So I have found Joyce Carol Oates's collection Uncensored: Views & (Re)views an amazing and inspiring read (she's such a good critic, she'd be known for it even if she hadn't written anything else, this collection really is excellent); I will resist the temptation to paste in a million quotations, there are lots of thought-provoking essays here, but I must give you this one observation from a new introduction she wrote for A Garden of Earthly Delights:
Composing the original version of A Garden of Earthly Delights in 1965 to 1966 was very like my experience in composing Expensive People a year later: as if I had poured gasoline on my surroundings and lit a match to it and the flames that leapt madly up were somehow both the fuel of the novel and the novel itself. These "white heat" experiences are like waking dreams, consuming one's imagination, utterly fascinating, exhausting. The novel-to-be springs into a visionary sort of life like something glimpsed: an immense mosaic, a film moving at a swift pace. You "see"--but can't keep up with that pace. The novel opens before you like a dream, drawing you into it, yet it's a dream in which you are somehow participating, and not merely a passive observer.