There’s an interview with me in Newsweek.com:
NEWSWEEK: What surprised you most while doing the research for this book?
Jonah Lehrer: One thing was how seriously all of these artists took their art. They really believed that their novels and paintings and poetry were expressing deep truths about the human mind. As Virginia Woolf put it, the task of the novelist is to “examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day … [tracing] the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness.” In other words, she is telling writers to get the mind right. Everything else is secondary.
And Woolf wasn’t the only one. Proust was confident that every reader, once they read his novel, would “recognize in his own self what the book says…This will be the proof of its veracity.” George Eliot famously said that her art was “simply a set of experiments in life.” Whitman thought he was expressing deep “truths about the body and soul” that the science of his time had yet to understand. In other words, all of these artists believed that their art was capable of being literally true, just like science.