Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Because a fire was in my head"

THE HIVE
If one is to judge by the buzz of thanksgiving that burdens the acknowledgment pages of new books, a hive mind seems to have seized the little nation of writers. But the beautiful idea or image that burns in the head is not meant to lead toward committee work.

THE HOBBLE
Whether they are accurate or not, comments can point to where something is amiss. That's fine. Nevertheless, a writer needs to make free choices, unhindered. To do otherwise is to welcome the safety of a hobble. The words in a book need to be set in proper order by one sensibility, and the writer must possess a portion of self-reliance for that to happen.

THE NEEDFUL PERILS
Sometimes a book is a steppingstone or a wrong direction rather than the perfection (the golden apples of the sun and silver apples of the moon) dreamed and glimpsed. Yet a steppingstone or wrong path may be precisely the thing that was needed, not by the canny peddler's need for "product" but by the uncanny demands of art.

3 comments:

  1. I think all artists need to bear these things in mind.
    Particularly, "The Needful Perils'.
    The Product is what it is. It cannot usually be predicated or worked toward ('I want to write a best-seller and I want it to also be fine art." "I will paint this painting to appeal to as many groups of people as I can and I will paint it as an authentic expression of what I am trying to portray.") This approach usually leads to the mediocre, I believe.

    Artists who do what they need to do, and work at what they learn they need to work at usually produce very fine work indeed.

    I wonder what instigated this blog posting (?)
    But it is a good one!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Predicated?
    Predicted.
    Doh...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Paul,

    You know I've read a lot of novels this year for various reasons... And I had not realized how very long and complex Acknowledgments had become.

    Plus I've realized that some recent books were workshopped repeatedly at conferences and other settings. I find it startling the degree to which some people are willing to let others dictate their direction.

    And of course I like to follow my own nose, not somebody else's...

    ReplyDelete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.