Going through my notes, it is clear that I am inspired significantly by literary criticism. George Steiner, Richard Blackmur (R.P. Blackmur), John Bayley, Edward Wasiolek, R.F. Christian, Richard Gustafson, Gary Saul Morson, Bakhtin, Lev Shestov, James Wood, and a few others (Robert Alter, Lionel Trilling, Jan Fokkelman on Old Testament, to name only a few of the others). In fact I do not believe there are any better studies on Tolstoy than the two books, one by John Bayley and the other by Richard Gustafson.
I didn’t exactly read everything these critics wrote, but there’s something of a glorious celebration of human condition in these writers. Reading their critiques taught me immensely about writing. Not the craft and technique of it, although that too, but the instinct in me to love the character in literature was definitely created by these critics.
I think it was Steiner who said somewhere, perhaps in his “On Difficulty,” that in great literature the writer accords a certain sense of privacy for the characters, and that the greatness of the work has something to do with this.