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" Above all, a well-imagined story is organized around extraordinary human behaviors and unexpected and startling events, which help illuminate the commonplace and the ordinary. "
" I live in my head all day long and the world is a little dreamy. "
" I grew up with the Gene Kelly look at war. The cheerful kind of stories you tell about a horrendous war. "
" A true war story is never moral. "
" Working as a journalist, I was always tempted to lie. I felt I could do dialogue better than the person I was interviewing. I felt I could lie better than Nixon and be more concise than some random person I was covering. "
" A small, seemingly inconsequential event can determine a life. "
" The world comes at me that way - comes at me in clumps of stuff, sometimes little vignettes and sometimes whole stories. And then the rest is erased by the internal filter that erases things for the same reason you'd forget swatting a mosquito. "
" In books or films, it is desirable to have a climactic battle scene, but the world does not operate in those gross dramatic terms. In Vietnam, there was a general aimlessness, not just in the physical sense, but beyond that in the moral and ethical sense. "
" From the year of his birth in 1914 until the outbreak of war in 1941, my father lived in a mostly white, mostly working-class, mostly Irish Catholic neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. "
" To be memorable and to have dramatic impact, informational detail must function actively within the dynamic of a story. "
" Fiction is a lie that is told in the service of truth. "
" Love, as wonderful and horrible as it is, has at its center a kind of pitiful humor. "
" The goal, I suppose, any fiction writer has, no matter what your subject, is to hit the human heart and the tear ducts and the nape of the neck and to make a person feel something about the characters are going through and to experience the moral paradoxes and struggles of being human. "
" Place is so important to me. The Midwest is like a ghost in my life. It's present as I look out the window now. I see Texas, but if I close my eyes and look out the same window, I'm back in my hometown in Worthington, Minnesota, and I cherish those values and that diction. "
" War is a fundamental aspect of human existence. It's good to know what war entails and what the human sacrifice is. "
" Is the Mona Lisa an 'accurate' representation of the actual human model for the painting? Who knows? Who cares? It's a great piece of art. It moves us. It makes us wonder, makes us gape - finally makes us look inward at ourselves. "
" When you're so close to material, it would be as if you had come out of a bad marriage. You would be so close to it that you would be paying attention to detail that may not mean a whole lot for the reader. "
" I did not set out to write another novel. One day I sat down with the thought of trying my hand at a piece of nonfiction, a personal memoir of youth, but over the next several weeks, without intending it, the work began evolving into what has become 'Tomcat in Love.' "
" I could feel my moral compass as a soldier, in danger of - I could feel the squeeze, the pressure of frustration and anger and fear combining on me... I felt the danger; I felt the squeeze of it. "
" There's something about being amid the chaos and the horror of a war that makes you appreciate all you don't have - and all you may lose forever. "
" In fiction workshops, we tend to focus on matters of verisimilitude largely because such issues are so much easier to talk about than the failure of imagination. "
" The human life is all one thing, like a blade tracing loops on the ice: a little kid, a twenty-three-year-old infantry sergeant, a middle-aged writer knowing guilt and sorrow. "
" It's very hard to articulate the things that are important about writing. "
" Fantasy has a dark side to it. It also has a light hemisphere - the power of the human imagination to keep going, to imagine a better tomorrow. "
" Fiction, maybe art in general, is a tentative, uncertain enterprise; it's not science, it's an exploration, but you never find much in the way of answers. "
" Stories are not explanations of the world we live in. Science does that, and math does that. Our obligation as fiction writers is to enhance the mysteries. "
" No matter how wonderful the story, it has to move on something, and that is language. The words that I use, the pace, the rhythm and cadences all need to be there. If they're not there, the story is like a boat that just sits there and doesn't move on the ocean. "
" Storytelling is the essential human activity. The harder the situation, the more essential it is. "
" At the bottom, all wars are the same because they involve death and maiming and wounding, and grieving mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. "
" If I see a phrase that strikes me as ugly, I'll delete it. Or, if I find a way to say something a bit more freshly than it was expressed originally, I'll do it. Ultimately, you want to try to leave behind the best possible paragraph or sentence. "
" I carry the memories of the ghosts of a place called Vietnam - the people of Vietnam, my fellow soldiers. "