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A former literary snob making her way back to commercial reads.

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The Art of Fiction

The Art of Fiction - Henry,  Jr. James DISCLAIMER: I copied these notes for personal reasons only: I use GR to keep track of my notes, since I don't trust my Kobo and notebooks are impractical. I know I am a cheap bastard and don't deserve any like for it. so, this was NOT written by me!

Henry James's“The Art of Fiction”

Why is it revolutionary?

1. Choice of subject belongs to the artist without restriction.

We must grant the artist his subject, his idea, his donnée; our criticism is applied only to what he makes of it. (561)
2. Conscious artistry and treatment of the subject is the key.

Art is essentially selection. (563).
Questions of art are questions (in the widest sense) of execution. (655)
3. Organic structure is important.

A novel is a living thing, all one and continuous, like any other organism, and in proportion as it lives will be found, I think, that in each of the parts there is something of each of the other parts. (560)

4. Artistry, not morality, should be the criterion. "Bad" novels and "good" novels are a matter of taste, not morality or choice of subject matter.

Nothing, of course, will ever take the place of the good old fashion of "liking" a work or not liking it. (562).
There are bad novels and good novels, as there are bad pictures and good pictures; but that is the only distinction in which I can see any meaning. (560)

5. Faithfulness to life (realism) is the important factor.

The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life. (554).
The air of reality (solidity of specification) seems to me to be the supreme virtue of a novel (559).

6. The expertise of the writer, like that of the painter, depends upon an artistic sensibility and openness to impressions.

Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spiderweb of the finest silk threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness. (559).
A novel is in its broadest definition a personal, a direct impression of life. (557)
It goes without saying that you will not write a good novel unless you possess the sense of reality; but it will be difficult to give you a recipe for calling that sense into being. (558).
“Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!” (559)