March 22, 2017
Shouldn’t art be the residue of life and not the main thing?
This novel thought struck me while I was brushing my remaining teeth. I held on to it and as soon as I got out of the shower I wrote it down.
Unless writing is the means by which one earns one’s livelihood, isn’t it more important to live? If one enjoys writing, then write, but if one has to bribe oneself to do it, if it isn’t financially rewarding – or rewarding on any level beyond this dubious notion of actualizing oneself – and if nobody is reading it, then why bother? Why sacrifice potentially enriching experience in order to engage in an act that nobody else, oneself included, benefits from? Surely art shouldn’t be prioritized over life? And even if one is compelled to do it professionally or out of some misguided sense of purpose, even then isn’t it more important to experience life than to examine and transcribe it?
Maybe there are a few cases of supremely gifted individuals whose works are sufficiently edifying and entertaining that the prioritization of art over life – or the more exalted status of art as life – is justifiable.
It is doubtful, however, for the vast majority of people that call themselves or think of themselves as artists, that on their deathbeds they will look back and value their creative or professional achievements over love and the living of life.
But perhaps what one values most on one’s deathbed isn’t the most reliable index of worth.
Anyway, I’m not on my deathbed, I’m just sitting at this desk.
October 22, 2016
Gissing, Orwell, Kafka, Lawrence: What do these distinguished authors have in common? They all produced a lot of great work, certainly, but surely their most important unifying quality is that they were all younger than me when they died. I have now lived longer than a lot of people who achieved a lot more than I am ever going to achieve. Taking into consideration how much time I have already wasted and how much time realistically remains – and how much of that remaining time is likely to be wasted – then that situation is unlikely to change. Even if I devoted every available remaining hour in unswerving devotion to this unrequired and rewardless task, it would still be impossible to ease the margin of defeat and offset the overwhelming backlog of lost time. It is no longer possible to measure my own lack of progress by that of other authors who started ‘late’. I have now surpassed them all. When ‘they’ talk about an author’s career taking off, and their ‘finally’ producing the work for which they are rightly revered, the author is always at least ten years younger than I am at time of said ‘take-off’. There are others who seemed old when I was young, who started to produce work at a sensible age and have continued to produce it; they have been old for a long time, whereas I have been young for a long time, because I haven’t started yet. I have spent twenty-five years preparing to start. And it’s not as if I haven’t spent all this time struggling with literary endeavor; it’s just that I haven’t finished anything. Well, that’s something: a point from which to recede.
March 30, 2016
If the amount of time I ‘put in’ were commensurate with actual finished product, I would have amassed a substantial body of work by now, several groaning shelves worth, if not of a Jamesian or Dostoevskian amplitude, then at least in the Flaubertian range. Although, admittedly, most of the time that was supposed to be spent immersed in disciplined endeavor has been lost in a haze of abstraction. All these thoughts and memories – all these notes – will perish with me, and maybe that’s for the best. Why save them from inevitable oblivion? If only to bespeak the gulf between what one imagines one is capable of and what one actually is capable of, and the folly of continuing to work on something when one knows in advance that it is a failure. Who am I kidding? The only person I’m kidding is myself. Nobody else is invested enough to be in on the joke.
March 15, 2016
And so, lost to myself, I find myself again, incapable of losing myself, in a state unfit for discharging what I stubbornly and unconvincingly still cling to the notion of as being my duty, weighed down by the forces that were supposed to raise me, sinking into a lyre-backed chair amid the flickerings and trillings of a hot February morning. Despite the best of intentions, things didn’t go according to plan. A few sentences were squeezed out like the rancid dregs from an almost empty bottle, long past its expiration date. The results, when viewed, will probably strike me as nothing I’d care to share. But at least a few lines emerged.
March 6, 2015
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.
October 7, 2013
Another pointless examination of pettiness and envy.
In which the word ‘subsequently’ is overused:
May 31, 2013
Further proof that nothing is beneath me.
New column up at Artillery: Tottenham Corner.
Pass the salt… http://artillerymag.com/tottenham-corner-3/
March 8, 2013
I don’t care about anybody else’s problems:
They are not as serious as mine.
My sadness is not only deeper than yours:
It is wider and in every respect richer.