Shakespeare, Proust, Kafka, Camus, Orwell, Gissing: What do each of these distinguished authors have in common? They all produced a lot of great work, but surely their most important unifying quality is that they were all younger than me when they died. I have outlived Keats by a quarter of a century: that’s a morbidly sobering thought. But let’s leave poets out of this. In the time it took Balzac to write 91 novels, covering every aspect of the human condition in its myriad complexity, I have produced two very slender volumes of poetry, addressing a rather more limited sphere of activity… or rather inactivity.
Further proof that nothing is beneath me
Further proof that nothing is beneath me.
New column up at Artillery: Tottenham Corner.
Pass the salt… http://artillerymag.com/tottenham-corner-3/
This story up at The Weeklings:
Hour after hour, day after day, year after year, decade after decade, consumed by this precious illusion of service to the pen: priceless time that might have been used to benefit others, from which I might even have derived pleasure. And what have I received in return for this self-serving – if that – satisfaction of having actualized myself? Poverty and solitude have been the chief rewards. And what, actually, am I actualizing? Do I have anything to say that is worth saying at all or that hasn’t been said better before, that might justify this massive investment of time and energy, this insistence on keeping going, this unflagging commitment to a lost cause, as if it were a sacred act and not a sickness born of vanity? What would happen if I didn’t do it? Nothing. Nobody would notice. It wouldn’t make any difference to anybody… other than myself. And I would probably be a lot better off without it. As a compensatory last resort there’s always the myth of posthumous glory. But to receive that one has to die first. How inconvenient. I must put that on my to-do list. It would completely validate the work, of course. The only problem is that I haven’t done the work. I must also put that on my to-do list.
The silence preceding the anticlimax. A pitiful bid for validation or a claim on eternity. One keeps going despite continual rejection and lack of reward, spurred on, presumably, by some measure of self-belief – doomed to ambition by a sense of superiority or insecurity. The fantasy that we have something going on – that somebody is listening, somebody is watching – facilitated by the insidious web of social media that all too easily creates the false impression that one’s life and one’s musings might be of interest to others. It doesn’t seem to occur to most people who write that nobody’s going to want to read their work. Then again, there are enough unread (and unreadable) books out there already. One more won’t hurt.
My sadness is deeper than yours. My interior life is richer than yours. I am more interesting than you. I don’t care about anybody else’s problems. They are not as serious as mine. Nobody knows the weight I carry, the trouble I’ve seen. There are worlds in my head that nobody has access to: fortunately for them, fortunately for me. I have seen things that you will never see, and I have feelings that you are incapable of feeling, that you would never allow yourself to feel, because you lack the capacity and the curiosity. Once you felt the hint of such a feeling, you would stamp it out. I am a martyr to futility and I don’t expect to be shut down by a pretender. Mothballs are an aphrodisiac to me, beauty depresses me. You could never hope to fathom the depth of my feelings, deeper than death. I look down upon you all from my lofty height of lowliness. The fullness of your satisfaction lacks the cadaverous purity of my pain. Don’t talk to me about failure. You don’t know the meaning of the word. When it comes to failure, you’re strictly an amateur. Bush league stuff. I’m ten times the failure you’ll ever be. I have more to complain about than you, and regrets: more than a few, too many to mention. I am a fully-qualified failure, I have proven it over and over again. My credentials are impeccable, my resume flawless. I have worked hard to put myself in a position of unassailable wretchedness, and I demand to be respected for it. I expect to be rewarded for a struggle that produced nothing. I want the neglect, the lack of acknowledgment. And I want the bitterness that comes with it too.
The most important thing is to stop writing, now: to stop prioritizing this so-called work that generates no income and that nobody will ever read. This futile, masochistic, self-indulgent pretense of industry interferes with everything; it is carried out at the expense of love and work: real work, that is, the kind that is a visible manifestation of mental effort, not this endless supposed honing of my craft compounded by the preposterous conceit that the torturous process of giving shape to my thoughts actually serves some sort of purpose, when it is mostly an excuse to immerse myself in a morbidly self-reflective haze, of which there is seldom any visible manifestation.