Opening Chapters with Quotes

Part of the fun of writing a book is designing your layout. We know we want to write about entitlements and taxes, for example, but how do you make that a compelling narrative?  I’ve had this problem when explaining what my forthcoming book is about.  The title is Bleeding Talent (to be published by Palgrave officially on December 11, 2012, but I am telling people it is 12.12.12 because that just sounds so much better), and I find myself tongue-tied describing the book in a way that might actually increase sales. “It’s about military personnel economics” doesn’t seem to get people nearly as excited as they should be. Yawn.

Anyway, on BALANCE, we are using a convention of opening chapter quotations.  Niall Ferguson used these to great effect in Colossus. I’m sure there is a professional lingo for that in the book world. Here is one that we found and are pegging for the closing chapter:

“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

― George Washington, First Inaugural Address (April 30, 1798)

I also found a line by Neal Stephenson that is just fantastic — won’t reveal it here, but it is not the one about the four things Americans will still be good at in the next century. I am curious what great quotes you would recommend for a book about economic imbalance?  How about this one?

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

— William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming, 1919

3 responses to “Opening Chapters with Quotes

  1. Tim,
    I came across this quote the other day from Epicurus:

    “Frugality too has a limit, and the man who disregards it is in like case with him who errs through excess.”

    I thought is was apt given the title of your blog is Balance.

    Dan Corrin

  2. As a quote to begin a chapter discussing the failings that have brought us to this point, I like the final verse of the Edmund Burke poem, “O For a Voice Like Thunder”

    “O who can stand? O who hath caused this?
    O who can answer at the throne of God?
    The Kings and Nobles of the Land have done it!
    Hear it not, Heaven, thy Ministers have done it!”

    It embodies the fact that we all are at fault (of course, if this is counter to your conclusion…)

  3. Of course, there’s also Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Ozymandias, which is also a wonderful poem to quote about the fall of great civilization. You’d need to quote the entire poem to have the full effect, however:

    I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
    And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    `My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
    Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
    The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

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