In My Opinion: An Inquiry into the Contemporary Novel

By Orville Prescott | Go to book overview

XVI
THE ART AND MEANING OF FICTION
"The art of rendering life in fiction can never, in the last analysis, be anything, or need to be anything, but the disengaging of crucial moments from the welter of experience."--Edith Wharton

Several years ago I was asked to feel sorry for a young writer because he had to earn his living in a business office. Wasn't it a shame that he had to work from nine to five and so had no time to produce his masterpieces? Wasn't his lot as a sensitive intellectual in this age of clamorous crises nearly unbearable? With some dudgeon I expressed no sympathy whatever and indignantly denied that the mere desire to be a writer is a qualification for an endowed ivory tower in which to be one. I cited Hawthorne, whose duties in the customhouse and as a consul in the diplomatic service did not prevent him from writing books which have been well thought of; Trollope, who worked all his life as a civil servant in the British Post Office; Lamb, who did not feel abused because he spent his days perched on a high stool among the other clerks of the East India Company; and Cervantes, Bunyan and Marco Polo, who found imprisonment no barrier to authorship.

And as for the theory that intellectuals occupy an especially pitiable position today--that's ridiculous when we remember

-249-

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