Thursday, March 27, 2014

And then, when you can write, or take an hour to read from your own stuff, you're okay.  Maybe you even see, not to jinx yourself, a kind of form evolving.

There are the things a writer holds on to in his head, to maintain a compass, a direction.  They would be similar to the things that might be found in a crow's nest, shiny objects, a button that caught the bird's eye.  For me there is the portrait of Dostoevsky by Perov, in which he is pictured sitting, wearing an overcoat, his hands folded on his knee, one leg crossed over the other, the author looking off to the side, down into a thoughtful detached distance, the painting done in tempera tones.  (Notes from the House of the Dead was a comeback for him after a long exile both literary and real.  He would always doubt the value of his works, even as he wrote his greatest, an article in the Guardian points out, noting how far his reputation fell in his own life.  There is Chekhov, all of Chekhov, who was great and humbly common at the same time, alive and dying, a letter, a travelogue, a story all in one, each.  There is the sketch found in A Moveable Feast in which the writer remembers writing in a caf√©, finding his eyes falling on a beauty of a Parisienne, then falling into his work and then looking up finding her gone.  There is that subdued quality to it, that of a person of countryside experiences finding himself in the great city abounding with life.  How often does the writer find that same experience, and on through it, the beautiful woman, he goes on writing, both anonymous to each other (if he's even noticed at all), and if he is wise, and still working, he lets the anonymity remain.  And the sketch of course speaks to the great form of writing, the artistic diary, nothing more, the highest, the purest in a lot of ways, the writer has stumbled across, such that he does not pass a negative judgment on it, lets it stand, ties it to other sketches, no need of plot or story beyond what it is, the writer's moment.  That writer's moment is the back-up, the saving thing, to let stand the fundamental self-awareness that must happen, free from other realities.  In the moment, the writer is no longer a man who works behind a bar four nights a week, but a real and serious writer.  This is the writer finding his pace, as the buzz of conversations hums amorphously around him, what do people talk about anyway, he wonders, as he sits in his chair, in his own mode that was given to him at birth, being like the whale, speaking in the silent water of written language through echoes and whistles and groans.  What is it, what is he writing?  Not even he knows, but he does it, keeps on doing it, and then he is okay.

Then you come home, have a bite, and then you are tired, as if from an effort of holding something up, but finding it already largely stable and positioned so, such that a frame or a form is taking shape in the writer's eye, an emotional and very satisfying moment that cannot be taken away, done without anything more than a quiet sort of pride, as if having found out on a hike the beauty of the big mountain that you expected there all along suddenly before you, the mountain having risen up inexplicably, a movement of nature.  Then you realize somehow that indeed you were constructing something natural, like a hive of bees makes its honeycomb, at a particular angle, kept at a particular temperature and moistness, so that food could be assembled from the raw materials of the pollen out there.

If the world tells you that you are a writer, it tells you as much that you are not to be.  As much as nature asks you, shows you how, to be a writer, the world of humanity offers its willful skepticism.  As highly as you think of the natural form of writing that you do find, which helps you, which you must do for your own being and good healthy, the world can well say, 'well, no one else is reading you, so why should we.'  This is the great problem of obscurity, though of course no one can ever start instantly with  wide-read success.  But that problem, or perhaps something about the nature of obscurity is in many ways the best source of knowledge.  Such that somehow the greatest book that one could ever write  is really just the notebook, the diary of a writer who was a person who slowly went about confirming that he was that creature, as perhaps exists in all of us, a writer, with completely as possible, the character of the writer, as God gives us to be.  Writing is self evident;  it is speaking with authority, even as the world doubts and questions and places silly demands upon the natural writer, with an attitude, 'show us.'  The writer simply exists.  And this is why many silly books are written and consumed, out of lesser  types who feel they want to harness an energy, but capturing it for needs far smaller than it requires.  The writer must be working on very deep questions on the very nature of existence, even if to do such work is highly unpopular to a readership wanting entertainment who finds truth a subjective thing.

This is the thing about Hemingway, having thought about it long and hard, and which I've known as long as I read him, and Hemingway is not always so popular amongst English Departments.  Within him there is a real writer, a serious one.  He is faulted as a loutish type, a grandiose person, a self-promoter, first and foremost to a lot of people, simply uninteresting, macho bully, and maybe he could be such a person.  But there is purity of form in him, a sensitivity, a poetry, and he should be remembered democratically as one who helped bring forward the form of writing into a modern American worldly time, making an homage to that old story of a young person from the countryside coming to the city, to maturity, while trying to preserve something within.

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