How a novel writer has got to be:
insatiably curious about other people,
how life is actually lived by other, unrelated, distinct persons
inquisitive about customs, manners, morals
must search, must possess, must note, must absorb, must master how things go on
have the power to bring another social world into existence like it was really there
devoted to "the sheer polyglossia" of the lexicon (ain't I though?)
know how the different classes use language
know something about the language of work & working
know how language has changed and does change
To a novelist that's also a poet, incoherence is an anguish of peculiar magnitude. "Make it cohere."
--Notes from Ardyth Kennelly's commonplace book, from reading Helen Vendler's review of Elizabeth Bishop's Collected Prose in The New York Review of Books, Feb. 16, 1984.