The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965
General Considerations. Fiction is an art more closely related to life than any other of the arts. Its raw material is human experience, its medium is language, its purpose is to delight and instruct. "Instruct" and "delight" should be taken in the widest sense, as meaning to enlarge our sympathies, our understanding, and our stock of ideas. Literature reveals significance and pattern in the chaos of experience. The pleasure it provides is the greater for being intelligent.
Critics distinguish "art proper" from "amusement art". "Art proper", whatever its medium, demands the positive co-operation of readers, lookers, listeners. A creative effort is required to understand what the artist has created. "Art proper", moreover, not only springs from life but reflects back upon it, overflowing from the book to influence human action or belief. Many people do not wish their entertainment to disturb them in this way, preferring "amusement art" which lulls, or offers only a passing stimulation.
Some novels, that is, merely amuse; others offer deeper satisfactions. How is the critic to tell which is which, when new books come before him? Here are some suggestions as a guide.