Literature claims to be a record of human existence through time; it is the only way we have to understand what people used to be like. But this is a basic mistake, if not fraud, since in fact it only reflects the experience of writers — and writers are innately unrepresentative, precisely because they see life through and for writing. Literature tells us nothing, really, about what most people’s lives are like or have ever been like. If it has a memorial purpose, it is more like that of an altar at which priests continue to light a fire, generation after generation, even though it gives no heat and very little light.
Adam Kirsch: Rocket and Lightship: Essays on Literature and Ideas