A quote from Iris Murdoch, interviewed in the Paris Review, that I want to remember –
To write a good book you have to have certain qualities. Great art is connected with courage and truthfulness. There is a conception of truth, a lack of illusion, an ability to overcome selfish obsessions, which goes with good art, and the artist has got to have that particular sort of moral stamina. Good art, whatever its style, has qualities of hardness, firmness, realism, clarity, detachment, justice, truth. It is the work of a free, unfettered, uncorrupted imagination. Whereas bad art is the soft, messy self-indulgent work of an enslaved fantasy. Pornography is at one end of that scale, great art at the other end.
It is one of the main charms of the art form and its prime mode of exposition. A novel without a story must work very hard in other ways to be worth reading, and indeed to be read. Some of today’s antistory novels are too deliberately arcane. I think story is essential to the survival of the novel. Stories are a fundamental human form of thought.
~ Iris Murdoch