Given the serious and slightly bleak tone of my last column, I had intended to make this one brighter. Then David Foster Wallace died, at age 46. I previously wrote about Wallace’s book of essays Consider the Lobster, but it’s important to bring his work up again. He was very likely the best and most important American writer of his generation.

Measured by breadth and depth, by length of achievement, the two best living story writers in English are Canadians Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant.

When young fiction writers tell me they have ideas for novels I always tell them to get lost. Not (usually) in the sense of “leave me alone”, but rather of writing away from predetermined paths, forgetting the big ideas, which usually reduce to themes, and thinking instead of language and character.

A good book is a forest full of rabbit holes (books without rabbit holes are for readers without imagination, readers as flat as an unread page).