"There ought to be behind the door of every happy, contented man some one standing with a hammer continually reminding him with a tap that there are unhappy people; that however happy he may be, life will show him her claws sooner or later, trouble will come for him—disease, poverty, losses, and no one will see or hear, just as now he neither sees nor hears others."
The Pentagon’s ban on making images of dead soldiers’ homecomings and burials is intended to prevent us from turning into novelists for a moment, from speculating about their lives and the cause for which they died. This order of things, knowing nothing about the fate of others, is evidently necessary, Chekhov observes in one of his stories. What he has to say on that subject was true of the Russia of his day and is true of America today:
The happy man only feels at ease because the unhappy bear their burdens in silence, and without that silence happiness would be impossible.
It follows that what a writer must do is give a reader an occasional tap on the head and once in a while a good whack.
Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books. The nicest boy in the world.