Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
On Moral Fiction (A Harper Torchbook- TB 5069) Paperback – October 5, 1979
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Anyone who's published a novel soon learns it's not about glamor and gold. This book is a keeper - to read again and again - it reminds me of the higher sense of purpose in writing, the reason behind the process. Highly recommended.
"True art is moral. We recognize true art by its' careful, thoroughly honest search for an analysis of values. It is not didactic because, instead of teaching by authority and force, it explores, open-mindedly, to learn what it should teach. It clarifies like an experiment in a chemistry lab, and confirms." - John Gardner
I have of late been on a kick of reading whatever I can about writing, expanding... ah, better, reviewing my sparse understanding of art and craft, the business of it. Seeking ten best lists to guide me in the right direction, avoiding pitfalls of the trite and repetitive, looking for the seminal work, the singularity. Those lists more often than not holding up On Moral Fiction as a must read. With little previous knowledge of Gardner, having only read Grendel in high school, I gleaned what I could from general sources, Okay. The title was at once revolting and enticing, expectations of a preachy diatribe, subjective, anachronistic values; then again taken in morbid curiosity as to what that proposed morality might represent, at least in its' entertainment value. It was not what I expected.
Gardner's definition of "moral" was not constrained in context of religious or cultural "morality," but rather that fiction should aspire to discover, and inspire, those human values that are universally sustaining. Values he believed innate in the human animal, values necessary for our advancement.
His statements, his very beliefs (and he always said what he believed) were disturbing to many of his people, readers, friends and followers alike, agreed or disagreed, often displayed to their exasperation... Poor brilliant Gardner! What will he say next? Yet, he's described as warm and generous with his time, willingly engaged in debate. Against the grain of the old adage - It's not what you say that counts; it's how you say it. To Gardner it was indeed what you say that counted, and it better be honest. The `what' was the construct, and vice versa. He longed for "a return to the discussion of rational morality that his (Sartre's) outburst interrupted."
I typically skip introductions, forewords and prologues. I'm glad I didn't. Lore Segal's introduction is a far cry from the typical patronage, trivial and uninteresting anecdotes, mushy accolades raising the author to deity sprung full grown from the head of Zeus. Instead, taking the occasion to point out positions faithfully held by Gardner proven flawed by more than thirty years of inconvenient history. Specifically his attitudes toward modern art and music, and predictions of their ultimate demise, a natural selection of sorts, victims of their own hollowness and disingenuousness, their celebration of the trivial and nihilistic, "the freak", victims of their own immorality.
Her personal relationship with Gardner gives her a special insight into his beliefs about what constituted moral art, and as importantly what didn't, to which he would rail, captured in his words - "Honest feeling has been replaced by needless screaming, pompous foolishness, self-centered repetitiousness, and misuse of vocabulary!" Does that sound mad, or is it just me? (I added the exclamation mark, it deserves it.)
I will not be so presumptuous to put in a few words what Gardner expounds on. But I will say Gardner believed it was an artist's, and critic's, responsibility, even obligation to society and its' betterment that they zealously pursue morality in the process and the product. "Good art is always in competition with bad art." - J.G. Moral art exerts influence on society, proposing, holding up models of behavior. The artist has intuition in place of scientific hypothesis, but it has to be as carefully examined within integral laws and tradition, "the morality of art... is far less a matter of doctrine than of process." -J.G.
Gardner's writing voice solicits sympathy, irresistible, at the same time despairing and hopeful, enraged and joyous, controversial and reaffirming, and always immediate. Mind you, it is not to say I could swim in the depths of his philosophy, missing much nuance, but his ideas, skillfully argued, guided and textured, will take you as far you can or want to go, whether limited by capacity or disagreement. There is something for everyone, artist, critic and enthusiast.
If Gardner were alive today he would very surely dismay with society's trend toward the devaluation, even demonization of critical thinking. The state of personal communications, bits (a descriptive he would have certainly got a kick out of) of data exchanged poorly formatted, the rise of a didactic morality happier in provocative sound bites and expedient answers: Instead of one welcoming of a thoughtful, and civil, discourse aspiring to genuine solutions, to truth itself. John Gardner we miss you, and your brutal honesty.
Xavier Morrison 8/15/12