We take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.
When something does not insist on being noticed, when we aren't grabbed by the collar or struck on the skull by a presence or an event, we take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.
The engineering is secondary to the vision.
Dedication to one's work in the world is the only possible sanctifica-tion. Religion in all its forms is dedication to Someone Else's work, not yours.
Real apprenticeship is ultimately always to the self.
Brilliant students make good aides.
Whoever utters 'Kafkaesque' has neither fathomed nor intuited nor felt the impress of Kafka's devisings. If there is one imperative that ought to accompany any biographical or critical approach, it is that Kafka is not to be mistaken for the Kafkaesque.
To be a Jew is an act of the strenuous mind as it stands before the fakeries and lying seductions of the world, saying no and no again as they parade by in all their allure. And to be a writer is to plunge into the parade and become one of the delirious marchers.
My first encounter with James was when I was seventeen. My brother brought home from the public library a science fiction anthology, which included 'The Beast in the Jungle.' It swept me away. I had a strange, somewhat uncanny feeling that it was the story of my life.
In 1952, I had gone to England on a literary pilgrimage, but what I also saw, even at that distance from the blitz, were bombed-out ruins and an enervated society, while the continent was still, psychologically, in the grip of its recent atrocities.
I think about fanaticism - oblivion awaits, especially for minor writers, so you have to be a fanatic; you have to be a crank to keep going, but on the other hand, what else would you do with the rest of your life? You gotta do something.
I think a fictional invention grows according to its own development, not the author's. Characters in fiction are not simply as alive as you and me, they are more alive. Becky Sharp, Elizabeth Bennett, and Don Quixote may not outlive the burning out of the sun, but they will certainly outlive the brief candle of our lives.
Novelists go about the strenuous business of marrying and burying their people, or else they send them to sea, or to Africa, or at the least, out of town. Essayists in their stillness ponder love and death.
Early in the 1990s, I flew alone in a dandelion-yellow, single-engine, 180-horsepower Piper Cherokee from Westchester County Airport in New York westward to the Rocky Mountains, landing and refuelling a good many times in middle-sized cities and towns along the way.
The novel at its nineteenth-century pinnacle was a Judaized novel: George Eliot and Dickens and Tolstoy were all touched by the Jewish covenant: they wrote of conduct and of the consequences of conduct: they were concerned with a society of will and commandment.
No one can teach writing, but classes may stimulate the urge to write. If you are born a writer, you will inevitably and helplessly write. A born writer has self-knowledge. Read, read, read. And if you are a fiction writer, don't confine yourself to reading fiction. Every writer is first a wide reader.
Among contemporaries, I hugely admire Alice Munro, our Chekhov, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and John Updike, American masters all. I also believe that the voice of Gordon Lish is astoundingly original and sorrowful.
If I've ever regretted anything, it was putting all my eggs in one basket, holing up and kneeling at the altar of literature, instead of going out and at least reviewing, running around and trying to write for magazines. That would've been the intelligent thing to do, but I didn't, and that was because of fanaticism.
I think that fanaticism is terrific. As long as you don't have to live with it. Oh, yes, nobody should marry a writer.
There was a period... when I used to say, with as much ferocity as I could muster, 'I hate Henry James, and I wish he was dead.' Influence is perdition.