Any writer, I suppose, feels that the world into which he was born is nothing less than a conspiracy against the cultivation of his talent–which attitude certainly has a great deal to support it. On the other hand, it is only because the world looks on his talent with such frightening indifference that the artist is compelled to make his talent important.

It was [John Gardner’s] conviction that if the words in the story were blurred because of the author’s insensitivity, carelessness, or sentimentality, then the story suffered from a tremendous handicap. But there was something even worse and something that must be avoided at all costs: if the words and the sentiments were dishonest, the author was faking it, writing about things he didn’t care about or believe in, then nobody could ever care anything about it.

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