Literary men now routinely tell their readers about their divorces. In newspapers. In columns in newspapers. Special columns devoted to the personal papers of literary men. One literary man who reviews books wrote, in reviewing a study of Ruskin, that he had never read a book by Ruskin but that the study confirmed him in his belief that he didn't want to read a book by Ruskin. This man very often writes about his family life.
Is he a fool? No. Absolutely not. He is doing what is appropriate. He is following a sound instinct. Instinct is so important. You have to go with the gut feeling. The gut feeling is that nothing could matter less than Ruskin. The guy feeling is that there isn't any grid to support Ruskin. The two grids left are the grid of enormous success—the grid of two hundred million—and the tiny, tiny baby grid of you and me and baby and baby's problems and my problems and your problems and can we keep even this little baby grid together?
And comfort? What is comfort? It's focus. You bring this grid together with that grid, you get the images to overlap, and suddenly things have a bit of focus, as in a certain sort of 35mm camera. What shall we bring together? The two grids. You and me and baby and baby's problem breathing and the grid of two hundred million. It is such a comfort. So it is a comfort when the literary man who knows no Ruskin tells us how it feels in his marriage when a friend brings home a pretty young girl. And it is a comfort when a comedienne whom we know, whom we love, whom we've known for years and years, whom we've loved for years and years, tells us that there has been a drug problem in her family. Suddenly, the grids merge. You and me and baby and drugs together on the grid of two hundred million. It's so intimate. It's like waking up with a friend. But just for a minute.
—George W.S. Trow, Within The Context of No Context, 1981, Little, Brown. Originally published in The New Yorker; republished by Atlantic Monthly Press in 1997, with introductory essay "Collapsing Dominant"