"But what is unique in Mrs. Hawkin's classroom is not what she does but who she is. Warmth and humor and contagious energy cannot be replicated and cannot be written into any standardized curriculum. If they could, it would have happened long ago; for wonderful teachers have been heroized in books and movies for at least three decades."
"As for me, I have never been to Russia. I have not had the chance to learn to love it and hate it the way my parents have. I have my own dying empire to contend with, and I do not wish for any other."
"The elephant is aware of his eventual extinction and he is hurt by it, reduced by it, made to feel his solitary nature, he who will eventually trample his way through bush and scrub to lie down and die where his mother once trembled at her haunches to give him life Mother, aloneness, entrapment, extinction. The elephant is essentially an Ashkenazi animal, but a wholly rational one—it too wants to live forever."
"Before I can stop myself, I loudly say, Let's start a contest for who hasn't read the most important book. I raise my hand like a testifying evangelist to shout, I haven't read Spencer's "Faerie Queene." Who hasn't read a greater book?"