“In a Show of Defiance, I Wet My Pants” and the 20 Other Best Lines of 2013

Reading between the lines.
Dec. 3 2013 11:47 PM

The 21 Best Lines of 2013

Good jokes, bad sex, and utter confusion, from some of the year’s most enjoyable books.

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Illustration by Slate


Monday: Slate staffers pick their favorite books of 2013.
Tuesday: The overlooked books of 2013.
Wednesday: The best lines of 2013, and the best poetry of 2013.
Thursday: Dan Kois’ 15 favorite books.
Friday: The Slate Book Review Top 10.

The past, hey no shit, it’s an open invitation to wine abuse.
-Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge

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We miss our mothers. We understand them so much more now.
-David Levithan, Two Boys Kissing

When male visitors left, she did two things: She plumped the cushions and smelled the leather seat of the chair, to see if they had farted, and if they had, the removable seat would be lifted out and put on the windowsill to air all night.
-Edna O’Brien, on her mother, Country Girl

She and I have no small talk. If we talk, we talk. And so we go for weeks, for months, not talking at all.
-Michelle Herman, on her daughter, Stories We Tell Ourselves

Frank Tingle has seven uncles and every one but one died with his shoes on, and that one had one shoe on and died trying to pull on the other one.
-James Agee, Cotton Tenants

Besides, he wasn’t wrong about whatever the hell he meant.
-Sam Lipsyte, The Fun Parts

Ned joined her under the blankets, saying, “I have come here directly from the tent pole factory.”
-Norman Rush, Subtle Bodies

Barbie lifted Ken’s head, and lowered it—teasingly slow—onto her own neckball.
-Nelly Reifler, Elect H. Mouse State Judge

Hell is other people fucking.
-David Gilbert, & Sons

This post-college world felt different from everything that had come before it; art was still central, but now everyone had to think about making a living too, and they did so with a kind of scorn for money except as it allowed them to live the way they wanted to live.
-Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings

I will be a commodity, and I will be in demand and valuable.
-Marie Calloway, what purpose did i serve in your life

NEVER FULFILL
NEVER DELIVER
-Richard Foreman, The Manifestos and Essays

The good news was that no matter how hard the City tried, or the owners in the City tried, it could not make absolutely everything about profit and need. People’s lives would always seep out toward freedom, trashy or hilarious or messy or sexy or whatever—toward things that lie beyond profit and loss and order and economy.
-Choire Sicha, Very Recent History

The rape joke is that come on, you should have seen it coming. This rape joke is practically writing itself.
-Patricia Lockwood, “Rape Joke

No doubt there’s something schizophrenic or even psychotic about an art form that pairs despair with upbeat tunes, but that’s the nature of punk. What is life, really, except a contest to leave the coolest suicide note?
-Aaron Cometbus, Radon

She was an interloper, coming late, and with an expectation of slavish gratitude and devotion for the favor she was bestowing.
-Jonathan Franzen, on Oprah Winfrey, quoted in Boris Kachka’s Hothouse

Sometimes you just have to launch yourself out into the river of an evening.
-Questlove, Mo’ Meta Blues

Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.
-Nicola Griffith, Hild

Looking in the mirror is always disappointing — it’s strange that something can be always disappointing; you’d imagine that eventually you’d adjust your expectations downward to the point where they’re congruent with reality — but today it’s even more disappointing than usual.
-Gabriel Roth, The Unknowns

That being said, I still very much enjoyed all your stuff about assholes falling in and out of love or whatever.
-letter writer on the Letters page of Adrian Tomine’s comic Optic Nerve #13

In a show of defiance, I wet my pants.
-Jack Handey, The Stench of Honolulu

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Dan Kois is Slate's culture editor and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.

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