An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Saturday, April 15, 2006


What is a writer - for? Who knows. What are worms - for? What is anything - for? Nothing - that's what. They just are. Maybe some of these things serve a purpose but that is not the same as being "for" that purpose. Perhaps only man made things are "for" something. In which case writers ought to be "for" something - even if they are writers by volition they are man made, and so they might be "for" something. But what?

Being an incredibly and irredeemably indolent bugger - like all writers - we work hard but we are lazy at the same time - I thought I'd see if anybody had said anything meaningful and vaguely sympathetic to my own views on the topic. Remember: "Mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal." - this quote has been attributed to T. S. Eliot and Vladimir Nabokov - just who said it I know not and care less - I've just stolen it . So, off I trotted to the Dalkey Archive - den of modern literati - fully intending to look up a few author interviews. Bingo! My first try was Gilbert Sorrentino - and I turned up the following nuggets.

On whether a writer writes for an audience:

"I never think of an audience, really. I think of my own pleasure, my own fun, if you will. When I read over what I have written and see something that strikes me as being marvelously subtle or beautifully structured, I think of friends of mine who might read it and see it. I get pleasure in thinking that they might see it. But to think of somebody in a bookstore, somebody I don't know getting it, is beyond me. I imagine it happens. People read my work and get something from it, are pleased by it, or are moved to laugh or cry or get sick. Some guy wrote me after reading "The Sky Changes" and said that after he had finished it he went and threw up. Terrific criticism."

On what fiction is - and isn't:

" idea of what fiction should be; it doesn't seem to me that fiction should take the place of reality. The idea of the mirror being held up to life is a very remote one as far as my fictional thinking goes. The point of art is literally the making of something that is beautiful, the making of something that works, if you will forgive me, in a "machinelike" way."

On the act itself:

"An artist is someone who makes something; he does not necessarily express himself in any way whatsoever. He can be utterly remote from what he is creating. He can create very coldly. A beautiful passage, a tragic passage, a comic passage can be written out of states of mind that are totally remote from those passages' import. The most salient example of this might be Joyce, who wrote the greatest comic masterpiece of this century, "Finnegans Wake," over a seventeen-year period of his life in which his personal affairs simply went from bad to worse. His economic problems, the problems of his daughter's mental illness, his own near blindness, his gastro-intestinal difficulty--he was not having a particularly comic time. And yet "Finnegans Wake" is a comic masterpiece."

I know writers who do not know any longer where they begin and end: things they have heard, or been told, or imagined, or plotted are the same stuff as their real lives and experiences. They subsume everything that happens to them and the people they come across and the things that have happened to the people they come across into themselves. It is all that they have to write from. There is no bottomless pit of experience ready-made: the writer trawls constantly for the stuff of his or her writing. And, at the end of the day, at the beginning of the day, and at all times in between, the writer is an autophage. The writer eats himself and regurgitates it as his work. Write now or right now I've puked up enough of myself - for my tastes anyway.

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