Writers the most learned, the most accurate in details, and the soundest in tendency, frequently fall into a habit which can neither be cured nor pardoned the habit of making history into the proof of their theories.
Is the new generation of writers more concerned than their predecessors with politics, economics, and social class?
I think that there are lowered expectations, not sthetic expectations for the work, but lowered expectations in terms of life. My generation, perhaps foolishly, expected, even demanded, that life be wonderful and magical and then tried to make it so by writing in a rather complex way. It seems now quite an eccentric demand.
It is not true that Kafka wanted Brod to burn his manuscripts after his death. Rather it is the case that Kafka was on fire to be published...rushed to the postbox day after day...ate with editors...intrigued for favorable notices...read the Writers Digest...consorted with critics...autographed napkins...made himself available to librarians...spoke on the radio...
All good song-writers have no more than half a dozen good tunes in their systems, and if they have that many, they are liberally blessed.
I sometimes wish the trade unionists who work in the mass media, those who are writers and broadcasters and secretaries and printers and lift operators of Thomson House would remember that they too are members of our working class movement and have a responsibility to see that what is said about us is true.
Of all the ways of acquiring books, writing them oneself is regarded as the most praiseworthy method. [...] Writers are really people who write books not because they are poor, but because they are dissatisfied with the books which they could buy but do not like.
Tocqueville did not believe that the old writers were perfect, but he believed that they could best make us aware of our imperfections, which is what counts.
Flattery of the people and incapacity to resist public opinion are the democratic vices, particularly among writers, artists, journalists and anyone else who is dependent on an audience.
Professors of the humanities have long been desperate to make their subjects accord with modernity instead of a challenge to it. The effort to read books as their writers intended them to be read has been made into a crime, ever since the intentional fallacy was instituted. There are endless debates about methodsamong Freudian criticism, Marxist criticism, New Criticism, Structuralism and Deconstructionism, and many others, all of which have in common the premise that what Plato or Dante had to say about reality is unimportant. These schools of criticism make the writers plants in a garden planned by a modem scholar, while their own garden-planning vocation is denied them.
In antiquity there had also been mere scholars, studying Homer and Plato without knowing quite why, and without being interested in the questions the writers raised, fascinated by meters or the reliability of texts. But the objection to these scholars was that they lacked the urgent desire to know the most important things, whereas the modern objection to scholarship is that it lacks the urgency of commitment to action. If deeds are the most important thing, then the scholar is by definition inferior to the doer.
Like every writer, he measured the virtues of other writers by their performance, and asked that they measure him by what he conjectured or planned.