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By Dale Salwak (eds.)

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Yes, this man was fighting, fighting with words. He was using words as a weapon, using them as one would use a club. Could words be weapons? Well, yes, for here they were. Then, maybe, perhaps, I could use them as a weapon? No. It frightened me. I read on and what amazed me was not what he said, but how on earth anybody had the courage to say it. Richard Wright continues: I ran across many words whose meaning I did not know, and I either looked them up in a dictionary or, before I had a chance to do that, encountered the word in a context that made its meaning clear.

Has fiction today tended to become too fact-bound, too realistic, in spite of magic realism, or post-surrealism, or other varieties of fantasy? That seems possible. It may equally be true that Vidal's impression that everybody wants to write, nobody to read, diagnoses a self-defeating process. For it is impossible to create a novelist's world by DIY methods. However the process is accomplished it remains a mysterious one, which cannot either be taught or learned. A novelist's world can only be recognised w h e n it has come into being, and the novelist himself is probably the last person who can fully explain how it comes about.

R. Leavis. If exposed too rawly, it can offend, even shock. I once declared that I had read so much about Elizabeth Taylor that actually having an affair with her wouldn't add much. This bewildered the old friends whom I was talking to (quite bookish people themselves); for years afterwards, they referred to my declaration with a mixture of derision and disbelief. It is, I suppose the bookman's version of Plato's cave, lived experience a mere shadow-show against the eternal reality of books. I can still remember, at roughly the age I read Animal Farm, the first thrill of the thought that books lived longer than the people who had written them.

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