Cassandra's Reviews > The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
5612909
's review
Apr 25, 13

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fic, finish-later, the-masters

"Nobody's perfect, they generously observe. But the true artist is impatient with such talk. Circus knife-throwers know that it is indeed possible to be perfect, and one had better be. Perfection means hitting exactly what you are aiming at and not touching by a hair what you are not."
Gardner is mercilessly, obsessively scrupulous, almost to the level of snobbishness, in his concern that fiction should be 'moral'--that is, that every little gesture, every syllable, should ring true to human experience. He is also teaching me a hundred times more about what it means to be a really good author than all the "just-follow-your-dreams-and-be-yourself" mush one is fed incessantly these days. I am devouring this book.
4 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Art of Fiction.
Sign In »

Quotes Cassandra Liked

John Gardner
“The primary subject of fiction is and has always been human emotion, values, and beliefs.”
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

John Gardner
“In university courses we do exercises. Term papers, quizzes, final examinations are not meant for publication. We move through a course on Dostoevsky or Poe as we move through a mildly good cocktail party, picking up the good bits of food or conversation, bearing with the rest, going home when it comes to seem the reasonable thing to do. Art, at those moments when it feels most like art -- when we feel most alive, most alert, most triumphant -- is less like a cocktail party than a tank full of sharks.”
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

John Gardner
“Sanity in a writer is merely this: However stupid he may be in his private life, he never cheats in his writing. He never forgets that his audience is, at least ideally, as noble, generous, and tolerant as he is himself (or more so), and never forgets that he is writing about people, so that to turn characters to cartoons, or treat his characters as innately inferior to himself, to forget their reasons for being as they are, to treat them as brutes, is bad art. Sanity in a writer also involves taste . . . To write with taste, in the highest sense, is to write with the assumption that one out of a hundred people who read one’s work may be dying, or have loved someone dying; to write so that no one commits suicide, no one despairs; to write, as Shakespeare wrote, so that people understand, sympathize, see the universality of pain, and feel strengthened, if not directly encouraged to live on . . . If there is good to be said, the writer should remember to say it. If there is bad to be said, he should say it in a way that reflects the truth that, though we see the evil, we choose to continue among the living.”
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

John Gardner
“Fiction does not spring into the world fully grown, like Athena. It is the process of writing and rewriting that makes a fiction original, if not profound.”
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

John Gardner
“This highest kind of truth is never something the artist takes as given. It's not his point of departure but his goal. Though the artist has beliefs, like other people, he realizes that a salient characteristic of art is its radical openness to persuasion. Even those beliefs he's surest of, the artist puts under pressure to see if they will stand.”
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
tags: art, truth

John Gardner
“Mastery is not something that strikes in an instant, like a thunderbolt, but a gathering power that moves steadily through time, like weather.”
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

John Gardner
“The writer's characters must stand before us with a wonderful clarity, such continuous clarity that nothing they do strikes us as improbable behavior for just that character, even when the character's action is, as sometimes happens, something that came as a surprise to the writer himself. We must understand, and the writer before us must understand, more than we know about the character; otherwise neither the writer nor the reader after him could feel confident of the character's behavior when the character acts freely.”
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

John Gardner
“As in the universe every atom has an effect, however miniscule, on every other atom, so that to pinch the fabric of Time and Space at any point is to shake the whole length and breadth of it, so that to change a character's name from Jane to Cynthia is to make the fictional ground shudder under her feet.”
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers


Reading Progress

05/05/2012 page 84
38.0%
04/25/2013 marked as: finish-later
show 1 hidden update…

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Terry The best book on writing fiction I've yet read. Gardner is a total snob though. :)


back to top