As every writer knows… there is something mysterious about the writer’s ability, on any given day, to write. When the juices are flowing, or the writer is ‘hot’, an invisible wall seems to fall away, and the writer moves easily and surely from one kind of reality to another… Every writer has experienced at least moments of this strange, magical state. Reading student fiction one can spot at once where the power turns on and where it turns off, where the writer writes from ‘inspiration’ or deep, flowing vision, and where he had to struggle along on mere intellect.
What interests me about novelists as a species is the obsessiveness of the activity, the fact that novelists have to go on writing. I think that probably must come from a sense of the irrecoverable. In every novelist’s life there is some more acute sense of loss than with other people, and I suppose I must have felt that. I didn’t realize it, I suppose, till the last ten or fifteen years. In fact you have to write novels to begin to understand this. There’s a kind of backwardness in the novel…an attempt to get back to a lost world.
Too often the reason people are unhappy is they fight against life. They’ll shove it, punch it, throw it around in an attempt to get it to do what they want. But life is like a close friend, if you show it love and treat it kindly, it will be there for you. It will provide what you need.
In literature the ambition of the novice is to acquire the literary language; the struggle of the adept is to get rid of it.
When I dream of my mother, she is hiding in the farthest corners of dimly lit rooms, bewildered and pale-faced and all bold, brown eyes. This is not unlike the real image she inhabits, sitting in her walker or on a paisley-cushioned bench at the end of the hall as she tries to piece together the portions of my face, my hair, my body into something that falls just short of familiar or safe.
My mother looks small sitting there, every day smaller than I have ever seen her. Frail, and barely there. The clothes that used to fit her snugly hang from her shoulders, sleeves like a tent meant to house the loose, wrinkled skin that hangs from her frame. She is my mother, of course, made up of the same cells that webbed into the bits and pieces of her that used to swab my dirty face with saliva and rub my back when I was sick. Conversely, she is not my mother. She is a ghost. And I am her daughter, and I am not her daughter. I am a stranger most every day she sees me.
Each time I see her, there is less to see. When people ask how she is doing, this is what I say. She is disappearing, and one day I am afraid she might fall through the space between the bench cushions. One day, maybe she will. One day, there will be nothing left. I know this, and yet my visits become less regular, less dependable. To see her is to see the formidable truth that soon she will no longer be there. And I am not that brave.
As an independent bookseller, I’m really disappointed about this. Indies need all the help they can get these days, and to have a community like Goodreads fall into the corporate hands of a small-business-crusher like Amazon…
We’re losing allies by the day. I can only hope that loyal readers will vote with their dollars to keep local bookstores in business.
(I also posted this on Goodreads. It’s likely to be my final post there, as news of the sale has made me want to jump ship.)
This is so true. Support your local bookstore.
Great writers, I discovered, were not to be bowed down before and worshipped, but embraced and befriended. Their names resounded through history not because they had massive brows and thought deep incomprehensible thoughts, but because they opened windows in the mind, they put their arms round you and showed you things you always knew but never dared to believe. Even if their names were terrifyingly foreign and intellectual sounding, Dostoevsky, Baudelaire or Cavafy, they turned out to be charming and wonderful and quite unalarming after all.