Sane speech is speech to someone. The creative process is vitiated if the writer writes only for himself. This is not to say that all good writing is “popular.” In the modern world, with its thousands of colleges and universities, it is absurd to imagine that any writer exists who is of such genius that no man of his time can enjoy and understand him. The wail of modern poets and novelists—that art has lost its audience—is a piece of what Hobbes called insignificant speech. The audience of Joyce, Pound, Beckett, even Burroughs, is enormous. The writer who is out to do something, not merely pass the time, must recognize that nothing prevents his trying to talk to readers as sensitive and intelligent as himself. True, commercial editors may not gamble on his work. But to write badly because otherwise one might not get published is useless compromise.

– John Gardner, On Moral Fiction (1978)


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