On vicarious experience: Nearly all of my experience of life—the highs and lows, the hopes and disappointments, the chaotic entanglements—everything that matters in fact—all of this has been mediated through the written word. With the result that novels have given me the sense—the illusion perhaps—of a connection with others, with the texture of real lives.
On marriage: My close reading of fiction had taught me that nearly all marriages occupied strange territory. But it was more vivid and startling to see it with you own eyes.
On happiness: …happiness often reveals itself as counterpoint. It is edged about with things that are opposite to it.
On novels: …a good novel was like a small miracle…fiction allowed us to live lives of other than our own….And every so often, I said, something emerged from a novel that could only be called truth—there was no other name for it. Which has a paradoxical ring to it, since of course, fiction is made up, full of lies.
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But surgery, I told them, was almost impossibly difficult—at least, it was very difficult to operate without, at best, inflicting lifelong disability on the patient. So, what was better? To die within the next few years or face a longer life of awful disability?
He admits he has made mistakes that take a terrible toll on his patient’s lives, as well as troubling him for months. They are not confined to the operating room. He has had affairs, is divorced from his first wife, and now married again. He writes, “We always learn more from failure than from success. Success teaches us nothing.”