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.
I am the stale receptor, the superfluous accumulator,
the redundant completist trapped
in his cave of musty retention,
buried under years of absorption… unaborted;
decades of consumption… consumed,
sacrificed at the altar of other people’s art,
while everything else fell apart.
Pondering, at last, all the pointless consolation;
questioning if it was really necessary
to devour entire genres until I was crapulous
from gorging myself on culture,
As if it were some kind of achievement
to accumulate all this knowledge
that will die with me.
So that on my headstone it will read:
that I read and lived a lot of fiction…
that Art ruined my Life.