"The last publicized center of American writing was Manhattan. Its writers became known as the New York Intellectuals. With important connections to publishing, and universities, with access to the major book reviews, they were able to pose as the vanguard of American culture when they were so obsessed with the two Joes--McCarthy and Stalin--that they were to produce only two artists, Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, who left town."
"There is the falsely mystical view of art that assumes a kind of supernatural inspiration, a possession by universal forces unrelated to questions of power and privilege or the artist's relation to bread and blood. In this view, the channel of art can only become clogged and misdirected by the artist's concern with merely temporary and local disturbances. The song is higher than the struggle."
"To the degree that respect for professors ... has risen in our society, respect for writers has fallen. Today the professorial intellect has achieved its highest public standing since the world began, while writers have come to be called "men of letters," by which is meant people who are prevented by some obscure infirmity from becoming competent journalists."
"What is done for science must also be done for art: accepting undesirable side effects for the sake of the main goal, and moreoverdiminishing their importance by making this main goal more magnificent. For one should reform forward, not backward: social illnesses, revolutions, are evolutions inhibited by a conserving stupidity."
"To love something as an artist ... means to be shaken not by its ultimate value or lack of value, but by a side of it that suddenly opens up. Where art has value it shows things that few have seen. It's conquering, not pacifying."
"Among the many gifts I showered on Martin, I was careful not to include talent. How easy it would have been to make him an artist,a writer; how hard not to let him be one, while bestowing on him the keen sensitivity that one generally associates with the creative creature; how cruel to prevent him from finding in art--not an "escape" (which is only a cleaner cell on a quieter floor), but relief from the itch of being."
"We should always remember that the work of art is invariably the creation of a new world, so that the first thing we should do isto study that new world as closely as possible, approaching it as something brand new, having no obvious connection with the worlds we already know. When this new world has been closely studied, then and only then let us examine its links with other worlds, other branches of knowledge."
"And do not pity C. Q. One had to choose between him and H. H., and one wanted H. H. to exist at least a couple of months longer, so as to have him make you live in the minds of later generations. I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita."
"One way to do it might be by making the scenery penetrate the automobile. A polished black sedan was a good subject, especially ifparked at the intersection of a tree-bordered street and one of those heavyish spring skies whose bloated gray clouds and amoeba-shaped blotches of blue seem more physical than the reticent elms and effusive pavement. Now break the body of the car into separate curves and panels; then put it together in terms of reflections."
"I never meant to deny the moral impact of art which is certainly inherent in every genuine work of art. What I do deny and am prepared to fight to the last drop of my ink is the deliberate moralizing which to me kills every vestige of art in a work however skillfully written."