Creatively Speaking: David Pratt


Here at the _floss, we love to blog about the Nobel Prize. From Mangesh's 7 Geniuses and 1 Entire Science That Never Won the Nobel, to Jason's 15 Award-Winning Facts About The Nobel Prize and many others. The tradition continues today with a very special guest, David Pratt, who's recently put out a book called The Impossible Takes Longer: The 1,000 Wisest Things Ever Said by Nobel Prize Laureates, a stunning collection of witty and wise quotes, most of which have never been anthologized previously. Check out my interview with him below and be sure to tune back in tomorrow for you chance to win a FREE copy of this awesome collection.

DI: How long have you been collecting quotations?

DP: I've been collecting quotes almost as long as I remember. Other kids collected stamps—I collected quotations.

DI: When did you decide they should be published in a book and what was the publishing process like for you?

DP: I started collecting quotations by Nobel Prize Winners after reading Winston Churchill's saying "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." I submitted the manuscript to some 50 publishers in three countries without success, but eventually found an agent who had faith in the project, and after two years of submissions, she found a publisher.

DI: Of all the Nobel winners, who do you think was the most deserving?

DP: The most deserving was one who never got the Nobel—Mahatma Gandhi. Of those who did receive it, one of the most deserving was certainly Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the democracy movement in Burma, who has maintained her Buddhist belief in non-violence, despite being under house arrest for most of the past 20 years, unable to see her sons while they were growing up or her British husband when he was dying of cancer.

DI: Of all the quotes you've collected, is there one that stands out as your favorite?

DP: I have 1000 favorite quotations selected from more than 6000 that I have collected from over 1600 books by and about Nobel Prize Winners. But I suppose one of my very favorites is by the French writer Anatole France , "I have always preferred the folly of the passions to the wisdom of indifference."

DI: If you could go back in time and meet any of the Nobel winners from history, who would it be?

DP: Probably Richard Feynman, the leading American physicist of the 20th century, because 1) he was an expert on the bongo drums; 2) he could open safes; 3) he liked beautiful women; 4) he hated pomposity; and 5) he had a great sense of humor. I'd also like to meet Carl von Ossietzky, the anti-Nazi, who, after he won the Nobel Peace Prize, was beaten to death by the SS. I'd like to tell him that he was an honor to the German nation.

DI: Do you collect quotes by people who haven't won the Nobel?

DP: Yes, I collect quotations from all sources, and hope some time to publish a collection. One of my favorites is from John Jacob Astor, the millionaire who perished in the sinking of the Titanic. When the ship collided with the iceberg, he said, "I rang for ice, but this is ridiculous."

DI: Are you working on anything new we should be gearing up for?

DP: I write primarily fiction and poetry, but am also currently working on a book of anecdotes about Nobel Prize Winners. For example, Barry Marshall, the Australian who won the Prize for Medicine, to prove his belief that stomach ulcers were caused by the bacterium heliobacter pylori, mixed up a solution of a billion bacteria, and drank it. He got very sick, his wife insisted he terminate the experiment, but he proved his hypothesis.