On John Gardner

In his The Art of Fiction, John Gardner writes, "One trouble with having read nothing worth reading is that one never fully understands the other side of one's argument, never understands that the argument is an old one (all great arguments are), never understands the dignity and worth of the people one has cast as enemies. Witness John Steinbeck's failure in The Grapes of Wrath. It should have been one of America's great books. but while Steinbeck knew all there was to know about Okies and the countless sorrows of their move to California to find work, he knew nothing about the California ranchers who employed and exploited them; he had no clue to, or interest in, their reasons for behaving as they did; and the result is that Steinbeck wrote not a great and firm novel but a disappointing melodrama in which complex good is pitted against unmitigated, unbelievable evil."

Gardner strongly suggests that a responsible novelist should be fair to each character, especially when they stand on different sides of an argument. There is an important issue being addressed in Well Oiled with different characters taking different positions. In the novel's conception, the concern was more about the characters and their travails, not the issue of drilling.

Only after the first draft did it dawn on me that this important issue was being addressed. It is unfair to turn characters into caricatures. Pains were taken to expose several sides of important issues, even if only briefly. Indeed, part of the expositions shows that there are more than two sides to this issue!