I grew up to be indifferent to the distinction between literature and science, which in my teens were simply two languages for experience that I learned together.
Change is the principal feature of our age and literature should explore how people deal with it. The best science fiction does that, head-on.
This used to be about sex. The literature of my people was pornography, filled with cries for mercy, drama enacted on people without prolonged negotiation, partners engaged in a dance in the middle of a bonfire. Now, it's 300-page manuals about how to make sure nothing bad will happen.
As I was writing about Grace Marks, and about her interlude in the Asylum, I came to see her in context the context of other people's opinions, both the popular images of madness and the scientific explanations for it available at the time. A lot of what was believed and said on the subject appears like sheer lunacy to us now. But we shouldn't be too arrogant how many of our own theories will look silly when those who follow us have come up with something better? But whatever the scientists may come up with, writers and artists will continue to portray altered mental states, simply because few aspects of our nature fascinate people so much. The so-called mad person will always represent a possible future for every member of the audience who knows when such a malady may strike? When "mad," at least in literature, you aren't yourself; you take on another self, a self that is either not you at all, or a truer, more elemental one than the person you're used to seeing in the mirror. You're in danger of becoming, in Shakespeare's works, a mere picture or beast, and in Susanna Moodie's words, a mere machine; or else you may become an inspired prophet, a truth-sayer, a shaman, one who oversteps the boundaries of the ordinarily visible and audible, and also, and especially, the ordinarily sayable. Portraying this process is deep power for the artist, partly because it's a little too close to the process of artistic creation itself, and partly because the prospect of losing our self and being taken over by another, unfamiliar self is one of our deepest human fears.
The classics of the ancient world are everywhere in the literature of the Revolution, but thet are everywhere illustrative, not determinative, of thought.
I declare, on my soul and conscience, that the attainment of power, or of a great name in literature, seemed to me an easier victory than a success with some young, witty, and gracious lady of high degree.
I define Inner Space as an imaginary realm in which on the one hand the outer world of reality, and on the other the inner world of the mind meet and merge. Now, in the landscapes of the surrealist painters, for example, one sees the regions of Inner Space; and increasingly I believe that we will encounter in film and literature scenes which are neither solely realistic nor fantastic. In a sense, it will be a movement in the interzone between both spheres.
Almost every culture in the Thousand Cultures had some wisdom literature, and much of it was the same between any two cultures. . . . Cultures tend to be alike in much of what they think are the basic virtues, but one of the ones they are most alike in, though it rarely appears in their book of wisdom, is: Distrust strangers, fear foreigners, dread novelty.
Sanity that is the great virtue of the ancient literature; the want of that is the great defect of the modern, in spite of its variety and power.
For the creation of a masterwork of literature two powers must concur, the power of the man and the power of the moment, and the man is not enough without the moment.
In the contemplation of nudes, we congratulate ourselves upon the beauty of which human beings are capable. They reassure us about ourselves, about Being. We are a little lower than the angels, true, but notice that we can get along without that suspect radiance, equal parts paint and literature, on which the angels lean so heavily. The human body is, or can be, a sufficiency.
When an Englishman has professed his belief in the supremacy of Shakespeare amongst all poets, he feels himself excused from the general study of literature. He also feels himself excused from the particular study of Shakespeare.
If you search the scientific literature on evolution, and if you focus your search on the question of how molecular machinesthe basis of lifedeveloped, you find an eerie and complete silence. The complexity of lifes foundation has paralyzed sciences attempt to account for it; molecular machines raise an as-yet-impenetrable barrier to Darwinisms universal reach.
Great literature must spring from an upheaval in the author's soul. If that upheaval is not present then it must come from the works of any other author which happens to be handy and easily adapted.
Sapper, Buchan, Dornford Yates, practitioners in that school of Snobbery with Violence that runs like a thread of good-class tweed through twentieth-century literature.
The great standard of literature as to purity and exactness of style is the Bible.
Myth is at the beginning of literature, and also at its end.
In the order of literature, as in others, there is no act that is not the coronation of an infinite series of causes and the source of an infinite series of effects.
That history should have imitated history was already sufficiently marvellous; that history should imitate literature is inconceivable....
Imprecision is tolerable and verisimilar in literature, because we always tend towards it in life.