The characteristic of all schizophrenic speech […] is that it denies one or more of the necessary elements of sane communication. If the speaker denies that he is himself, asserting that he’s God, speaks gibberish, insists that the hospital is an airbase, or calls his listener Napoleon, he’s crazy. How crazy, in these terms, is the writer of poetry or fiction?

Not at all. The writer is fully conscious of what he’s up to when he claims to be not James Joyce but Stephen Dedalus, writes the seeming gibberish of Finnegans Wake, pretends to be in Ireland when he’s sitting in France, and solemnly, cunningly maintains that the book is for no one. Art imitates insanity and borrows most of the madman’s methods […], but as long as it is art it is only an imitation. The writer’s use of a fictitious persona no more qualifies as psychotic than a child’s playing fireman or an actor’s playing Macbeth. Accidents may happen, but they’re irrelevant. When an actor thinks he is the character—as happened to Dickens on several occasions when he was performing onstage—he is no longer working as an actor using but controlling his imagination; he has turned madman.

– John Gardner, On Moral Fiction (1979)


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