Uneasy reader

gardnerThus the value of great fiction, we begin to suspect, is not just that it entertains us or distracts us from our troubles, not just that it broadens our knowledge of people and places, but also that it helps us know what we believe, reinforces those qualities that are noblest in us, leads us to feel uneasy about our faults and limitations.

John Gardner, The Art of Fiction 31 (1983).

Of course Gardner does not hold this thought without reservation (notice the “we begin to suspect”), but he reasonably prompts us to add this to our internal lists of what fiction is for.  I had forgotten how enjoyable this book is.