|Posted on Sunday, March 26, 2006 - 11:44 pm: |
“Ridiculous. No one becomes a writer at sixty.”
The former graduate student and literary scholar cleared his throat and begged to differ with me. There were no rules when it came to writing, he said. Take a close look at the lives of poets and novelists, and what you wound up with was unalloyed chaos, an infinite jumble of exceptions. That was because writing was a disease, Tom continued, what you might call an infection or influenza of the spirit, and therefore it could strike anyone at any time. The young and the old, the strong and the weak, the drunk and the sober, the sane and the insane. Scan the roster of the giants and semi-giants, and you would discover writers who embraced every sexual proclivity, every political bent, and every human attribute - from the loftiest idealism to the most insidious corruption. They were criminals and lawyers, spies and doctors, soldiers and spinsters, travelers and shut-ins. If no one could be excluded, what prevented an almost sixty-year-old ex-life insurance agent from joining their ranks? What law declared that Nathan Glass had not been infected by the disease?
“Joyce wrote three novels,” Tom said. “Balzac wrote ninety. Does it make a difference to us now?”
“Not to me,” I said.
“Kafka wrote his first story in one night. Stendhal wrote The Charterhouse of Parma in forty-nine days. Melville wrote Moby Dick in sixteen months. Flaubert spent five years on Madame Bovary. Musil worked for eighteen years on The Man WithoutQualities and died before he could finish. Do we care about any of that now?”
The question didn’t seem to call for a response.
--from Paul Auster's The Brooklyn Follies
Being a writer is not quite the same as writing. The evidence of a lifetime’s work, his or her books ranged on the shelf (or shelves), ought to reassure someone who writes that he or she is indeed a writer. But nothing, not the books in the shop window or the play on the stage or shoals of letters from delighted readers, furnishes such assurance but only the act of writing itself, the fingers flying over the keys or, in my case, pushing the pen across the paper.
Still, it is always easier to be it than to do it, easier for the public, too, who prefer what they have had from a writer to what they might be given. Being it is comfortable, so far as the public is concerned: this is the writer they have got used to. Doing it is less comfortable: the writer might be wanting to try something new.
The real mark of recognition for a writer or any artist, perhaps, comes when the public begins to want him or her to die, so that they can close the book on that particular talent, stop having to make the effort to follow the writer any further, put a cork in the bottle.
Between being and doing, though, the writer sometimes has no choice. Larkin was someone who, on his own admission, ceased to be able to do it and just had to be it for the last ten years of his life, in the process becoming far more famous not doing it than he had ever been doing it. To E. M. Forster, too, this happened.
But any writer would say that, though the sales and plaudits come not with doing it but having done it, the useful medal to have would be one bestowed, as it were, on the field of battle, hung round your neck in recognition of yet another fruitless morning spent at the typewriter or after a week or even months spent staring out of the window.
--From Alan Bennett's Untold Stories
|Posted on Monday, March 27, 2006 - 07:04 am: |
Any other life-changing quotes - on any subject?
|Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 07:42 am: |
"This was a simple explanation which everyone could understand, and because Malone was not a simple person he perceived that he had better let it suffice."
from "The Horror at Red Hook" by HPL