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Jan Morris

  • To me gender is not physical at all, but is altogether insubstantial. It is soul, perhaps, it is talent, it is taste, it is environment, it is how one feels, it is light and shade, it is inner music ... It is the essentialness of oneself ...

  • I was born with the wrong body, being feminine by gender but male by sex, and I could achieve completeness only when the one was adjusted to the other.

  • I had reached the conclusion myself that sex was not a division but a continuum, that almost nobody was altogether of one sex or another, and that the infinite subtlety of the shading from one extreme to the other was one of the most beautiful of nature's phenomena.

  • ... I believe the transsexual urge, at least as I have experienced it, to be far more than a social compulsion, but biological, imaginative, and essentially spiritual, too.

  • As to sex, the original pleasure, I cannot recommend too highly the advantages of androgyny.

  • Vermonters, it seems to me, are like ethnics in their own land. They are exceedingly conscious of their difference from other Americans, and they talk a great deal about outsiders, newcomers, and people from the south.

    • Jan Morris,
    • "Justin Morgan and the Enjoyment Industry," Locations ()
  • Vermonters are not only charmless of manner, on the whole; they are also, as far as I can judge, utterly without pretence, and give the salutary impression that they don't care ten cents whether you are amused, affronted, intrigued, or bored stiff by them. Hardly anybody asked me how I liked Vermont. Not a soul said 'Have a nice day!'

    • Jan Morris,
    • "Justin Morgan and the Enjoyment Industry," Locations ()
  • ... Australia is a country not so much of fulfillment as of theatrical expectation.

    • Jan Morris,
    • "Nothing If Not Australian," Locations ()
  • Chicago's downtown seems to me to constitute, all in all, the best-looking twentieth-century city, the city where contemporary technique has best been matched by artistry, intelligence, and comparatively moderated greed. No doubt about it, if style were the one gauge, Chicago would be among the greatest of all the cities of the world.

    • Jan Morris,
    • "Boss No More," Locations ()
  • Buildings are seldom just buildings in downtown Chicago, they are Examples, and not a city on Earth, I swear, is as knowledgeably preoccupied with architectural meaning. Where else would a department store include in its advertisements the name of the architect who created it, or a newspaper property section throw in a scholarly exposition of theoretical design?

    • Jan Morris,
    • "Boss No More," Locations ()
  • Was there ever a name more full of purpose than Chicago's? ... spoken as Chicagoans themselves speak it, with a bit of a spit to give heft to its slither, it is gloriously onomatopoetic.

    • Jan Morris,
    • "Boss No More," Locations ()
  • ... the personality of St. John's, Newfoundland, hits you like a smack in the face with a dried cod, enthusiastically administered by its citizenry.

    • Jan Morris,
    • "Thwack!" Locations ()
  • ... if there is one place in the United States where private styles make up for public images, it is San Francisco, where all lapsed lovers of America, even loyalists like me experiencing spasms of disillusionment, should be taken for refresher courses. The tides of all-American conformity beat vainly against the San Franciscan rock.

    • Jan Morris,
    • "Refresher Course," Locations ()
  • Basque is one of the world's more alarming languages. Only a handful of adult foreigners, they say, have ever managed to learn it. The Devil tried once and mastered only three words — profanities, I assume.

    • Jan Morris,
    • "A Separate People" (1968), Among the Cities ()
  • ... Dublin ... is not only the capital of a nation, but the capital of an idea. The idea of Irishness is not universally beloved. Some people mock it, some hate it, some fear it. On the whole, though, I think it fair to say, the world interprets it chiefly as a particular kind of happiness, a happiness sometimes boozy and violent, but essentially innocent: and this ineradicable spirit of merriment informs the Dublin genius to this day ...

    • Jan Morris,
    • "Do You Think Should He Have Gone Over?" (1974), Among the Cities ()
  • Kashmir has always been more than a mere place. It has the quality of an experience, or a state of mind, or perhaps an ideal.

    • Jan Morris,
    • "A Fourth Dimension" (1970), Among the Cities ()
  • ... Leningrad ... is a city with the gift of timelessness.

    • Jan Morris,
    • "The Winter Queen" (1957), Among the Cities ()
  • ... like most people New Yorkers like to be thought a bit crazy. ... I know a business corporation in Manhattan — I dare not mention its name — which seems to me to be run entirely, top to bottom, by people off their balance. The minute I enter its offices, an uneasy suggestion of collective haywire assails me. Concealed and unapproachable behind his monumental mahogany doors sits the president of this corporation of nuts, mad as a hatter himself, and in hierarchy of psychosis his subordinates hiss and fiddle their days away below. Sometimes a whole department is fired: sometimes a surprised and hitherto unnoticed employee is plucked from obscurity and made the head of a division for a month or two; sometimes the company, which deals (let us say) in commodity shares, suddenly invests a few million dollars in a Chattanooga umbrella factory, or a grocery chain in Nicaragua.

    • Jan Morris,
    • "The Islanders" (1979), Among the Cities ()
  • I've become obsessed with the idea of reconciliation, particularly reconciliation with nature but with people too, of course. I think that travel has been a kind of search for that, a pursuit for unity and even an attempt to contribute to a sense of unity.

    • Jan Morris,
    • in Philip Gourevitch, ed., The Paris Review Interviews, III ()

Jan Morris, Welsh writer, traveler, historian, journalist


Born: James Humphry Morris.