On The Use Of Quotes
Don't get me wrong, I know that they are fun to gather and read. But I am intimidated when an essayist, or someone who writes a book on a subject, peppers it with lots of interesting quotes from other authors.
I used to think, "Wow, this guy is SO well-read! Organized, too! He must do his reading with a box of 3x5 cards by his side! How can he get through so many books when he stops every six pages or so, copies the quote, and files it under the appropriate heading?"
Then somebody gave me a gift: Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. I thought, "Oh. THAT's how he does it." But I was disappointed. Isn't that like cheating, or something?
And that's why I rarely use the book, because I always felt like it would be dishonest.
I ran into a discussion on a blog one time recently where they were talking about Intelligent Design, and some critics were vehemently attacking some of the ID proponents, in reference to the way they quoted scientists. "It's quote mining!" one of them fumed. Hmm. "Quote mining"--I guess that's a bad thing.
It got me thinking: Suppose I find a great quote from, say, Marshall McLuhan, in somebody else's book. I believe it to be presented in the proper context, and it serves my purpose, so I quote it. If I don't attribute the source I found it in "(Quoted in Flanigan & Holladay, Developing Style: An Extension of Personality)," do I dishonestly convey the impression that I have read the McLuhan book in which it appeared?
In short, does the presence of quotes in a book say, "I read these books by these guys, and they said these things that support my thesis"? Or does it simply say, "I found some great quotes by different guys that support my thesis"?
What do you think?