coromandal


it needs you but it is not on your side
May 19, 2009, 12:20 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

A man brings a large burden to Salon’s Cary Tennis – a sick wife, advanced age and an unrealized childhood dream to write which has fallen short of the mark.  Tennis’s response – to go to the core motivation and to recognize and spurn superficials like awards or sales – is tonic for the compromised artist.

From I feel like quitting writing

But at the age of 55 I now believe that my adolescent insight was essentially correct: As creative people, we do exist in fundamental opposition to the dominant culture. Knowing this, we do not wait to be chosen. Rather, we fight to be heard.

So remember that as a writer you must find your motivation internally, not in external rewards, and you work in opposition to the system, not as a supplicant to the system. Whatever contingent truces you have maintained with the system in order to participate in its orderly orgies of consumption and distribution, good for you. But you are not a part of the system. You are a free creative worker. You do not need the system to do your creating. You only need it as a utility to reach your audience, and increasingly not even for that.

On the other hand, the system cannot create anything on its own. It can only manage and distribute. So it needs you.

It needs you but it is not on your side. Remember that.

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the world flattened out
April 23, 2008, 1:58 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

(Kureishi | Tolstoy | Chekhov)

Hanif Kureishi is the writer of The Buddha of Suburbia.  In this quotation, he says that we use art to raise the events of our lives out of the realm of insignificance.

He asserts that writing is an opening up, an unraveling, a continual search.  The conclusive and finite, and systems we have blindly come to accept like political thought, are limiting – like flattening out a round earth.  So, life is made sweet and human and dimensional by perpetual asking and questioning and yearning.

The master Chekhov taught that it is in the ordinary, the everyday, the unremarkable – and in the usually unremarked – that the deepest, most extraordinary and affecting events occur. These observations of the ordinary are bound up with everyone else’s experience the universal – and with what it is to be a child, parent, husband, lover. Most of the significant moments of one’s life are ‘insignificant’ to other people. It is showing how and why they are significant and also why they may seem absurd, that is art.

The aged Tolstoy thought he had to solve all the problems of life, Chekhov saw that these problems could only be put, not answered, at least by the part of yourself that was an artist. Perhaps as a man you could be effective in the world; and Chekhov was. As a writer, though, skepticism was preferable to a didacticism or advocacy that seemed to settle everything but which, in reality, closed everything off.  Political or spiritual solutions rendered the world less interesting. Rather than reminding you of its baffling strangeness, they flattened it out.

In the end there is only one subject for an artist, What is the nature of human experience? What is it to be alive, suffer and feel? What is it to love or need another person? To what extent can we know anyone else? Or ourselves? In other words, what it is to be a human being. These are questions that can never be answered satisfactorily but they have to be put again and again by each generation and by each person. The writer trades in dissatisfaction.

~excerpted from Something Given: Reflections on Writing, by Hanif Kureishi



keeping it regular with the knickered and provincial

M. Fuentes again.  I can’t figure out where the prevailing cultural myth of innovation came from when you consider how prevalent the blanket of stifling regularity seems to be — it’s a malignancy and at an advanced stage.  Fuentes equates popularity with ignorance.  The ancient Greeks did too: to maintain vitality in their senate they ostracized the most popular members; here it is the opposite.

This is DC in the late 1930’s where the school yard is full of fear of outside people and ideas.  How does what must have been a veritable flood of outsiders and their outside ideas into the American capital – the world’s nation of outsiders – not temper and calm this proclivity for fear?  Baffling …

“I believed in the democratic simplicity of my teachers and chums, and above all I believed I was, naturally, in a totally unself-conscious way, a part of that world.  It is important, at all ages and in all occupations, to be ‘popular’ in the United States; I have known no other society where the values of ‘regularity’ are so highly prized. I was popular, I was ‘regular.’  Until the day in march – march 18, 1938.  On that day, a man from another world, the imaginary country of my childhood, the President of Mexico , nationalized the holdings of foreign oil companies.  The headlines in the North American press denounced the ‘communist’ government of Mexico and its ‘red’ president; they demanded the invasion of Mexico in the sacred name of private property, and Mexicans, under international boycott, were invited to drink their oil.

Instantly, surprisingly, I became a pariah in my school.  Cold shoulders, aggressive stares, epithets, and sometimes blows.  Children know how to be cruel, and the cruelty of their elders is the surest residue of the malaise the young feel toward things strange, things other, things that reveal our own ignorance or insufficiency.  This was not reserved for me or for Mexico:  at about the same time, an extremely brilliant boy of eleven arrived from Germany.  He was a Jew and his family had fled from the Nazis.  I shall always remember his face, dark and trembling, his aquiline nose and deepset, bright eyes with their great sadness; the sensitivity of his hands and the strangeness of it all to his American companions.  This young man, Hans Berlikner, had a brilliant mathematical mind, and he walked and saluted like a Central European; he wore short pants and high woven stockings, Tyrolean jackets and an air of displaced courtesy that infuriated the popular, regular, feisty, knickered, provincial, Depression-era little sons of bitches at Henry Cook Public School of the Thirteenth Street N.W.

~Carlos Fuentes from How I Started to Write