I work in the slow, quiet glow of recognition, cloaked by the effort, and with a long shadow of waiting.
Have just come across the Fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss (www.patrickrothfuss.com/content/index.asp). He’s written a High Fantasy book called The Name of the Wind that has been widely praised by Le Guin, Tad Williams, Terry Brooks, and all the other old masters of the genre and he’s even been blessed by the autarch of Fantasy Jeff VanderMeer. It’s a wonderful sounding book, telling the tale of “a magically gifted young man and his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king.”
And now some literary mazipan.
Our man Joyce…. Better than Old Papa Hemingway? I think so. Thing with Old Papa is he killed himself. And then I have to ask, well what was all his literary outpourings all about if he couldn’t keep the flame alight? His work is more weltschmerz than the existentialists because its nihilism. The kiss of Thanatos. Leaves me, anyway, wondering why bother, why attempt anything if it all in the end is meaningless, even the work.
Old Papa’s like a titanic Greek Chorus bleeding into an empty cup and with maudlin curses of Beware! Beware! Life will kill you if you don’t kill it. And he had no humor. Not like Joyce who was a marvelous comic writer. And it’s not like Joyce didn’t suffer. Jesus, he was half blind by the end of his life, struggling to see to write.
Old Papa’s overrated. Big rhino covered in literary jewels but missing the horn of life.
Joyce is a monkey with mites and seeing, hearing, laughing at life. And people don’t finish his books because it’s a lifelong commitment and most of us have our own lives to lead and can’t take on another.
But then I favour a maxamilist writer over a minimalist. You just have to look at the atomic level to understand this. Minimalism is a kind of sham if you just practice that. As maximalism is, too. Mix the two, however, and you have mutability.
Sometimes I amazed at writers. And you can take this as everything or nothing, with salt, a dash of pickle, and a whole lot of infinite jest. But there’s no profession harder than a writer’s. Let me explain. How many people get to imagine and create another world in a book and then populate it with characters and situations? It’s like living numerous lives. And most people have a hard time living the one they have. Writers are living the one they have but all the others they create. Plus they have to know everything down to the colour of the wine stain in the glass. It all has to be plotted out and realized and filled with honest dialogue and action and twists and then it has to entertain or challenge or do whatever a book does without the certainty of ever being read. If that’s not hard work, I don’t know what is.
If you are scoffing at this, remember I am, too. But there’s also a certain truth in it. There has to be because otherwise what is this life we live, counterfeit, fake, a perpetual march to oblivion?
I married literature so long ago but I’m still in the honeymoon phase.
“Nothing is so perfectly amusing as a total change of ideas.” Laurence Sterne.