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39

Interest and Truth

1
terms
13
notes

Gardner, J. (1991). Interest and Truth. In Gardner, J. The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers. Vintage, pp. 39-81

41

[...] However dazzling and vivid the characters, however startling the action, no piece of fiction can be of lasting interest if its thought is confused, simple-minded, or plain wrong. On the other hand, reading fiction or poetry without regard for the delight it can give—its immediate interest—can mutilate the experience of reading. It is not incidental that Shakespeare’s plays present fascinating characters engaged in suspenseful actions. To write fiction without regard for immediate interest, purposely choosing the most colorless characters possible, a plot calculated to drive away the poor slob interested in seeing something happen, and suppressing all textural richness and variety—to write, that is, as if fiction were much too serious to be enjoyed—is to raise suspicion that the writer is as insensitive to art’s true nature, and its value to humanity, as a stone in a farmer’s field.

reminds me of that richard seymour essay

—p.41 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

[...] However dazzling and vivid the characters, however startling the action, no piece of fiction can be of lasting interest if its thought is confused, simple-minded, or plain wrong. On the other hand, reading fiction or poetry without regard for the delight it can give—its immediate interest—can mutilate the experience of reading. It is not incidental that Shakespeare’s plays present fascinating characters engaged in suspenseful actions. To write fiction without regard for immediate interest, purposely choosing the most colorless characters possible, a plot calculated to drive away the poor slob interested in seeing something happen, and suppressing all textural richness and variety—to write, that is, as if fiction were much too serious to be enjoyed—is to raise suspicion that the writer is as insensitive to art’s true nature, and its value to humanity, as a stone in a farmer’s field.

reminds me of that richard seymour essay

—p.41 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago
43

If it is true that no two writers get aesthetic interest from exactly the same materials, yet true that all writers, given adequate technique, can stir our interest in their special subject matter—since all human beings have the same root experience (we’re born, we suffer, we die, to put it grimly), so that all we need for our sympathy to be roused is that the writer communicate with power and conviction the similarities in his characters’ experience and our own—then it must follow that the first business of the writer must be to make us see and feel vividly what his characters see and feel. However odd, however wildly unfamiliar the fictional world—odd as hog-farming to a fourth-generation Parisian designer, or Wall Street to an unemployed tuba player—we must be drawn into the characters’ world as if we were born to it.

—p.43 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

If it is true that no two writers get aesthetic interest from exactly the same materials, yet true that all writers, given adequate technique, can stir our interest in their special subject matter—since all human beings have the same root experience (we’re born, we suffer, we die, to put it grimly), so that all we need for our sympathy to be roused is that the writer communicate with power and conviction the similarities in his characters’ experience and our own—then it must follow that the first business of the writer must be to make us see and feel vividly what his characters see and feel. However odd, however wildly unfamiliar the fictional world—odd as hog-farming to a fourth-generation Parisian designer, or Wall Street to an unemployed tuba player—we must be drawn into the characters’ world as if we were born to it.

—p.43 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago
46

Thus it appears that to make us see and feel vividly what his characters see and feel—to draw us into the characters’ world as if we were born to it—the writer must do more than simply make up characters and then somehow explain and authenticate them (giving them the right kinds of motorcycles and beards, exactly the right memories and jargon). He must shape simultaneously (in an expanding creative moment) his characters, plot, and setting, each inextricably connected to the others; he must make his whole world in a single, coherent gesture, as a potter makes a pot; or, as Coleridge puts it, he must copy, with his finite mind, the process of the infinite “I AM.”

—p.46 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

Thus it appears that to make us see and feel vividly what his characters see and feel—to draw us into the characters’ world as if we were born to it—the writer must do more than simply make up characters and then somehow explain and authenticate them (giving them the right kinds of motorcycles and beards, exactly the right memories and jargon). He must shape simultaneously (in an expanding creative moment) his characters, plot, and setting, each inextricably connected to the others; he must make his whole world in a single, coherent gesture, as a potter makes a pot; or, as Coleridge puts it, he must copy, with his finite mind, the process of the infinite “I AM.”

—p.46 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago
49

[...] If the assembly of made-up materials in a fiction creates a portrait of the artist, the importance of the portrait is not that it tells us what the artist looks like but that it provides us with a focus, an aperture, a medium (as in a séance) for seeing things beyond and more important than the artist. In the artist’s recreation of the world we are enabled to see the world. Granted, no two artists reveal to us exactly the same world, just as no two windows do; and granted, moreover, since artists are human and therefore limited, some dedicated and serious artists may be windows smudged by dirt, others may distort like blistered and warped panes, still others may be stained glass. But the world they frame is the world that is really out there (or in here: Insofar as human nature is everywhere the same, it makes no difference). A powerful part of our interest as we read great literature is our sense that we’re “onto something.” And part of our boredom when we read books in which the vision of life seems paltry-minded is our sense that we are not.

—p.49 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

[...] If the assembly of made-up materials in a fiction creates a portrait of the artist, the importance of the portrait is not that it tells us what the artist looks like but that it provides us with a focus, an aperture, a medium (as in a séance) for seeing things beyond and more important than the artist. In the artist’s recreation of the world we are enabled to see the world. Granted, no two artists reveal to us exactly the same world, just as no two windows do; and granted, moreover, since artists are human and therefore limited, some dedicated and serious artists may be windows smudged by dirt, others may distort like blistered and warped panes, still others may be stained glass. But the world they frame is the world that is really out there (or in here: Insofar as human nature is everywhere the same, it makes no difference). A powerful part of our interest as we read great literature is our sense that we’re “onto something.” And part of our boredom when we read books in which the vision of life seems paltry-minded is our sense that we are not.

—p.49 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago
50

Two central tenets, for the traditional point of view, are, first, the Coleridgian notion that true literary art is “the repetition in the finite mind of the infinite ‘I AM’”—the idea, that is, that, like God opening his fist, the writer creates everything at once, his characters, their actions, and their world, each element dependent on the others—and, second, the concomitant notion that an important part of what interests us in good fiction is our sense, as we read, that the writer’s imitation of reality’s process (“the ineluctable modality of the visible,” as Stephen Dedalus puts it) is accurate; that is, our feeling that the work, even if it contains fabulous elements, is in some deep way “true to life.” The obvious question is: How can the writer possibly do so much at once?

—p.50 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

Two central tenets, for the traditional point of view, are, first, the Coleridgian notion that true literary art is “the repetition in the finite mind of the infinite ‘I AM’”—the idea, that is, that, like God opening his fist, the writer creates everything at once, his characters, their actions, and their world, each element dependent on the others—and, second, the concomitant notion that an important part of what interests us in good fiction is our sense, as we read, that the writer’s imitation of reality’s process (“the ineluctable modality of the visible,” as Stephen Dedalus puts it) is accurate; that is, our feeling that the work, even if it contains fabulous elements, is in some deep way “true to life.” The obvious question is: How can the writer possibly do so much at once?

—p.50 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

(noun) : a copious or smooth flowing

53

By definition—and of aesthetic necessity—a story contains profluence, a requirement best satisfied by a sequence of causally related event

—p.53 by John Gardner
strange
5 months, 1 week ago

By definition—and of aesthetic necessity—a story contains profluence, a requirement best satisfied by a sequence of causally related event

—p.53 by John Gardner
strange
5 months, 1 week ago
55

A basic characteristic of all good art, then—all man-made works that are aesthetically interesting and lasting—is a concord of ends and means, or form and function. The sine qua non of narrative, so far as form is concerned, is that it takes time. We cannot read a whole novel in an instant, so to be coherent, to work as a unified experience necessarily and not just accidentally temporal, narrative must show some profluence of development. What the logical progress of an argument is to nonfiction, event-sequence is to fiction. Page 1, even if it’s a page of description, raises questions, suspicions, and expectations; the mind casts forward to later pages, wondering what will come about and how. It is this casting forward that draws us from paragraph to paragraph and chapter to chapter. At least in conventional fiction, the moment we stop caring where the story will go next, the writer has failed, and we stop reading. The shorter the fiction, needless to say, the less the need for plot profluence. A story of three or four pages may still interest though it has practically no movement. And of course not all fiction need move at the same pace. Runners of the hundred-yard dash do not take off in the same way runners of the marathon do. If the opening pages of a thousand-page novel would serve equally well as the opening pages of a short story, the likelihood is that the novel-opening is wrong. (This is not quite a firm rule, admittedly. A long novel may begin with great urgency, then gradually settle into its long-distance stride. But the writer’s timing in his opening pages is a signal to his reader’s expectations.)

—p.55 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

A basic characteristic of all good art, then—all man-made works that are aesthetically interesting and lasting—is a concord of ends and means, or form and function. The sine qua non of narrative, so far as form is concerned, is that it takes time. We cannot read a whole novel in an instant, so to be coherent, to work as a unified experience necessarily and not just accidentally temporal, narrative must show some profluence of development. What the logical progress of an argument is to nonfiction, event-sequence is to fiction. Page 1, even if it’s a page of description, raises questions, suspicions, and expectations; the mind casts forward to later pages, wondering what will come about and how. It is this casting forward that draws us from paragraph to paragraph and chapter to chapter. At least in conventional fiction, the moment we stop caring where the story will go next, the writer has failed, and we stop reading. The shorter the fiction, needless to say, the less the need for plot profluence. A story of three or four pages may still interest though it has practically no movement. And of course not all fiction need move at the same pace. Runners of the hundred-yard dash do not take off in the same way runners of the marathon do. If the opening pages of a thousand-page novel would serve equally well as the opening pages of a short story, the likelihood is that the novel-opening is wrong. (This is not quite a firm rule, admittedly. A long novel may begin with great urgency, then gradually settle into its long-distance stride. But the writer’s timing in his opening pages is a signal to his reader’s expectations.)

—p.55 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago
58

[...] For instance: If we are (a) fully to understand Helen’s surprise at the arrival of her relatives (if the event is in this primary sense to have meaning; never mind the larger philosophical implications), and if we’re (b) to be convinced that her relatives really did come in such astounding numbers, the writer must somehow find a way to show us clearly (1) what these strange people the Achaians are like that they’d react in such a way, (2) what the Trojans are like, and especially Paris, that he should make such a blunder, and (3) why Helen did not anticipate her kinsmen’s response. All this, if the story is to be vivid and suspenseful, the writer must find a way to show us dramatically, by enacted scenes, not authorial essays or lengthy set speeches by the characters. If the story is to be efficient and elegant (in the sense that mathematical proofs are elegant), the writer must introduce no more background events or major characters than strictly necessary (and, obviously, no less), and must introduce these materials in the smallest possible number of scenes, each scene rhythmically proportionate to those surrounding, so that the pace is regular or, if appropriate, in regular acceleration. In other words, if it is possible to show in a single scene—clearly and powerfully—both what the Achaians are like and why Helen will not anticipate their response to her flight with Paris, the efficient and elegant writer does not use two or three scenes. [...]

—p.58 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

[...] For instance: If we are (a) fully to understand Helen’s surprise at the arrival of her relatives (if the event is in this primary sense to have meaning; never mind the larger philosophical implications), and if we’re (b) to be convinced that her relatives really did come in such astounding numbers, the writer must somehow find a way to show us clearly (1) what these strange people the Achaians are like that they’d react in such a way, (2) what the Trojans are like, and especially Paris, that he should make such a blunder, and (3) why Helen did not anticipate her kinsmen’s response. All this, if the story is to be vivid and suspenseful, the writer must find a way to show us dramatically, by enacted scenes, not authorial essays or lengthy set speeches by the characters. If the story is to be efficient and elegant (in the sense that mathematical proofs are elegant), the writer must introduce no more background events or major characters than strictly necessary (and, obviously, no less), and must introduce these materials in the smallest possible number of scenes, each scene rhythmically proportionate to those surrounding, so that the pace is regular or, if appropriate, in regular acceleration. In other words, if it is possible to show in a single scene—clearly and powerfully—both what the Achaians are like and why Helen will not anticipate their response to her flight with Paris, the efficient and elegant writer does not use two or three scenes. [...]

—p.58 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago
61

[...] But of the thirty plots he can think up in an hour, only one—if even that—will catch and hold his interest, make him want to write. How odd, a different writer might say, that of all the stories one might tell about Helen, this writer has chosen a trivial, psychological climax, Helen’s surprise! What the writer’s interest means is that the climactic event has struck some chord in him, one that seems worth exploration. It’s by the whole process of first planning the fiction and then writing it—elaborating characters and details of setting, finding the style that seems appropriate to the feeling, discovering unanticipated requirements of the plot—that the writer finds out and communicates the story’s significance, intuited at the start. He knows that his first job is to authenticate what I earlier called the story’s primary meaning: Helen’s surprise. The surprise is a feeling, one that strikes us as conclusive, an implied discovery. But, like all conclusive feelings, Helen’s surprise suggests some larger, secondary meaning, not just one person’s feeling but a universal human feeling, some affirmation or recognition of a value. It is usually in this larger, secondary sense that we speak of the “meaning” of works of art.

—p.61 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

[...] But of the thirty plots he can think up in an hour, only one—if even that—will catch and hold his interest, make him want to write. How odd, a different writer might say, that of all the stories one might tell about Helen, this writer has chosen a trivial, psychological climax, Helen’s surprise! What the writer’s interest means is that the climactic event has struck some chord in him, one that seems worth exploration. It’s by the whole process of first planning the fiction and then writing it—elaborating characters and details of setting, finding the style that seems appropriate to the feeling, discovering unanticipated requirements of the plot—that the writer finds out and communicates the story’s significance, intuited at the start. He knows that his first job is to authenticate what I earlier called the story’s primary meaning: Helen’s surprise. The surprise is a feeling, one that strikes us as conclusive, an implied discovery. But, like all conclusive feelings, Helen’s surprise suggests some larger, secondary meaning, not just one person’s feeling but a universal human feeling, some affirmation or recognition of a value. It is usually in this larger, secondary sense that we speak of the “meaning” of works of art.

—p.61 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago
65

Since Helen, in this story, is the central character, her nature and motivation will be of special importance to the convincingness of the lie. One possible choice, it might seem at first glance, is to make her an innocent victim. Sheltered and coddled, brought up among women, married in her girlhood to mighty Menelaos, she has no real knowledge of her hard-working, hard-fighting kinsmen, their fanatical loyalty to one another, and their puritanical code. Though all these qualities might prove useful to the writer, the decision to make her a victim will be disastrous. No fiction can have real interest if the central character is not an agent struggling for his or her own goals but a victim, subject to the will of others. (Failure to recognize that the central character must act, not simply be acted upon, is the single most common mistake in the fiction of beginners.) We care how things turn out because the character cares—our interest comes from empathy—and though we may know more than the character knows, anticipating dangers the character cannot see, we understand and to some degree sympathize with the character’s desire, approving what the character approves (what the character values), even if we sense that the character’s ideal is impractical or insufficient. Thus though we can see at a glance that Captain Ahab is a madman, we affirm his furious hunger to know the truth, so much so that we find ourselves caught up, like the crew of the Pequod, in his lunatic quest. And thus though we know in our bones that the theory of Raskolnikov is wrong, we share his sense of outrage at the injustice of things and become accessories in his murder of the cynical and cruel old pawnbrokeress. If we’re bored by the debauched focal characters of the Marquis de Sade, on the other hand, the reason is that we find their values and goals repugnant, their world view too stupid (threatening?) to hold our interest.

—p.65 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

Since Helen, in this story, is the central character, her nature and motivation will be of special importance to the convincingness of the lie. One possible choice, it might seem at first glance, is to make her an innocent victim. Sheltered and coddled, brought up among women, married in her girlhood to mighty Menelaos, she has no real knowledge of her hard-working, hard-fighting kinsmen, their fanatical loyalty to one another, and their puritanical code. Though all these qualities might prove useful to the writer, the decision to make her a victim will be disastrous. No fiction can have real interest if the central character is not an agent struggling for his or her own goals but a victim, subject to the will of others. (Failure to recognize that the central character must act, not simply be acted upon, is the single most common mistake in the fiction of beginners.) We care how things turn out because the character cares—our interest comes from empathy—and though we may know more than the character knows, anticipating dangers the character cannot see, we understand and to some degree sympathize with the character’s desire, approving what the character approves (what the character values), even if we sense that the character’s ideal is impractical or insufficient. Thus though we can see at a glance that Captain Ahab is a madman, we affirm his furious hunger to know the truth, so much so that we find ourselves caught up, like the crew of the Pequod, in his lunatic quest. And thus though we know in our bones that the theory of Raskolnikov is wrong, we share his sense of outrage at the injustice of things and become accessories in his murder of the cynical and cruel old pawnbrokeress. If we’re bored by the debauched focal characters of the Marquis de Sade, on the other hand, the reason is that we find their values and goals repugnant, their world view too stupid (threatening?) to hold our interest.

—p.65 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago
75

[...] Helen’s ultimate failure, tonally conflicting with all that went before, might give, however subtly, an angry, revolutionary tone to the conclusion. The reader’s indignation at the unhappy ending might be made to release the meaning—or, in this case, implied message—that women, however they may struggle and whatever their brilliance, are always beaten in the end by male chauvinism, a condition that ought not to prevail. If all this were done in too obvious a fashion, the story would of course be boring; but for the writer with sufficient lightness of touch and a gift for authentic humor, the yarn hybrid might have a good deal of subtlety and interest, every detail serving its feminist theme, the relative power of men and women.

—p.75 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

[...] Helen’s ultimate failure, tonally conflicting with all that went before, might give, however subtly, an angry, revolutionary tone to the conclusion. The reader’s indignation at the unhappy ending might be made to release the meaning—or, in this case, implied message—that women, however they may struggle and whatever their brilliance, are always beaten in the end by male chauvinism, a condition that ought not to prevail. If all this were done in too obvious a fashion, the story would of course be boring; but for the writer with sufficient lightness of touch and a gift for authentic humor, the yarn hybrid might have a good deal of subtlety and interest, every detail serving its feminist theme, the relative power of men and women.

—p.75 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago
77

Both for the writer and for the careful reader after him, everything that happens in a well-constructed story, from major events to the most trifling turn of phrase, is a matter of aesthetic interest. Since the writer has chosen every element with care, and has revised and repeatedly re-revised in an attempt to reach something like aesthetic perfection, every element we encounter is worth savoring. Every character is sufficiently vivid and interesting for his function; every scene is just long enough, just rich enough; every metaphor is polished; no symbol stands out crudely from its matrix of events, yet no resonance goes completely unheard, too slyly muffled by the literal. Though we read the work again and again and again, we can never seem to get to the bottom of it.

Naturally such subtlety—a story containing such a treasury of pleasures—is achieved at some cost. To work so beautifully, it cannot work as quickly or simply as does a comic book. (The greater the subtlety, the greater the sacrifice.) It is for this reason that the reader who loves great fiction is willing to put up with an opening as slow as that of Mann’s “Death in Venice,” an opening that might seem tedious to those who read nothing but Howard the Duck. This clearly does not mean that the serious writer should make a point of being tiresome and intellectual to drive away dolts. If he respects the reader, if he honestly considers what he himself would like to read, the writer will choose the most immediately and powerfully interesting characters and events he can think of. He will go for, as they say, dramaturgy. No two writers, as we’ve recognized, will think of quite the same characters and events when they look for what appeals to them. Some writers enjoy stories of the end of the world; some prefer fascinating tea parties. But if the writer writes only of what honestly interests him, and if he thinks of his work not simply as thoughtful exploration, as it should be, but also as entertainment, he cannot fail to have, at least for some group of serious, devoted readers, both immediate and lasting interest.

—p.77 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

Both for the writer and for the careful reader after him, everything that happens in a well-constructed story, from major events to the most trifling turn of phrase, is a matter of aesthetic interest. Since the writer has chosen every element with care, and has revised and repeatedly re-revised in an attempt to reach something like aesthetic perfection, every element we encounter is worth savoring. Every character is sufficiently vivid and interesting for his function; every scene is just long enough, just rich enough; every metaphor is polished; no symbol stands out crudely from its matrix of events, yet no resonance goes completely unheard, too slyly muffled by the literal. Though we read the work again and again and again, we can never seem to get to the bottom of it.

Naturally such subtlety—a story containing such a treasury of pleasures—is achieved at some cost. To work so beautifully, it cannot work as quickly or simply as does a comic book. (The greater the subtlety, the greater the sacrifice.) It is for this reason that the reader who loves great fiction is willing to put up with an opening as slow as that of Mann’s “Death in Venice,” an opening that might seem tedious to those who read nothing but Howard the Duck. This clearly does not mean that the serious writer should make a point of being tiresome and intellectual to drive away dolts. If he respects the reader, if he honestly considers what he himself would like to read, the writer will choose the most immediately and powerfully interesting characters and events he can think of. He will go for, as they say, dramaturgy. No two writers, as we’ve recognized, will think of quite the same characters and events when they look for what appeals to them. Some writers enjoy stories of the end of the world; some prefer fascinating tea parties. But if the writer writes only of what honestly interests him, and if he thinks of his work not simply as thoughtful exploration, as it should be, but also as entertainment, he cannot fail to have, at least for some group of serious, devoted readers, both immediate and lasting interest.

—p.77 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago
79

Fiction seeks out truth. Granted, it seeks a poetic kind of truth, universals not easily translatable into moral codes. But part of our interest as we read is in learning how the world works; how the conflicts we share with the writer and all other human beings can be resolved, if at all; what values we can affirm and, in general, what the moral risks are. The writer who can’t distinguish truth from a peanut-butter sandwich can never write good fiction. What he affirms we deny, throwing away his book in indignation; or if he affirms nothing, not even our oneness in sad or comic helplessness, and insists that he’s perfectly right to do so, we confute him by closing his book. Some bad men write good books, admittedly, but the reason is that when they’re writing they’re better men than when they beat their wives and children. When he writes, the man of impetuous bad character has time to reconsider. The fictional process helps him say what he might not have said that same night in the tavern. Good men, on the other hand, need not necessarily write good books. Good-heartedness and sincerity are no substitute for rigorous pursuit of the fictional process.

—p.79 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

Fiction seeks out truth. Granted, it seeks a poetic kind of truth, universals not easily translatable into moral codes. But part of our interest as we read is in learning how the world works; how the conflicts we share with the writer and all other human beings can be resolved, if at all; what values we can affirm and, in general, what the moral risks are. The writer who can’t distinguish truth from a peanut-butter sandwich can never write good fiction. What he affirms we deny, throwing away his book in indignation; or if he affirms nothing, not even our oneness in sad or comic helplessness, and insists that he’s perfectly right to do so, we confute him by closing his book. Some bad men write good books, admittedly, but the reason is that when they’re writing they’re better men than when they beat their wives and children. When he writes, the man of impetuous bad character has time to reconsider. The fictional process helps him say what he might not have said that same night in the tavern. Good men, on the other hand, need not necessarily write good books. Good-heartedness and sincerity are no substitute for rigorous pursuit of the fictional process.

—p.79 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago
80

[...] because the fictional process selects those fit for it, and because a requirement of that process is strong empathetic emotion, it turns out that the true writer’s fundamental concern—his reason for finding a subject interesting in the first place—is likely to be humane. He sees injustice or misunderstanding in the world around him, and he cannot keep it out of his story. It may be true that he writes principally for the love of writing, and that in the heat of creation he cares as much about the convincing description of Helen’s face as he does about the verities her story brings to focus, but the true literary artist is a far cry from those who create “toy fiction,” good or bad—TV entertainments to take the pensioner’s mind off his dismal existence, self-regarding aesthetic jokes, posh super-realism, where emotion is ruled out and idea is thought vulgar, or nostalgia fiction, or pornography. The true writer’s joy in the fictional process is his pleasure in discovering, by means he can trust, what he believes and can affirm for all time. [...]

—p.80 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago

[...] because the fictional process selects those fit for it, and because a requirement of that process is strong empathetic emotion, it turns out that the true writer’s fundamental concern—his reason for finding a subject interesting in the first place—is likely to be humane. He sees injustice or misunderstanding in the world around him, and he cannot keep it out of his story. It may be true that he writes principally for the love of writing, and that in the heat of creation he cares as much about the convincing description of Helen’s face as he does about the verities her story brings to focus, but the true literary artist is a far cry from those who create “toy fiction,” good or bad—TV entertainments to take the pensioner’s mind off his dismal existence, self-regarding aesthetic jokes, posh super-realism, where emotion is ruled out and idea is thought vulgar, or nostalgia fiction, or pornography. The true writer’s joy in the fictional process is his pleasure in discovering, by means he can trust, what he believes and can affirm for all time. [...]

—p.80 by John Gardner 5 months, 1 week ago