— Sherwood Anderson writer 1876 - 1941
Context: The life of reality is confused, disorderly, almost always without apparent purpose, whereas in the artist's imaginative life there is purpose. There is determination to give the tale, the song, the painting, form — to make it true and real to the theme, not to life. Often the better the job is done, the greater the confusion. I myself remember with what a shock I heard people say that one of my own books Winesburg, Ohio was an exact picture of Ohio village life. The book was written in a crowded tenement district of Chicago. The hint for almost every character was taken from my fellow-lodgers in a large rooming house, many of whom had never lived in a village. The confusion arises out of the fact that others besides practicing artists have imaginations. But most people are afraid to trust their imaginations and the artist is not.
Would it not be better to have it understood that realism, in so far as the word means reality to life, is always bad art — although it may possibly be very good journalism? Which is but another way of saying that all of the so-called great realists were not realists at all and never intended being. Madame Bovary did not exist in fact. She existed in the imaginative life of Flaubert and he managed to make her exist also in the imaginative life of his readers.
"A Note on Realism" in The Literary Review (25 October 1924)<!-- also in Contemporary American Criticism (1926) -->