We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind — mass merchandising, advertising, politics conducted as a branch of advertising, the instant translation of science and technology into popular imagery, the increasing blurring and intermingling of identities within the realm of consumer goods, the preempting of any free or original imaginative response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel. For the writer in particular it is less and less necessary for him to invent the fictional content of his novel. The fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent the reality.
—J. G. Ballard (1930–2009) English Novelist, Short Story Writer
Only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.
—Jane Austen (1775–1817) English Novelist
When the characters are really alive before their author, the latter does nothing but follow them in their action, in their words, in the situations which they suggest to him.
—Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936) Italian Dramatist, Novelist, Short Story Writer, Author
A novelist is, like all mortals, more fully at home on the surface of the present than in the ooze of the past.
—Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977) Russian-born American Novelist
If I were a writer, how I would enjoy being told the novel is dead. How liberating to work in the margins, outside a central perception. You are the ghoul of literature. Lovely.
—Don DeLillo (b.1936) American Novelist, Short Story Writer
Novels as dull as dishwater, with the grease of random sentiments floating on top.
—Italo Calvino (1923–85) Italian Novelist, Essayist, Journalist
The traditional novel form continues to enlarge our experience in those very areas where the wide-angle lens and the Cinema screen tend to narrow it.
—Daniel J. Boorstin (1914–2004) American Historian, Academic, Attorney, Writer
It seems that the fiction writer has a revolting attachment to the poor, for even when he writes about the rich, he is more concerned with what they lack than with what they have.
—Flannery O’Connor (1925–1964) American Novelist
There is no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction; there’s only narrative.
—E. L. Doctorow (b.1931) American Writer, Editor, Academic
A novel that does not uncover a hitherto unknown segment of existence is immoral. Knowledge is the novel’s only morality.
—Milan Kundera (b.1929) Czech Novelist
Novelists are perhaps the last people in the world to be entrusted with opinions. The nature of a novel is that it has no opinions, only the dialectic of contrary views, some of which, all of which, may be untenable and even silly. A novelist should not be too intelligent either, although he may be permitted to be an intellectual.
—Anthony Burgess (1917–93) English Novelist, Critic, Composer
By measuring individual human worth, the novelist reveals the full enormity of the State’s crime when it sets out to crush that individuality.
—Ian McEwan British Novelist, Short-Story Writer
Novels are longer than life.
—Natalie Clifford Barney (1876–1972) American Playwright, Poet, Novelist
Would you not like to try all sorts of lives—one is so very small—but that is the satisfaction of writing—one can impersonate so many people.
—Katherine Mansfield (1888–1923) New Zealand-born British Author
Novelists do not write as birds sing, by the push of nature. It is part of the job that there should be much routine and some daily stuff on the level of carpentry.
—William Golding (1911–93) English Novelist
Democritus plucked his eye out because he could not look at a woman without thinking of her as a woman. If he had read a few of our novels, he would have torn himself to pieces.
—Wallace Stevens (1879–1955) American Poet