Dwight Waldo, Stephen Bailey, and I, among others who have from time to time expressed admiration for certain litterateurs as sources of wisdom and understanding of the art and science of public administration, will undoubtedly ponder at length a statement in W. Somerset Maugham's latest collection of imponderabilia, Points of View. Maugham says:
Only the very ingenuous can suppose that a work of fiction can give us reliable information on the topics which it is important to us for the conduct of our lives to be apprised of. By the nature of his creative gifts the novelist is incompetent to deal with such matters; his not to reason why, but to feel, to imagine, and to invent. He is biased. The subjects the writer chooses, the characters he creates, and his attitude toward them are conditioned by his bias. What he writes is the expression of his personality and the manifestation of his instincts, his emotions, his intuitions, and his experience. He loads his dice, sometimes not knowing what he is up to, but sometimes knowing very well; and then he uses such skill as he has to prevent the reader from finding him out. Henry James insisted that the writer of fiction should dramatize. That is a telling, though perhaps not very lucid, way of saying that he must so arrange his facts as to capture and hold his reader's attention. This, as everyone knows, is what Henry James consistently did, but, of course, it is not the way a work of scientific or informative value is written. If readers are concerned with the pressing problems of the day, they will do well to read, as Chekhov advised them to do, not novels or short stories, but the works that specifically deal with them.