Audrey: I read that Lionel Trilling essay you mentioned. You really like Trilling?
Audrey: I think he's very strange. He says that "nobody" could like the heroine of Mansfield Park. I like her. Then he goes on and on about how "we" modern people, today, with "our" modern attitudes "bitterly resent" Mansfield Park because its heroine is virtuous. (A puzzled look.) What's wrong with a novel having a virtuous heroine? Finally, it turns out that he really likes Mansfield Park, so what's the point?
Tom: His point is that the novel's premise-- that there's something immoral in a group of young people putting on a play-- is simply absurd.
Audrey: (Challenging him) You found Fanny Price unlikeable?
Tom: She sounds pretty unbearable, but I haven't read the book.
Tom: You don't have to read a book to have an opinion on it. I haven't read the Bible either.
Audrey: What Jane Austen novels have you read?
Tom: None. I don't read novels. I prefer good literary criticism-- that way you get both the novelists' ideas and the critics' thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened-- that it's all just made up by the author.