The history of art looked more human than the art history books allowed, and ambition had more pathos in it than they allowed, either. Don't let me leave here trackless and alone, is all we plead for with fate, and ambition is a reflection of that panic. Ambition became art when we learned to be willing to defer the immediacy of the attention in order to make it count for more later.

The question of why a writer can make the words on the page come to felt life in one genre but not another--why the gift of expressiveness is extended here while that of appreciation goes there--this question remains unanswerable. For the reader, it is only necessary that gift there be--the one that makes us feel alive to literature and ourselves when subject, writer, and form are brilliantly matched.