over and over as a teenager. I was obsessed with it. It’s written with such simplicity and dread, and the desert, the shabby colonial world, is brought right into your consciousness without being over-explained. “
” My mother sent me and my sisters to Italy every year for language school, so I spent a lot of my teenage years in Florence and Rome. After university I went to Harvard for a year, dropped out, and then went to Paris, where I ended up staying 10 years. It’s different from being American: If you’re British, you’re expected to live at the far corners. “
” I grew up in the small town of Haywards Heath, south of London. “
” My parents were bookish, very musical, but otherwise uninvolved in the arts or the academic world. “
” The drinker is a Dionysiac, a dancer who sits still, a mocker. He doesn’t need your seriousness or your regard. He just needs a little quiet music and a gentle freedom from priests. “
” The English are very indulgent to episodes of alcoholic insanity. “
” My favorite whisky bar in the world is in my adopted Bangkok. A refined and secretive Japanese speakeasy among the girly bars of Soi 33, it’s called Hailiang. “
” I still miss qualities of Khmer life that are hard to quantify: the slow, sensual pace, the hovering presence of the past, the vast skies filled with terrifying and beautiful butts. And, of course, the food. “
” Mongolians are epic drinkers and carousers, and in this respect, they are extremely congenial to my own way of thinking. “
” There’s something attractive about making people temporarily forget their actual age by taking them out of their normal lives so completely. Doesn’t travel, by its very nature, strive to do this? “
” I suppose I reached the limit of what I could do with nonfiction books, perhaps because they never felt quite intense enough – it’s a journalistic enterprise, ultimately, even if you are using the memoir as a form. “
” I made the decision that I didn’t want to spend my life in rooms and write about rooms, or else make books that are researched constructs. I think you do have to get out there and live it. Thriller and genre writers seem to understand this. “
” New York was very congenial to me when I was young, like most people. I met my comrades in arms and partied hard. It’s the way it should be, and then you get sick of it. “
” That’s all you do in life: you find your perch, and if it suits you, just carry on. There’s nothing Graham Greene about it. “
” Many travelers get into trouble in places like Dubai by assuming that it is sufficiently Western for them to drink as they do back home. But elsewhere in the Muslim world, it is quite controlled, and the non-Muslim will be steered down a fairly narrow path. “
” Arak means ‘sweat’ in Arabic, and it is the perfect Mediterranean after-dinner drink, in my opinion. “
” Shoes tell you a lot about someone. Think of ‘Strangers on a Train.’ The first thing we see are Bruno’s shoes. We know right away that something is up. “
” My parents were decent, aspirant first-generation middle class. They read ‘Reader’s Digest’, listened to classical music; my grandparents had a bust of Stalin on the mantelpiece. The kids of that generation were terrified of being below par, class-wise. “
” I’ve got everything against likable characters. Likable characters are usually completely forgettable, and we don’t really care. I think we love villains… precisely because they show us these disturbing complexities that I don’t think nice characters do. “
” I think humans are migratory animals. “
” ‘The Odyssey’ is a great poem to refugee-dom… Odysseus is not entirely a refugee… he’s somebody who’s blown off course. The entire book is an exploration of that theme… I reread it every year… That’s not as surprising as it sounds, because it’s a rip-roaring book. “
” I spent a fair amount of time in Communist Poland when I was young – my wife was from there – and I had the impression that boredom was one of the things that was undermining that whole society from the inside. “
” Military history is essential to understanding any history and, moreover, is a terrifying and sobering study in the realities of human nature – for yes, to me, such a thing exists, and history indeed proves it. “
” I love the novel as a form, as an adventure of mind and soul. Really, I absolutely love writing them; they consume my days and nights – what can I say? But I am an avid film student, too: I watch a movie every night. “
” In Bangkok’s budding literary scene, Prabda Yoon sits at the centre. “
” In ‘Snow for Mother’, a mother waits for her little boy to grow up so that she can take him to Alaska to experience the real snow, which he never knew as a little boy in the tropics. “