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" After a certain number of years, our faces become our biographies. "
" 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. "
" Hebrew as a contemporary language, especially for poetry, is no longer the language of the Bible; but neither is it not the language of the Bible. "
" All writing is presumption, of course, since no one knows what it is like to be another human being. "
" The engineering is secondary to the vision. "
" 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. "
" An essay is a thing of the imagination. If there is information in an essay, it is by-the-by, and if there is an opinion, one need not trust it for the long run. A genuine essay rarely has an educational, polemical, or sociopolitical use; it is the movement of a free mind at play. "
" In saying what is obvious, never choose cunning. Yelling works better. "
" To say that such-and-such a circumstance is 'Kafkaesque' is to admit to the denigration of an imagination that has burned a hole in what we take to be modernism - even in what we take to be the ordinary fabric and intent of language. Nothing is like 'The Hunger Artist.' Nothing is like 'The Metamorphosis.' "
" Auden is a poet - no, the poet - of unembarrassed intellect. Ideas are his emotions, emotions are his ideas. "
" 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. "
" 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. "
" I don't like to read contemporary fiction while writing - I need a sense of isolation, a kind of silence, and I don't want a jumble of other people's voices or visions getting in my way. Nineteenth-century voices don't create static in that silence. "
" I'm afraid that the act of writing is so scary and anxiety-filled that I never laugh at all. In fact, when people tell me that such and such a scene or story is comical, I tend to gape. I did not intend comedy - ever, as far as I know. It's probably all a mistake. I am essentially a lugubrious writer. Ha ha! "
" 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. "
" I'm a fiction writer, and I do write essays, but I am not a poet. And I absolutely reject the phrase 'woman writer' as anti-feminist. I wrote an essay about this as far back as 1977, at the height of the neo-feminist movement. "
" I read in order to write. I read out of obsession with writing. "
" I am proudest of that first novel, 'Trust,' of anything I have written. I don't think I've had such intense energy since. "
" I think most of my life I have not felt recognized. "
" Profound subject matter can be encompassed in small space - for proof, look at any sonnet by Shakespeare! "
" I wanted to use what I was, to be what I was born to be - not to have a 'career', but to be that straightforward obvious unmistakable animal, a writer. "
" In an essay, you have the outcome in your pocket before you set out on your journey, and very rarely do you make an intellectual or psychological discovery. But when you write fiction, you don't know where you are going - sometimes down to the last paragraph - and that is the pleasure of it. "
" An article can be timely, topical, engaged in the issues and personalities of the moment; it is likely to be stale within the month. In five years, it may have acquired the quaint aura of a rotary phone. An article is usually Siamese-twinned to its date of birth. "
" If an essay has a 'motive,' it is linked more to happenstance and opportunity than to the driven will. A genuine essay is not a doctrinaire tract or a propaganda effort or a broadside. "
" A novel can be set in motion by an incident, a character, a location, a mood - by anything at all. Sometimes the stimulus can be an idea, which will rapidly clothe itself in character and incident. 'Foreign Bodies' came about through the contemplation of the contrast between post-second world war America and Europe. "
" Hebrew in America has a bemusing past. The Puritans, out of scriptural piety, once dreamed of establishing Hebrew as the national language. "
" I don't agree with the sentiment 'write what you know.'... I think one should write what one doesn't know. The world is bigger and wider and more complex than our small subjective selves. One should prod, goad the imagination. "
" With certain rapturous exceptions, literature is the moral life. "
" I had the idea in my twenties that a writer could immediately become the late Henry James. Henry James himself had to mature. Even Saul Bellow did. "
" Traveling is seeing; it is the implicit that we travel by. "
" 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. "