from Another Country by James Baldwin
He felt tears spring to his eyes. "Richard, we talked about the book and I told you what I thought, I told you that it was a brilliant idea and wonderfully organized and beautifully written and--" He stopped. He had not liked the book. He could not take it seriously. It was an able, intelligent, mildly perceptive tour de force and it would never mean anything to anyone. In the place in Vivaldo's mind in which books lived, whether they were great, mangled, mutilated, or mad, Richard's book did not exist. There was nothing he could do about it.
And, yes, this is the great fear: that one will write a book that will not be "great, mangled, mutilated, or mad," that will simply be a "mildly perceptive tour de force." The idea of being content with such a book makes me ill. Yet, of course, very likely I have written nothing that will assume any place in the part of a reader's mind "in which books live." Nothing.
It's no wonder, as my friend David wrote to me yesterday, that so many great artists seek the numbness of drink as a respite from this anguish.