While the fair-minded person makes room in his world for the trivial, the temporary, even the intentionally or accidentally fraudulent, such goodness is a luxury no artist can afford—certainly no young artist hunting a place to stand—and no critic who cares about true art will tolerate. Wherever it appears, from the drivel of politicians to moronic styles of dress, from television chaff-art to the stentorian fraudulence of “innovative fiction” at its worst, the bad is an obstruction of the light, a competitor against good, a filth and a pestilence that must be driven out. […] Every nonsense artist, destructionist, or painter of bruised entrails on a field of burning red is a plague carrier, a usurper of space that belongs to the sons of God. For the poet, Yvor Winters says, poetry is “his finest mode of thinking and perceiving, of being, of discovering reality and participating in reality.” It is his life, in short. Who can blame him if he lashes out in fury at those who would offer substitutes?

That is why, despite his pathetic wish to seem a gentleman, the true artist rants and rolls his eyes, or blinds and numbs himself with drink, or careens from woman to woman or man to man, or shuts himself away and refuses to see guests. Like an angel trapped in hell, he has dangerous eyes.

– John Gardner, On Moral Fiction (1979)


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