I was struck by the traditional novel’s vanity on behalf of man. When I looked at man, I did not see a piece of noble work, a species whose every member was automatically of infinite worth and the pinnacle of Nature’s efforts. Nor did history, as I read it, support such grandiose claims. Throughout human time, men had been murdering men with an ease that suggested they took a profound pleasure in it, and like the most voracious insect, the entire tribe was, even as I watched, even as I participated, eating its host like a parasite whose foresight did not exceed its greed.

– William H. Gass, Finding a Form: Essays (1996)


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