Tuesday, November 20, 2012

`Graceful Uncompromising Language'

Our finest critic addresses our finest novelist on his announced retirement:

“A man may write at any time, as Dr. Johnson told Boswell on their tour of the Hebrides, if he will set himself doggedly to it.  Plenty of men and women have written doggedly without much to show for it.  Yours was the struggle to accept the moral obligation to write well.  From the beginning of your career, you understood that a good writer shoulders a double burden.  Not only must he, like the research scientist, make sure that what he says corresponds to experience.  This is only one sense of getting it right. He must also, and this obligation the scientist need not undertake unless there is an extraneous literary dimension to his research, get it right in graceful uncompromising language.”

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