mercredi 1 décembre 2010

Roseline Tremblay, L'ÉCRIVAIN IMAGINAIRE; essai sur le roman québécois 1960-1995, Montréal, Éditions Hurtubise HMH, 2004, 600 pages

Une fois accordée leur juste place aux traces autobiographiques, ce que l'on sait sur la poétique de l'auteur et qui est contenu dans les entrevues qu'il a accordées, dans son journal, dans des articles ou des essais, peut servir à remonter le fil d'une esthétique correspondant ou non à celle de son personnage d'écrivain. Ce matériel secondaire peut faire réfléchir sur ce qui est ou n'est pas resté dans le texte romanesque, de la même manière que la critique générique informe sur les traces d'un processus d'écriture. Le rapport qu'essaie détablir toute sociocritique des textes entre réel et fictionnel touche la question du point de rencontre entre l'objet de l'analyse et le réservoir des correspondances référentielles. Pour ce faire, il est essentiel de distinguer la référence extra-textuelle de la référence créée par le texte. Pour identifier cette dernière, la sociocrtitique parle du référenciel, qu'elle oppose au référentiel. Le va-et-vient entre le texte et la société s'exprime par la représentation de celle-ci dans le texte, et c'est cette société de référence qui fait l'objet de l'analyse.
(p. 478-479) 

Roseline Tremblay, L'ÉCRIVAIN IMAGINAIRE; essai sur le roman québécois 1960-1995, Montréal, Éditions Hurtubise HMH, 2004, 600 pages

Le fait de savoir que tel détail de l'information romanesque a des sources biographiques qui amènent à mieux connaître la vie de l'auteur - vie qui, dans le cas d'auteurs contemporains, est souvent de notoriété publique - relève de l'anecdotique. Le caractère autobiographique de la figure ne confère ni plus ni moins de valeur au texte; d'une certaine manière, tout écrivain écrit à partir de ce qu'il connaît. Par ailleurs, on ne peut nier que les plus grandes figures d'écrivain fictif sont souvent d'inspiration autobiographique, même si, du strict point de vue philosophique, dire qui l'on est pose déjà problème. Ce n'est pas rare qu'un personnage a le même âge, exerce la même profession, habite le même quartier ou a fait les mêmes voyages que son auteur, qu'il est, de fait, son double. Même s'il porte le nom de l'auteur, il est toujours "autre". L'auteur peut investir en lui sa propre subjectivité en lui attribuant des traits d'identité civile opposés aux siens, et le roman contemporain ne manque pas de mettre toutes ces nuances à son programme, notamment à travers l'autofiction.
(p. 477)

Roseline Tremblay, L'ÉCRIVAIN IMAGINAIRE; essai sur le roman québécois 1960-1995, Montréal, Éditions Hurtubise HMH, 2004, 600 pages

Dans Intérieurs du Nouveau Monde, Pierre Nepveu analyse certaines idées préconçues au sujet de la littérature américaine - états-unienne, canadienne et québécoise - et en dénonce le point de vue quelquefois raccourci. Il préfère chercher la source de l'anti-intellectualisme dans le manque de l'Europe et dans la solitude du rêve américain. En comparant un à un les romans qui mettent en texte le discours sur l'écrivain et l'écriture, on voit apparaître en effet un être profondément solitaire, qui veut faire oeuvre intellectuelle à l'encontre d'un environnement physique et d'un espace négateurs d'une sociabilité cohérente et consensuelle par excès de vastitude; un territoire dont l'immensité, loin d'être stimulante, est la réitération de la condition de l'homme qui cherche depuis son origine à communiquer, à bâtir et à se dire à travers une culture qui puisse le mettre en contact avec l'Autre. L'arrachement de l'Europe reste un écueil, une blessure dont la littérature porte la trace.
(p. 380-381)

Roseline Tremblay, L'ÉCRIVAIN IMAGINAIRE; essai sur le roman québécois 1960-1995, Montréal, Éditions Hurtubise HMH, 2004, 600 pages

Le personnage romanesque se définit par sa complexité, qui est faite de désirs exprimés et refoulés, de l'exposé d'un idéal poétique en même temps que de la représentation d'une réalité. Or, si le roman québécois aime jouer avec les formes en s'attachant à démontrer la linéarité de l'intrigue et à mettre en scène le littéraire, c'est le cas, a fortiori, du roman de l'écrivain, qui est, en dehors de toute étiquette postmoderne, un roman réflexif et philosophique, un roman du questionnement. Depuis Cervantès, depuis son origine même, le roman pose la question de sa définition, de son rôle, de son inspiration et de sa poétique. La réalité, le vraisemblable, la vie, furent désignés, dès Aristote, comme objets de représentation artistique. Suivant cet idéal, la Beauté est l'expression de la Vérité.
Ce rapport conflictuel entre réalité et fiction est au centre de la réflexion romanesque, en particulier depuis la rupture moderniste initiée par Baudelaire, et il touche directement la poétique du roman de l'écrivain. Ainsi, outre la légitimation de la parole individuelle et collective, une des questions qui traversent le corpus et que pose l'œuvre de Jacques Poulin, est celle de l'inspiration. Qu'est-ce qu'une bonne histoire? Comment plaire au lecteur? Comment être un créateur de héros tout en étant, comme Hemingway, un héros "dans la vie"? Si la représentation du littéraire et la mise en scène de l'écrivain et de l'écriture contribuent à détruire l'illusion réaliste, cette illusion demeure un idéal nostalgique poursuivi dans la difficulté même de l'écriture quotidienne, et c'est ce que Poulin s'est attaché à décrire dans Le vieux chagrin.
[...]
À travers la représentation de l'écrivain, les auteurs se positionnent sur l'échiquier littéraire en posant des questions à la profession elle-même: l'écrivain aujourd'hui, sous ses multiples chapeaux, qui doit-il être et que doit-il peindre pour mériter son nom? Quelle mission justifie encore l'acte d'écrire? Or, même si l'idéal de Vérité traverse l'histoire du roman, il s'accompagne toujours du devoir complémentaire de divertir, et c'est cette tâche, ce rôle de divertisseur et d'enchanteur du public lecteur, cette condition minimale de l'existence romanesque, qui préoccupe le héros-écrivain poulinien. Avant d'enseigner, d'instruire, de "peindre le réel", il veut d'abord plaire, de préférence à une lectrice idéale, à une jeune femme qui dévore les livres, qui aime l'écrivain et qui en tombe amoureuse après avoir lu ses histoires.
(p. 217-218)

Roseline Tremblay, L'ÉCRIVAIN IMAGINAIRE; essai sur le roman québécois 1960-1995, Montréal, Éditions Hurtubise HMH, 2004, 600 pages

J'utiliserai, pour désigner l'écrivain fictif, les mots personnage, figure et héros, sans pourtant prétendre à leur équivalence. Même si la figure est plus large que le personnage et évoque le terme anglais figure, il est justifié de l'utiliser puisque les personnages seront décrits aussi dans leur structure textuelle, ce qui fait d'eux des figures du texte.
(p. 79)

Roseline Tremblay, L'ÉCRIVAIN IMAGINAIRE; essai sur le roman québécois 1960-1995, Montréal, Éditions Hurtubise HMH, 2004, 600 pages

La lecture critique doit permettre un aller-retour efficace entre, d'une part, ces modèles historiques, ce bagage discursif, cet imaginaire social, ces fantasmes collectifs, et, d'autre part, la mise en texte; mise en texte qui sera aussi appelée fictionnalisation, lorsqu'elle dépasse la simple transcription du discours social et devient une forme d'esthétisation.
(p. 57)

Roseline Tremblay, L'ÉCRIVAIN IMAGINAIRE; essai sur le roman québécois 1960-1995, Montréal, Éditions Hurtubise HMH, 2004, 600 pages

Le personnage de l'écrivain est l'un des meilleurs angles d'analyse des problèmes suscités par l'esthétique romanesque. Le personnage ne se limite pas à réfléchir sur lui-même. Il interroge en même temps la littérature et ses institutions. Aussi y a-t-il lieu de mettre dans une catégorie distincte les cas où le narrateur raconte sa propre histoire ou encore celle d'un autre personnage qui se trouve en position de témoin, comme dans Lolita de Nabokov ou Un Joualonais sa Joualonie de Marie-Claire Blais. Dans ce dernier roman, c'est la focalisation interne qui fait du narrateur un "écrivain" - en vérité plus scripteur qu'écrivain - par la seule opération du récit, sans égard à la question de savoir s'il est écrivain de profession. Il faut distinguer ces textes de ceux qui racontent l'histoire d'un "véritable" écrivain. Le premier procédé est assimilable à de la métafiction ou à de la métanarration, sur lesquelles ont été publiées plusieurs recherches américaines. Le second procédé met en avant des personnages dont l'écriture est l'activité principale (écrivains de profession) ou occasionnelle (écrivains exerçant une autre profession).
(p. 55)

Roseline Tremblay, L'ÉCRIVAIN IMAGINAIRE; essai sur le roman québécois 1960-1995, Montréal, Éditions Hurtubise HMH, 2004, 600 pages

La sociocritique insiste sur l'idée que les représentations romanesques sont tirées d'imaginaires qui se construisent dans l'extra-texte et qui circulent dans le discours social avant d'être "traitées" par les textes.
(p. 45-46)

Roseline Tremblay, L'ÉCRIVAIN IMAGINAIRE; essai sur le roman québécois 1960-1995, Montréal, Éditions Hurtubise HMH, 2004, 600 pages

Il m'apparaissait évident qu'une étude des représentations de l'écrivain dans le roman québécois pouvait fournir une matière abondante permettant de creuser des question fondamentales sur ses personnifications et son statut, notamment par l'analyse du discours des personnages. Ce qui ouvrait la voie à une étude des discours culturels et littéraires, à l'examen du rôle de l'intellectuel et de l'artiste, à la représentation d'un panorama des influences littéraires, enfin à l'explicitation d'une poétique de l'écriture propre au roman québécois.
(p. 29)

jeudi 18 novembre 2010

Le constat

Commençons avec une question: pourquoi Henry Bech écrit-il à John Updike que, si ce dernier ne peut s'empêcher de commettre cette indécence littéraire consistant à écrire sur un écrivain, mieux vaut que cela soit à propos de lui, le personnage Bech, qu'à propos de lui-même, l'auteur Updike? Ici, dans une joute métatextuelle de mise en abyme difficile à résoudre, la créature s'adresse à son créateur et se pose en juge de la création dont il sera le "héros". Dans sa lettre à l'auteur, Bech nous dit deux choses intéressantes: d'abord, il condamne l'effort de "John Updike", à la fois auteur réel du livre que nous avons entre les mains et auteur actantiel du récit que nous lisons, en le taxant d'indécence (dans l'anglais original: "the artistic indecency", qui revêt ici le sens de "faux-pas", de geste malheureux); pour Henry Bech, écrire sur un écrivain, c'est commettre une faute de goût: cela ne se fait pas, c'est facile. Ensuite, il convient qu'une fois le projet enclenché, une fois la faute commise, il est somme toute préférable de parler d'autrui que de parler de soi. De cette façon la faute sera moins grande, puisque, s'écartant de l'auto-représentation, on aura au moins fait preuve d'imagination et d'invention.
Précisant qu'il n'intentera pas de poursuites judiciaires à l'endroit de John Updike, Henry Bech conclut sa lettre à l'auteur de Bech: A Book avec cette phrase, révélatrice de l'estime qu'il porte à l'œuvre littéraire dont il fait l'objet: "I don't suppose your publishing this little jeu of a book will do either of us drastic harm." Abaissant ainsi le livre au niveau d'un "jeu", d'une bagatelle, Bech lui enlève sa qualité littéraire et le relègue au niveau d'un voyeurisme fade qui ne lui plaît guère, sa vie privée y étant étalée au grand jour. Mais ce n'est pas tout. La stratégie textuelle complexe déployée ici par Updike à travers la voix de son personnage est évidemment une condamnation et une légitimation de son propre effort, mais c'est également un rappel sur le mode ironique de la thématique littéraire du personnage-écrivain.
Or, si tout porte à croire que l'histoire littéraire occidentale a habitué le lecteur à une représentation de l'écrivain dans le récit lui-même, dans un effort grandissant de thématiser et de mettre en scène l'écriture, le métier d'écrivain et le champ littéraire, Updike désamorce cette tradition en qualifiant son propre livre, par l'entremise de son juge Bech, d'indécence et de "jeu". L'Américain qu'il est utilise même le gallicisme et la mise entre guillemets afin d'accentuer l'aspect puéril de l'entreprise, en ce qu'elle a d'auto-indulgente et de faussement intellectuelle.

La thèse que j'envisage d'écrire part d'un constat que j'ai fait en cours de rédaction de mon mémoire, qui s'interrogeait sur les problèmes de l'ambition et de la démesure dans l'imaginaire du romancier américain, à travers une histoire du phénomène du Grand Roman Américain. Au fil de mes lectures des grands récits canoniques, je me suis aperçu qu'il y avait eu, au cours de l'histoire littéraire des États-Unis, assez peu de romans mettant en scène des personnages de romanciers, contrairement à la profusion de ce genre de récit dans d'autre traditions littéraires nationales, comme au Québec ou dans les Antilles, par exemple. C'est comme si l'imaginaire du romancier américain s'était construit en se tenant loin de cette auto-représentation dans et par l'écriture qui caractérise d'abord, selon plusieurs, la modernité littéraire (dans la pratique de la mise en abyme proustienne et joycienne) et qu'on relit ensuite énormément à l'avènement de la postmodernité via des concepts comme la métafiction et l'autofiction. Le personnage-écrivain, qu'il soit narrateur, protagoniste, héros, personnage secondaire s'est répandu comme une traînée de poudre un peu partout dans le monde, mais il n'a pas pris racine aux États-Unis. Il a évidemment donné lieu à de grandes œuvres, mais je ne crois pas qu'il soit possible de parler d'une prolifération, comme l'on fait André Belleau et ensuite Roseline Tremblay pour le personnage-écrivain dans le roman québécois.
Prenons par exemple la génération de ces grands explorateurs de la métafiction et du postmodernisme américain: il n'y a pas de représentation d'écrivain chez Donald Barthelme, du moins pas dans ses romans. Il n'y en a pas non plus chez Robert Coover, ni chez Thomas Pynchon, ni chez E. L. Doctorow. Ces écrivains ont presque toujours consacré leurs narrations et leurs fictions à des personnages d'excentriques, certes, mais d'excentriques, si l'on veut, non-littéraires. La mise en abyme, chez eux, et l'auto-référentialité, se sont faites ailleurs que dans une exploration du récit spéculaire. Comme leurs grands prédécesseurs, de la fin du romantisme chez Hawthorne au modernisme chez Stein, en passant par le naturalisme de Dreiser ou de Howells, ils n'ont pas été tentés par cette aventure de l'auto-représentation. 
Bien sûr, on pense tout de suite à de grandes exceptions comme Philip Roth ou Paul Auster, qui ont créé des personnages et des alter-égos incontournables dans l'histoire de la littérature américaine, et ce sont elles qui me permettront de constituer un corpus afin d'explorer ces figures dans les textes et ce qu'elles peuvent nous apprendre sur les différentes stratégies adoptées par les écrivains américains au fil du temps afin de se positionner et de positionner leurs œuvres en marge du discours dominant.

Ainsi, c'est à partir de ce constat initial que je propose la synthèse suivante de ma problématique: l'histoire littéraire étant toujours à refaire, il s'agira de rédiger une thèse d’allégeance sociocritique qui, en prenant comme points de repères historiques différentes incarnations de romanciers dans les fictions, et grâce à des analyses de textes pointues, éclairera les postures intellectuelles et sociales assumées par différents écrivains des États-Unis face au discours dominant et aux idéologies véhiculées au fil du temps.

samedi 9 octobre 2010

Jack London, MARTIN EDEN, New York, The Modern Library, 2002 [1909]

"After all, your writing has been a toy to you," she was saying. "Surely you have played with it long enough. It is time to take up life seriously - our life, Martin. Hitherto you have lived only your own."
"You want me to go to work?" he asked.
"Yes. Father has offered -"
"I understand all that," he broke in; "but what I want to know is whether or not you have lost faith in me?"
She pressed his hand mutely, her eyes dim.
"In your writing, dear," she admitted in a half-whisper.
"You've read lots of my stuff," he went on brutally. "What do you think of it? Is it utterly hopeless? How does it compare with other men's work?"
"But they sell theirs, and you - don't."
"That doesn't answer my question. Do you think that literature is not at all my vocation?"
"Then I will answer." She steeled herself to do it. "I don't think you were made to write. Forgive me, dear. You compel me to say it; and you know I know more about literature than you do."
"Yes, you are a Bachelor of Arts," he said meditatively; "and you ought to know."
"But there is more to be said," he continued, after a pause painful to both. "I know what I have in me. No one knows that so well as I. I know I shall succeed. I will not be kept down. I am afire with what I have to say in verse, and fiction, and essay. I do not ask you to have faith in me, nor in my writing. What I do ask of you is to love me and have faith in love."
(p. 265)

Jack London, MARTIN EDEN, New York, The Modern Library, 2002 [1909]

"And I'll tell you," he interrupted. "The chief qualification of ninety-nine per cent of all editors is failure. They have failed as writers. Don't think they prefer the drudgery of the desk and the slavery to their circulation and to the business manager to the joy of writing. They have tried to write, and they have failed. And right there is the cursed paradox of it. Every portal to success in literature is guarded by those watch-dogs, the failures in literature. The editors, sub-editors, associate editors, most of them, and the manuscript-readers for the magazines and the book-publishers, most of them, nearly all of them, are men who wanted to write and who have failed. And yet they, of all creatures under the sun the most unfit, are the very creatures who decide what shall and what shall not find its way into print - they, who have proved themselves not original, who have demonstrated that they lack the divine fire, sit in judgment upon originality and genius. And after them come the reviewers, just so many more failures. Don't tell me that they have not dreamed the dream and attempted to write poetry or fiction; for they have, and they have failed. Why, the average review is more nauseating than cod-liver oil. But you know my opinion on the reviewers and the alleged critics. There are great critics, but they are as rare as comets. If I fail as a writer, I shall have proved for the career of editorship. There's bread and butter and jam, at any rate."
(p. 262) 

Jack London, MARTIN EDEN, New York, The Modern Library, 2002 [1909]

"You fool!" he cried at his image in the looking-glass. "You wanted to write, and you tried to write, and you had nothing in you to write about. What did you have in you? - some childish notions, a few half-baked sentiments, a lot of undigested beauty, a great black mass of ignorance, a heart filled to bursting with love, and an ambition as big as your love and as futile as your ignorance. And you wanted to write! Why, you're just on the edge of beginning to get something to write about. You wanted to create beauty, but how could you when you knew nothing of the essential characteristics of life. You wanted to write about the world and the scheme of existence when the world was a Chinese puzzle to you and all that you could have written would have been about what you did not know about the scheme of existence. But cheer up, Martin, my boy. You'll write yet. You know a little, a very little, and you're on the right road now to know more. Some day, if you're lucky, you may come pretty close to knowing all that may be known. Then you will write."
(p. 110-111)

Jack London, MARTIN EDEN, New York, The Modern Library, 2002 [1909]

The short stories were returned in similar fashion. He read them over and over, and liked them so much that he could not puzzle out the cause of their rejection, until, one day, he read in a newspaper that manuscripts should always be typewritten. That explained it. Of course editors were so busy that they could not afford the time and strain of reading handwriting. Martin rented a typewriter and spent a day mastering the machine. Each day he typed what he composed, and he typed his earlier manuscripts as fast as they were returned him. He was surprised when the typed ones began to come back. His jaw seemed to become squarer, his chin more aggressive, and he bundled the manuscripts off to new editors.
(p. 95)

Jack London, MARTIN EDEN, New York, The Modern Library, 2002 [1909]

The creative spirit in him flamed up at the thought and urged that he recreate this beauty for a wider audience than Ruth. And then, in splendor and glory, came the great idea. He would write. He would be one of the eyes through which the world saw, one of the ears through which it heard, one of the heart through which it felt. He would write - everything - poetry and prose, fiction and description, and plays like Shakespeare. There was a career and the way to win to Ruth. The men of literature were the world's giants, and he conceived them to be far finer than the Mr. Butlers who earned thirty thousand a year and could be Supreme Court justices if they wanted to.
(p. 77-78)

samedi 18 septembre 2010

John Fante, ASK THE DUST, New York, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006 [1939]

Arturo Bandini, the novelist. Income of his own, made it writing short stories. Writing a book now. Tremendous book. Advances notices terrific. Remarkable prose. Nothing like it since Joyce. Standing before Hackmuth's picture, I read the work of each day. I spent whole hours writing a dedication: To J. C. Hackmuth, for discovering me. To J. C. Hackmuth, in admiration. To Hackmuth, a man of genius. I could see them, those New York critics, crowding Hackmuth at his club. You certainly found a winner in that Bandini kid on the coast. A smile from Hackmuth, his eyes twinkling.
Six weeks, a few sweet hours every day, three and four and sometimes five delirious hours, with the pages piling up and all other desires asleep. I felt like a ghost walking the earth, a lover of man and beast alike, and wonderful waves of tenderness flooded me when I talked to people and mingled with them in the streets. God Almighty, dear God, good to me, gave me a sweet tongue, and these sad and lonely folk will hear me and they shall be happy. Thus the days passed. Dreamy, luminous days, and sometimes such great quiet joy came to me that I would turn out my lights and cry, and a strange desire to die would come to me.
Thus Bandini, writing a novel.

John Fante, ASK THE DUST, New York, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006 [1939]

I worked hard. It was supposed to be Autumn, but I couldn't tell the difference. We had sun every day, blue skies every night. Sometimes there was fog. I was eating fruit again. The Japanese gave me credit and I had the pick of their stalls. Bananas, oranges, pears, plums. Once in a while I ate celery. I had a full can of tobacco and a new pipe. There wasn't any coffee, but I didn't mind. Then my new story hit the magazine stands. The Long Lost Hills! It was not as exciting as The Little Dog Laughed. I scarcely looked at the free copy Hackmuth sent me. This pleased me nevertheless. Some day I would have so many stories written I wouldn't remember where they appeared. "Hi there, Bandini! Nice story you had in the Atlantic Monthly this month." Bandini puzzled. "Did I have one in the Atlantic? Well, well."

John Fante, ASK THE DUST, New York, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006 [1939]

Oh Bandini, talking to the reflexion in the dresser mirror, what sacrifices you make for your art! You might have been a captain of industry, a merchant prince, a big league ball player, leading hitter in the American League, with an average of .415; but no! Here you are, crawling through the days, a starved genius, faithful to your sacred calling. What courage you possess!
I lay in bed, sleepless in the darkness. Mighty Hackmuth, what would he say to all this? He would applaud, his powerful pen would eulogize me in well-turned phrases. And after all, that letter to Hackmuth wasn't such a bad letter. I got up, dug it up from the waste-basket, and re-read it. A remarkable letter, cautiously humored. Hackmuth would finf it very amusing. It would impress upon him the fact that I was the selfsame author of The Little Dog Laughed. There was a story for you! And I opened a drawer filled with copies of the magazine that contained the story. Lying on the bad I read it again, laughing and laughing at the wit of it, murmuring in amazement that I had written it. Then I took to reading it aloud, with gestures, before the mirror. When I was finished there were tears of delight in my eyes and I stood before the picture of Hackmuth, thanking him for recognizing my genius.

John Fante, ASK THE DUST, New York, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006 [1939]

He hurried away, leaving her looking after him, speaking words he lost in flight. He walked half a block. He was pleased. At least she had asked him. At least she had identified him as a man. He whistled a tune from sheer pleasure. Man about town has universal experience. Noted writer tells of night with woman of the streets. Arturo Bandini, famous writer, reveals experience with Los Angeles prostitute. Critics acclaim book finest written.
Bandini (being interviewed prior to departure for Sweden): "My advice to all young writers is quite simple. I would caution them never to evade a new experience. I would urge them to live life in the raw, to grapple with it bravely, to attack it with naked fists."
Reporter: "Mr. Bandini, how did you come to write this book which won you the Nobel Prize?"
Bandini: "The book is based on a true experience which happened to me one night in Los Angeles. Every word of that book is true. I lived that book, I experienced it."

John Fante, ASK THE DUST, New York, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006 [1939]

Then a great deal of time passed as I stood in front od a pipe shop and looked, and the whole world faded except that window and I stood and smoked them all, and saw myself a great author with that natty Italian briar, and a cane, stepping out of a big black car, and she was there too, proud as hell of me, the lady in the silver fox fur. We registered and then we had cocktails and then we danced awhile, and then we had another cocktail and I recited some lines from Sanskrit, and the world was so wonderful, because every two minutes some gorgeous one gazed at me, the great author, and nothing would do but I had to autograph her menu, and the silver fox girl was very jealous.
Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town.
A day and another day and the day before, and the library with the big boys in the shelves, old Dreiser, old Mencken, all the boys down there, and I went to see them, Hya Dreiser, Hya Mencken, Hya, hya: there's a place for me, too, and it begins with B, in the B shelf, Arturo Bandini, make way for Arturo Bandini, his slot for his book, and I sat at the table and just looked at the place where my book would be, right there close to Arnold Bennett; not much that Arnold Bennett, but I'd be there to sort of bolster up the B's, old Arturo Bandini, one of the boys, until some girl came along, some scent of perfume through the fiction room, some glick of high heels to break up the monotony of my fame. Gala day, gala dream!

dimanche 5 septembre 2010

Philip Roth, THE GHOST WRITER, Londres, Vintage, 2005 [1979]

"Oh, she thinks otherwise. Of course she does. I've seen her fondling each sheet of each draft of each story. She thinks with her it will all be the religion of art up here. Oh, will it ever! Let her try to please you, Manny! Let her serve as the backdrop for your thoughts for thirty-five years. Let her see how noble and heroic you are by the twenty-seventh draft. Let her cook your wonderful meals and light candles for your dinner. Let her get everything ready to make you happy and then see the look on your stone face when you come in at night and sit down at the table. A surprise for dinner? Oh, my dear girl, that is merely his due for a miserable day of bad writing. That gets no rise out of him. And candles in the old pewter holders? Candles, after all these years? How poignant of her, he thinks, how vulgar, what a wistful souvenir of yesterday's tearooms. Yes, have her run hot baths for your poor back twice a day, and then go a week withour being talked to - let alone being touched in bed. Ask him in bed, 'What is it, dear, what's the matter?' But of course you know all too well what the matter is - you know why he won't hold you, why he doesn't even know you're there. The fiftieth draft!"
"That is enough," said Lonoff. "Quite thorough, very accurate, and enough."
"Fondling those papers of yours! Oh, she'll see! I got fondled more by strangers on the rush-hour subway during two months in 1935 than I have up here in the last twenty years! Take off your coat, Amy - you're staying. The classroom daydream has come true! You get the creative writer - and I get to go!"
"She's not staying," Lonoff said, softly again. "You're staying."
"Not for thirty-five more years of this!"
"Oh, Hopie." He put a hand out to her face, where the tears were still falling.
"I'm going to Boston! I'm going to Europe! It's too late to touch me now! I'm taking a trip around the world and never coming back! And you," she said, looking down at Amy in her chair, "you won't go anywhere. You won't see anything. If you ever go out to dinner, if once in six months you get him to accept an invitation to somebody's home, then it'll be even worse - then for the hour before you go your life will be misery from his kvetching about what it's going to be like when people start in with their ideas. If you dare to change the pepper mill, he'll ask what's the matter, what was wrong with the old one? It takes three months for him just to get used to a new brand of soap. Change the soap and he goes around the house sniffing, as though something dead is on the bathroom sink instead of just a bar of Palmolive. Nothing can be touched, nothing can be changed, everybody must be quiet, the children must shut up, their friends must stay away until four - There is his religion of art, my young successor: rejecting life! Not living is what he makes his beatiful fiction out of! And you will now be the person he is not living with!"
(p. 173-175)

Philip Roth, THE GHOST WRITER, Londres, Vintage, 2005 [1979]

"You don't like him much."
"I'm not in the business. 'Liking people' is often just another racket. But you're right to think well of his books. Not up my alley maybe, all that vanity face to face, but when he writes he's not just a little Houyhnhnm tapping out his superiority with his hooves. More like a Dr. Johnson eating opium - the disease of his life makes Abravanel fly. I admire the man, actually, I admire what he puts his nervous system through. I admire his passion for the front-row seat. Beautiful wives, beautiful mistresses, alimony the size of the national debt, polar expeditions, war-front reportage, famous friends, famous enemies, breakdowns, public lectures, five-hundred-page novels every third year, and still, as you said before, time and energy left over for all that self-absorption. The gigantic types in the books have to be that big to give him something to think about to rival himself. Like him? No. But impressed, oh yes. Absolutely. It's no picnic up there in the egosphere. I don't know when the man sleeps, or if he has ever slept, aside from those few minutes when he had that drink with me."
(p. 52-53)

Philip Roth, THE GHOST WRITER, Londres, Vintage, 2005 [1979]

"Don't apologize," Lonoff repeated, "unless you know for sure you're not going to do it again next time. Otherwise, just do it and forget it. Don't make a production out of it."
Hope said, "He only means he understands, Nathan. He has the highest respect for what you are. We don't have visitors unless they're people Manny respects. He has no tolerance for people without substance."
"Enough," said Lonoff.
"I just don't want Nathan to resent you for superiority feelings you don't have."
"My wife would have been happier with a less exacting companion."
"But you are less exacting," she said, "with everyone but yourself. Nathan, you don't have to defend yourself. Why shouldn't you enjoy your first bit of recognition? Who deserves it more than a gifted young man like yourself? Think of all the worthless people held up for our esteem every day: movie stars, politicians, athletes. Because you happen to be writer doesn't mean you have to deny yourself the ordinary human pleasure of being praised and applauded."
"Ordinary human pleasures have nothing to do with it. Ordinary human pleasures be damned. The young man wants to be an artist."
(p. 39-40)

Philip Roth, THE GHOST WRITER, Londres, Vintage, 2005 [1979]

And not just from a father who was an artist instead of a foot doctor, but from the most famous literary ascetic in America, that giant of patience and fortitude and selflessness who, in the twenty-fice years between his first book and his sixth (for which he was given a National Book Award that he quietly declined to accept), had virtually no readership or recognition, and invariably would be dismissed, if and when he was even mentionned, as some quaint remnant of the Old World ghetto, an out-of-step folklorist pathetically oblivious of the major currents of literature and society. Hardly anyone knew who he was or where actually he lived, and for a quarter of a century almost nobody cared. Even among his readers there had been some who thought that E. I. Lonoff's fantasies about America had been written in Yiddish somewhere inside czarist Russia before he supposedly died there (as, in fact, his father had nearly perished) from injuries suffered in a pogrom. What was so admirable to me was not only the tenacity that had kept him writing his own kind of stories all that time but that having been "discovered" and popularized, he refused all awards and degrees, declined membership in all honorary institutions, granted no public interviews, and chose not to be photographed, as though to associate his face with his fiction were a ridiculous irrelevancy.
(p. 10-11)

Philip Roth, THE GHOST WRITER, Londres, Vintage, 2005 [1979]

When I had recently raised his name before the jury at my first Manhattan publishing party - I'd arrived, excited as a starlet, on the arm of an elderly editor - Lonoff was almost immediately disposed of by the wits on hand as though it were comical that a Jew of his generation, an immigrant child to begin with, should have married the scion of an old New England family and lived all these years "in the country" - that is to say, in the goyish wilderness of birds and trees where Amercia began and long ago had ended. However, since everybody else of renown I mentioned at the party also seemed slightly amusing to those in the know, I had been skeptical about their satiric description of the famous rural recluse. In fact, from what I saw at that party, I could begon to understand why hiding out twelve hundred feet up in the mountains with just the birds and the trees might not be a bad idea for a writer, Jewish or not.
(p. 4-5)

mercredi 1 septembre 2010

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

More fervently than he was a Jew, Bech was a writer, a literary man, and in this dimension, too, he felt cause for unease. He was a creature of the third person, a character. A character suffers from the fear that he will become boring to the author, who will simply let him drop, without so much as a terminal illness or a dramatic tumble down the Reichenbach Falls in thhe arms of Professor Moriarty. For some years now, Bech had felt his author wanting to set him aside, to get him off the desk forever. Rather frantically hoping still to amuse, Bech had developed a new set of tricks, somewhat out of character - he had married, he had written a bestseller. Nevertheless, and especially as his sixties settled on him, as cumbersomely as an astronaut's suit, he felt boredom weighing from above; he was - as H. G. Wells put it in a grotesquely cheerful ackowledgment of his own mortality that the Boy Bech had read back when everything in print impressed him - an experiment whose chemicals were about to be washed down the drain.
(BECH AT BAY, "Bech In Czech", p. 326)

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

I'm not sure there is a new wave," Bech admitted. "Just more and more backwash. The younger writers I meet look pretty old to me. You know about the minimalists?"
"And how," the chairman of the board said. "Abish, Beattie, Carver - we're doin' em all."
"Well," Bech sighed, "you're way ahead of me. Newer wave than that, you'll have to dig right down into the fiction workshops. There are thousands of them, all across the country; it's the easiest way to get through college."
(BECH AT BAY, "Bech In Czech", p. 323)

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

Bech managed about sixty handwritten pages, dealing mostly with Olive's education at a Southern girl's college where the stench of horse manure incongruoulsy swept through the curried green campus and the idyllic vista of young women of good family striding to class in smart skirts and high heels. But when it came time in the novel to bring her to that capital of ruined innocence, New York City, he was at a loss for what professional field he would mire her in. The only one he knew first-hand, that of publishing, inspired great distate in our author when encountered in published fiction: he did not like much involution, whether met in Escher prints, iris petals, or the romantic theme of incest.
(BECH IS BACK, "Bech Wed", p. 238)

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

The audience at Cape Coast grew restive during Bech's long adress on "The Cultural Situation on the American Writer," and afterward several members of the audience, dressed in the colorful robes of spokesmen, leaped to their feet and asked combative questions. "Why," asked a small bespectacled man, his voice tremulous and orotund over the microphone, "has the gentleman speaking in representation of the United States not mentioned any black writers? Does he suppose, may I ask, that the situation of the black writers in his country partakes of the decadent, and, may I say, ininteresting situation he has described?"
"Well," Bech began, "I think, yes, the American Negro has his share of our decadence, though maybe not a full share - "
"We have heard all this before," the man was going on, robed like a wizard, his lilting African English boomed by the amplifying system, "of your glorious Melville and Whitman, of their Moby-Dicks and their Scarlet Letters - what of Elridge Cleaver and Richard Wright, what of Langston Hughes and Rufus Magee? Why have you not read to us pretty posies of their words? We beg you, Mr. Henry Bech, tell us what you mean by this phrase" - a scornful pause - " 'American writer.' "
(BECH IS BACK, " Bech Thirld-Worlds It", p. 180)

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

Wendell arranged four chairs in a rectangle, and produced a pipe. It was an ordinary pipe, the kind that authors, in the corny days when Bech's image of the literary life had been formed, used to grip in dust-jacket photographs.
(BECH: A BOOK, "Bech Takes Pot Luck", p. 67)

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

For one spring term Bech, who belonged to the last writing generation that thought teaching a corruption, had been persuaded to oversee - it amounted to little more than that - the remarkably uninhibited conversations of fifteen undergraduates and to read their distressingly untidy manuscripts. Languid and clever, these young people had lacked not only patriotism and faith but even the coarse morality competitiveness inposes.
(BECH:A BOOK, "Bech Takes Pot Luck", p. 57)

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

He was, himself, a writer, this fortyish young man, Henry Bech, with his thinning curly hair and melancholy Jewish nose, the author of one good book and three others, the good one having come first. By a kind of oversight, he had never married. His reputation had growned while his powers declined. As he felt himself sink, in his fiction, deeper and deeper into eclectic sexuality and bravura narcissism, as his search for plain truth caried him further and further into treacherous realms of fantasy and, lately, of silence, he was more and more thickly hounded by homage, by flat-footed exegetes, by arrogantly worshipful undergraduates who had hitchhiked a thousand miles to touch his hand, by querulous translators, by election to honorary societies, by invitations to lecture, to "speak," to "read," to participate in symposia trumped up by ambitious girlie magazines in shameless conjunction with venerable universities. His very government, in airily unstamped envelopes from Washington, invited him to travel, as an ambassador of the arts, to the other half of the world, the hostile, the mysterious half. Rather automatically, but with some faint hope of shaking himself from the burden of himself, he consented, and found himself floating, with a passport so stapled with visas it fluttered when pulled from his pocket, down into the dim airports of Communist cities.
(BECH: A BOOK, "The Bulgarian Poetess", p. 40-41)
(

mardi 31 août 2010

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

I don't suppose your publishing this little jeu of a book will do either of us drastic harm.
(BECH: A BOOK, "Foreword", p. 6)

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

DEAR JOHN,
Well, if you must commit the artistic indecency of writing about a writer, better I suppose about me than about you.
(BECH: A BOOK, "Foreword", p. 5)

William Fauklner, MOSQUITOES, New York, Library of America, 2006 [1927]

"You are confusing Art with Studio Life, Mark," Mrs Wiseman told him. She forestalled him and accepted a cigarette. "I'm all out, myself. Sorry. Thanks."
"Why not?" Mark Frost responded. "If studio life costs you enough, it becomes art. You've got to have a good reason to give to your people back home in Ohio or Indiana or somewhere."
"But everybody wasn't born in the Ohio valley, thank God," the semitic man said. Fairchild stared at him, kind and puzzled, a trifle belligerent. "I speak for those of us who read books instead of writing them," he explained. "Its bad enough to grow into the conviction after you reach the age of discretion that you are to spend the rest of your life writing books, but to have your very infancy darkened by the possibility that you may have to write the Great American Novel..."
(p. 457)

William Fauklner, MOSQUITOES, New York, Library of America, 2006 [1927]

Mrs Wiseman came up and borrowed a cigarette of Mark Frost, and they watched Fairchild's burly retreating back. The semitic man said: "There's a man of undoubted talent, despite his fumbling bewilderment in the presence of sophisticated emotions."
"Despite his lack of self assurance, you mean," Mark Frost corrected.
"No, it isn't that," Mrs Wiseman put in. "You mean the same thing that Julius does: - that, having been born an American and of a provincial middle western lower middle class family, he has inherited all the lower middle class's awe of Education with a capital E, an awe which the very fact of his own difficulty in getting to college and staying there, has increased."
"Yes," her brother agreed. "And the reaction which sheer accumulated years and human experience has brought about in him has swung him to the opposite extreme without destroying that ingrained awe or offering him anything to replace it with at all. His writing seems fumbling, not because life is unclear to him, but because of his innate humorless belief that, though it bewilder him at times, life at bottom is sound and admirable and fine; and because hovering over this American scene into which he has been thrust, the ghosts of the Emersons and Lowells and Greelys and other exemplifiers of Education with a capital E, who 'seated on chairs in handsomely carpeted parlors' and surrounded by an atmosphere of halfcalf and security, dominated American letters in its most healty American phase, 'without heat or vulgarity,' simper yet in a sort of ubiquitous watchfulness. A sort of puerile bravado in flouting while he fears," he explained.
"But," his sister said, "for a man like Dawson there is no better American tradition than theirs - if he but knew it. They may have sat among their objects, transcribing their Greek and Latin and holding correspondences across the Atlantic, but they still found time to put out of their New England ports with the word of God in one hand and a belaying pin in the other and all sails drawing aloft; and whatever they fell foul of was American. And, by God, it was American. And is yet."
"Yes," her brother agreed again. "But he lacks what they had at command among their shleves of discreet books and their dearth of heat and vulgarity: - a standard of literature that is international. No, not a standard exactly: a belief, a conviction that his talent need not be restricted to delineating things which his conscious mind assures him are American reactions."
"Freedom?" suggested Mark Frost hollowly.
"No. No one needs freedom. We cannot bear it. He needs only let himself go, let himself forget all his fetich of culture and education which his upbringing and the ghosts of those whom circumstance permitted to reside longer at colleges than himself, and whom despite himself he regards with awe, assure him that he lacks. For by getting himself and his own bewilderment and inhibitions out of the way and by describing, in a manner that even translation cannot injure (as Balzac did) American life as American life is, it will become eternal and timeless despite him. Life everywhere is the same, you know. Manners of living it may be different. - are they not different between adjoining villages? family names, profits on a single field or orchard, work influences - but man's old compulsions, duty and inclination: the axis and the circumference of his squirrel cage, they do not change. Details do not matter, details only entertain us. And nothing that merely entertains us can matter because the things taht entertain us are purely speculative.: prospective pleasures which we probably will not achieve. The other things only surprise us. And he who has stood the surprise of birth, can stand anything."
(p. 453-455)

William Fauklner, MOSQUITOES, New York, Library of America, 2006 [1927]

"The race," said Fairchild, "is playing out. Once we did things with muscles. Then we found out that all creatures didn't have the same kind of muscle, so we invented ways of doing things with sticks and stones. Then somebody invented a way of using shiny trinkets to make the stick-and-stone people do what they wanted them to do. And now the stick-and-stone people are about to get all the shiny trinkets, and so all we have left is words. And that's the last resort. When someone invents a way to produce words without mental process, where will we wordusers be?"
"Whoever invented American politics has already done that," the semitic man said.
"American politics aint universal though," Fairchild answered. "No other nation could afford it. But if the world's awe and belief in words ever does falter..."
"That will be an unfortunate day for you, anyway," the semitic man said.
"Yes?" remarked Fairchild.
"You'll have to go to work."
"Well, I dont object to work."
"Nobody does. On the contrary, in fact. That's the reason you people are so dissatisfied in your perversion. The laborer curses his job; on Saturday night he tells the world that he is through until Monday. But did you ever know a writer to admit that he was not either planning or writing a novel constantly? Or two or three, even?"
Fairchild pondered a while. "Yes, you're right. We do have to say we are writing a new novel wether we are or not."
"Of course you do. Art is against nature: those who choose it are perverts, and in choosing it they cast all things behind them. So to admit that you are not working on something constantly is an admission that your life is temporarily pointless, and so unbearable."
"Yes," repeated Fairchild. "... But why perversion?"
"Perversion?"
"You dont think its natural for man to spend his life making little crooked marks on paper, do you? Doing things with color, or stringing sounds together, now, I grant you..."
The semitic man slapped his neck again.
"God knows," said Fairchild.
(p. 290)

vendredi 13 août 2010

Dominique Maingueneau, LE DISCOURS LITTÉRAIRE, Paris, Armand Colin, 2004

Mais l'analyse du discours ne se place pas sur ce terrain. Elle ne propose pas une "lecture" des œuvres parmi d'autres, à côté des "lectures" psychanalytiques, thématiques, etc. Quel sens pourrait-il y avoir de parler d'une "lecture" en termes de discours constituant, de paratopie, de scénographie ou de genre de discours, de structuration textuelle, de cadres de réception, etc.? Il ne s'agit pas de dire ce que signifient les œuvres, mais à quelles conditions le fait littéraire est possible et les textes peuvent s'ouvrir à l'interprétation.
(p. 247)

Dominique Maingueneau, LE DISCOURS LITTÉRAIRE, Paris, Armand Colin, 2004

Les œuvres ont beau vider le monde de tout sens et de toute parole, elles ne peuvent empêcher la littérature de s'immiscer dans ce tableau de désolation. Loin d'être la dernière œuvre de Céline, le Voyage est la première... Le monde n'est jamais assez dépourvu de sens pour exclure l'œuvre qui le dit dépourvu de sens. Il y a contradiction insurmontable entre la présence de l'œuvre et les propriétés qu'elle affecte au monde représenté. L'univers de l'Étranger de Camus a beau être décrit comme absurde, il est lourd de tout l'appareil discursif qu'il a fallu mobiliser pour construire son absurdité. L'élaboration esthétique vient ajouter au monde une œuvre dont la compacité, la nécessité intérieure suppléent et contestent la vacuité et la contingence supposées. C'est ce qu'on peut appeler le "paradoxe du phénix", par lequel l'œuvre s'engendre de la destruction qu'elle prétend instaurer.
(p. 232)

Dominique Maingueneau, LE DISCOURS LITTÉRAIRE, Paris, Armand Colin, 2004

Une analyse du discours littéraire est au contraire contrainte d'introduire le tiers de l'Institution, de contester ces unités illusoirement compactes que sont le créateur ou la société: non pour affaiblir la part de la création au profit de déterminismes sociaux, mais pour rapporter l'œuvre aux territoires, aux rites, aux rôles qui la rendent possible et qu'elle rend possibles.
(p. 77)

Dominique Maingueneau, LE DISCOURS LITTÉRAIRE, Paris, Armand Colin, 2004

Le discours littéraire inclut nombre d'écrivains qui prétendent œuvrer hors de toute appartenance; mais c'est justement une des caractéristique de ce type de discours que de susciter une telle prétention: ces écrivains trouvent leur pendant dans les ermites qui se sont retirés du monde ou les philosophes solitaires. Les "solitaires" peuvent sans doute s'éloigner des villes, mais non sortir de l'espace qui leur confère leur statut et sur lequel ils proposent leurs actes symboliques.
(p. 54)

Dominique Maingueneau, LE DISCOURS LITTÉRAIRE, Paris, Armand Colin, 2004

Quand on travaille sur les discours constituants, on a affaire à des structures textuelles fortes et qui prétendent avoir une portée globale, dire quelque chose sur la société, la vérité, la beauté, l'existence... En fait, ces discours de portée globale sont élaborés localement, dans des groupes restreints qui ne s'effacent pas derrière leur production, qui la façonnent à travers leurs propres comportements. Toute étude qui s'interroge sur le mode d'émergence, de circulation et de consommation de discours constituants doit prendre en compte la manière dont fonctionnent les groupes qui les produisent et les gèrent.
(p. 53)

Dominique Maingueneau, LE DISCOURS LITTÉRAIRE, Paris, Armand Colin, 2004

Celui qui énonce à l'intérieur d'un discours constituant ne peut se placer ni à l'extérieur ni à l'intérieur de la société: il est voué à nourrir son œuvre du caractère radicalement problématique de sa propre appartenance à cette société. Son énonciation se constitue à travers cette impossibilité même de s'assigner une véritable "place". Localité paradoxale, paratopie, qui n'est pas l'absence de tout lieu, mais une difficile négociation entre le lieu et le non-lieu, une localisation parasitaire, qui vit de l'impossibilité même de se stabiliser.
(p. 52-53)

Dominique Maingueneau, LE DISCOURS LITTÉRAIRE, Paris, Armand Colin, 2004

C'est renoncer au fantasme de l'œuvre en soi, dans sa double acception d'œuvre autarcique et d'oeuvre au fond de la conscience créatrice; c'est restituer les œuvres aux espaces qui les rendent possibles, où elles sont produites, évaluées, gérées. Les conditions du dire y traversent le dit et le dit renvoie à ses propres conditions d'énonciation (le statut de l'écrivain associé à son mode de positionnement dans le champ littéraire, les rôles attachés aux genres, la relation au destinataire construite à travers l'œuvre, les supports matériels et les modes de circulation des énoncés...). Dès lors qu'on ne peut séparer l'institution littéraire et l'énonciation qui configure un monde, le discours ne se replie pas dans l'intériorité d'une intention, il est force de consolidation, vecteur d'un positionnement, construction progressive, à travers un intertexte, d'une certaine identité énonciative et mouvement de légitimation de l'espace même de sa propre énonciation.
(p. 34)

vendredi 6 août 2010

Paul Auster, LEVIATHAN, New York, Penguin Books, 1992

There was a mountain of books in front of me, millions of words piled on each other, a whole universe of discarded literature - the books that people no longer wanted, that had been sold, that had outlived their usefulness. I didn't realize it at first, but I happened to be standing in the American fiction section, and right there, at eye level, the first thing I saw when I started to look at the titles, was a copy of The New Colossus, my own little contribution to this graveyard. It was an astonishing coincidence, a thing that hit me so hard I felt it had to be an omen.
Don't ask me why I bought it. I had no intention of reading the book, but once I saw it there on the shelf, I knew I had to have it. The physical object, the thing itself. It cost only five dollars for the original hardcover edition, complete with dust jacket and purple endpapers. And there was my picture on the back flap: the portrait of the artist as a young moron. Fanny took that photo, I remember. I was twenty-six or twenty-seven at the time, with my beard and long hair, and I'm staring into the lens with an unbelievably earnest, soulful expression in my eyes. You've seen that picture, you know the one I'm talking about. When I opened up the book and saw it in the store that day, I almost burst out laughing.
(p. 254-255)

Paul Auster, LEVIATHAN, New York, Penguin Books, 1992

We'd both become writers, we both knew that fundamental changes were needed - but whereas I started to lose my way, to dither around with half-assed articles and literary pretensions, Dimaggio kept developing, kept moving forward, and in the end he was brave enough to put his ideas to the test. It's not that I think blowing up logging camps is a good idea, but I envied him for having the balls to act. I'd never lifted a finger for anything. I'd sat around grumbling and complaining for the past fifteen years, but for all my self-righteous opinions and embattled stances, I'd never put myself on the line. I was a hypocrite and Dimaggio wasn't, and when I thought about myself in comparison to him, I began to feel ashamed.
(p. 252-253)

Paul Auster, LEVIATHAN, New York, Penguin Books, 1992

All in all, there are some one hundred and thirty scale-model replicas of the Statue of Liberty standing in public spaces across America. They can be found in city parks, in front of town halls, on the tops of buildings. Unlike the flag, which tends to divide people as much as it brings them together, the statue is a symbol that causes no controversy. If many Americans are proud of their flag, there are many others who feel ashamed of it, and for every person who regards it as a holy object, there is another who would like to spit on it, or burn it, or drag it through the mud. The Statue of Liberty is immune to these conflicts. For the past hundred years, it has transcended politics and ideology, standing at the threshold of our country as an emblem of all that is good within us. It represents hope rather than reality, faith rather than facts, and one would be hard-pressed to find a single person willing to denounce the things it stands for: democracy, freedom, equality under the law. It is the best of what America has to offer the world, and however pained one might be by America's failure to live up to those ideals, the ideals themselves are not in question. They have given comfort to millions. They have instilled the hope in all of us that we might one day live in a better world.
(p. 242)

Paul Auster, LEVIATHAN, New York, Penguin Books, 1992

This might or might not have been a bluff, but I'm convinced that a part of him had set great store in the possibility of seeing his book turned into a film. Unlike some writers, Sachs bore no grudge against popular culture, and he had never felt any conflict about the project. It wasn't a question of compromising himself, it was an opportunity to reach large numbers of people, and he didn't hesitate when the offer came. Although he never said it in so many words, I sensed that the call from Hollywood had flattered his vanuty, stunning him with a brief, intoxicating whiff of power. It was a perfectly normal response, but Sachs was never easy on himself, and chances are that he later regretted these oberblown dreams of glory and success.
(p. 117)

jeudi 5 août 2010

Paul Auster, LEVIATHAN, New York, Penguin Books, 1992

Still, in spite of the fact that he wasn't writing about himself, I understood how deeply personal the book must have been for him. The dominant emotion was anger, a full-blow, lacerating anger that surged up on nearly every page: anger against America, anger against political hypocrisy, anger as a weapon to destroy national myths.
(p. 44)

Paul Auster, LEVIATHAN, New York, Penguin Books, 1992

He rarely talked about himself the way other writers do, and my sense was that he had little or no interest in pursuing what people refer to as a "literary career." He wasn't competitive, he wasn't worried about his reputation, he wasn't puffed up about his talent. That was one of the things that most appealed to me about him: the purity of his ambitions, the absolute simplicity of the way he approached his work. It sometimes made him stubborn and cantankerous, but it also gave him the courage to do exactly what he wanted to do. After the success of his first novel, he immediately started to write another, but once he was a hundred pages into it, he tore up the manuscript and burned it. Inventing stories was a sham, he said, and just like that he decided to give up fiction writing.
(p. 53-54)

Paul Auster, LEVIATHAN, New York, Penguin Books, 1992

The practical jokes and renegade antics died out then, and while his academic performance in high school was hardly outstanding [...], he read books constantly and was already beginning to think of himself as a future writer. By his own admission, his first works were awful - "romantico-absurdist soul-searchings," he once called them, wretched little stories and poems that he kept an absolute secret from everyone. But he stuck with it, and as a sign of his growing seriousness, he went out and bought himself a pipe at the age of seventeen. This was the badge of every true writer, he thought, and during his last year of high school he spent every evening sitting at his desk, pen in one hand, pipe in the other, filling his room with smoke.
(p. 34)

Paul Auster, LEVIATHAN, New York, Penguin Books, 1992

"If I'm not too drunk, I'll start reading it tonight."
"There's no rush. It's only a novel, after all, and you shouldn't take it too seriously."
"I always take novels seriously. Especially when they're given to me by the author."
"Well, this author was very young when he wrote this book. Maybe too young, in fact. Sometimes he feels sorry it was ever published."
"But you were planning to read from it this afternoon. You can't think it's that bad, then."
"I'm not saying it's bad, I'm saying it's young, that's all. Too literary, too full of its own cleverness. I wouldn't even dream of writing something like that today. If I have any interest in it now, it's only because of where it was written. The book itself doesn't mean much, but I suppose I'm still attached to the place where it was born."
"And what place was that?"
"Prison. I started writing the book in prison."
(p. 21-22)

Paul Auster, LEVIATHAN, New York, Penguin Books, 1992

"I used to be here, but then I went away. I just got back five or six months ago."
"And where were you?"
"France. I lived there for close to five years."
"That explains it, then. But why on earth would you want to live in France?"
"No particular reason. I just wanted to be somewhere that wasn't here."
"You didn't go to study? You weren't working for UNESCO or some hot-shot international law firm?"
"No, nothing like that. I was pretty much living hand to mouth."
"The old expatriate adventure, was that it? Young American writer goes off to Paris to discover culture and beautiful women, to experience the pleasure of sitting in cafés and smoking strong cigarettes."
"I don't think it was that either. I felt I needed some breathing room, that's all. I picked France because I was able to speak French. If I spoke Serbo-Croatian, I probably would have gone to Yugoslavia."
"So you went away. For no particular reason, as you put it. Was there any particular reason why you came back?"
"I woke up one morning last summer and told myself it was time to come home. Just like that. I suddenly felt I'd been there long enough. Too many years without baseball, I suppose. If you don't get your ration of double plays and home runs, it can begin to dry up your spirit."
(p. 17)

samedi 31 juillet 2010

Sherwood Anderson, WINESBURG, OHIO, New York, The Modern Library, 2002 [1919]

The school teacher tried to bring home to the mind of the boy some conception of the difficulties he would have to face as a writer. "You will have to know life," she declared, and her voice trembled with earnestness. She took hold of George Willard's shoulders and turned him about so that she could look into his eyes. A passe-by might have thought them about to embrace. "If you are to become a writer you'll have to stop fooling with words," she explained. "It would be better to give up the notion of writing until you are better prepared. Now it's time to be living. I don't want to frighten you, but I would like to make you understand the import of what you think of attempting. You must not become a mere peddler of words. The thing to learn is to know what people are thinking about, not what they say."
(p. 147)

Sherwood Anderson, WINESBURG, OHIO, New York, The Modern Library, 2002 [1919]

The idea that George Willard would some day become a writer had given him a place of distinction in Winesburg, and to Seth Richmond he talked continually of the matter. "It's the easiest of all lives to live," he declared, becoming excited and boastful. "Here and there you go and there is no one to boss you. Though you are in India or in the South Seas in a boat, you have but to write and there you are. Wait till I get my name up and then see what fun I shall have."
(p. 117)

Sherwood Anderson, WINESBURG, OHIO, New York, The Modern Library, 2002 [1919]

"I tell you what, George, you've got to wake up," he said sharply. "Will Henderson has spoken to me three times concerning the matter. He says you go along for hours not hearing when you are spoken to and acting like a gawky girl. What ails you?" Tom Willard laughed good-naturedly. "Well, I guess you'll get over it," he said. "I told Will that. You're not a fool and you're not a woman. You're Tom Willard's son and you'll wake up. I'm not afraid. What you say clear things up. If being a newspaper man had put the notion of becoming a writer into your mind that's all right. Only I guess you'll have to wake up to do that too, eh?"
(p. 26)

Sherwood Anderson, WINESBURG, OHIO, New York, The Modern Library, 2002 [1919]

The old writer, like all of the people in the world, had got, during his long life, a great many notions in his head. He had once been quite handsome and a number of women had benn in love with him. And then, of course, he had known people, many people, known them in a peculiarly intimate way that was different from the way you and I know people. At least that is what the writer thought and the thought pleased him. Why quarrel with an old man concerning his thoughts?
(p. 4)

samedi 24 juillet 2010

John Barth, LETTERS, Normal, The Dalkey Archive Press, 1994 [1979]

[John Barth to Ambrose Mensch]

I have in mind a book lenght fiction, friend, more of a novel than not, perhaps even a sizable one. Having spent the mid-1960's fiddling happily with stories for electronic tapes and live voice - a little reorchestration of the oral narrative tradition - I'm inclined now to make the great leap forward again to Print: more particularly, to reorchestrates some early conventions of the Novel. Indeed (I blush to report) I am smitten with that earliest-exhausted of English novel-forms, the epistolary novel, already worked to death by the end of the 18th Century. Like yourself an honorary Doctor of Letters, I take it as among my fonctions to administer artificial resuscitation to the apparently dead.
[...]
It appeals to me to fancy that each of the several LETTERS correspondents, explicitly or otherwise, and whatever his/her response to the Author's sollicitations (like the foregoing), will contribute something essential to the project's plan or theme. So far, this has worked out pretty well. Never mind what your predecessors have come up with, and never mind that in a sense this "dialogue" is a monologue; that we capital-A Authors are ultimately, ineluctably, and forever talking to ourselves. If our corresponce is after all fiction, we like, we need that fiction: it makes our job less lonely.
(p. 654-655)

John Barth, LETTERS, Normal, The Dalkey Archive Press, 1994 [1979]

[John Barth to A. B. Cook VI]

My work in progress, which is of a different character, accounts for this letter. It is itself to be composed of letters, in both senses of the word: an epistolary novel, the espistles to be arranged in an order yet to be devised (I'm just past half through the planning of it). I'm also past half through my biblical threescore-and-ten, which detail no doubt accounts for my second notion about the story: that it should echo its predecessors in my bibliography, while at the same time extending that bibliography and living its independent life. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny in the womb, but the deliveredchild must breathe for itself; one's forties are the "product" of one's thirties, twenties, etc., as the present century is the product of those before it - but not merely the product. You see my point.
Thus I am hazarding, for various reasons, the famous limitations both of the Novel-in-Letters and of the Sequel, most fallible of genres. The letters will be from seven correspondents: one for each of my previous books (or their present-day descendants or counterparts, in the case of historical or fabulous works), plus one invented specifically for this work, plus - I blush to report, it goes so contrary to my literary principles - the Author, who had better be telling stories than chattering about them.
(p. 430-431)

John Barth, LETTERS, Normal, The Dalkey Archive Press, 1994 [1979]

[John Barth to Jacob Horner]

Well. I don't recount, I only invent: the above is a fiction about a fiction. But it is a fact that after The End of the Road was publishad I received letters from people who either intimated that they knew where my Remobilization Farm was or hoped I would tell them; and several of the therapies I'd concocted for my Doctor - Scriptotherapy, Mythotherapy, Agapotherapy - were subsequently named in the advertisements of a private mental hospital on Long Island. Art and life are simbiotic.
Now there is money for baby-sitters, but I don't need them. I've changed cities and literary principles, made up other stories, learned with mixed feelings more about the world and Yours Truly. Currently I find myself involved in a longish epistolary novel, of which I know so far only that it will be regressively traditional in manner; that it will not be obscure, difficult, or dense in the Modernist fashion; that its action will occur mainly in the historical present, in tidewater Maryland and on the Niagara Frontier; that it will hazars the resurrection of characters from my previous fiction, or their proxies, as well as extending the fictions themselves, but will not presume, on the reader's part, familiarity with those fictions, which I cannot myself remember in detail. In addition, it may have in passing something to dom with alphabetical letters.
(p. 341)

mercredi 21 juillet 2010

John Barth, LETTERS, Normal, The Dalkey Archive Press, 1994 [1979]

[John Barth to Todd Andrews]

Given your obvious literary sophistication, you will agree with me that a Pirandelloish or Gide-like debate between Anthor and Characters were as regressive, at least quaint, at this hour of the world, as naive literary realism: a Middle-Modernist affectation, as dated now as Bauhaus design.
Finally, my thanks for your expression of goodwill and loyalty to our medium. To be a novelist in 1969 is, I agree, a bit like being in the passenger-railway business in the age of the jumbo jet: our dilapidated rolling stock creaks over the weed-grown roght-of ways, carrying four winos, six Viet Nam draftees, three black welfare families, two nuns, and one incorrigible railroad buff, ever less conviniently, between the crumbling Art Deco cathedrals where once pauses the gleaming Twentieth Century Limited. Like that railroad buff, we deplore the shallow "attractions" of the media that have supplanted us, even while we endeavor, necessarily and to our cost, to accomodate to that ruinous competition by reducing even further our own amenities; fewer runs, fewer stops, fewer passengers, higher fares. Yet we grind on, tears and cinders in our eyes, hoping against hope that history will turn our way again.
(p. 189-190)

John Barth, LETTERS, Normal, The Dalkey Archive Press, 1994 [1979]

[Todd Andrews to John Barth]

My age allows me to confess without embarrassment that I have always admired the novelist's calling and often wished I had been born to it. My generation is perhaps the only one in middle-class America that ever took its writers seriously: Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Scott Fitzgerald, and John Dos Passos are my contemporaries; with the latter two, during their Baltimore residences, I was socially acquainted. Nowadays the genre is so fallen into obscure pretension on the one hand and cynical commercialism on the other, and so undermined at its popular base bu television, that to hear a young person declare his or her ambition to be a capital-W Writer strikes me as anachronistical, quixotic, as who should aspire in 1969 to be a Barnum & Bailey acrobat, a dirigible pilot, or the Rembrandt of the stereopticon. Even on the last day of 1954 and the first of 1955 it struck me thus, though I saw no point in so remarking to you. But in the 1920's and 30's, even into de 40's, there was still a heroism in your vocation such as I think there will never be again in this country; a considerable number of us had rather been Hemingway than Gary Cooper or Charles Lindbergh, for example.
(p. 84)

Siri Hustvedt, THE SORROWS OF AN AMERICAN, New York, Henry Holt, 2008

"There were two Maxes," Inga likes to say, "My Max and the one out there - the literary commodity: Mr Genius." Writers come in every form, but Max Blaustein represented some idealized cultural notion of the dashing novelist. He was handsome, but not in an ordinary way. He had gaunt, delicate features, a full head of hair that had turned to an even white early, and signature wire-rimmed spectacles that Inga thought made him look like a Russian nihilist. The Max Blaustein out there, the author of fifteen novels, four screenplays, and a book of essays had inspired devotion and fanaticism in his readres and, from time to time, all-out hysteria. At a reading in London in 1995, the author was nearly trampled to death by a hopped-up crowd that surged forward to get close to the idol. The memorial service had brought out hundreds of weeping fans, people who despite their demonstrated sorrow, pushed and shoved one another as they pressed into the hall. "He inspired adoration," Inga said, "that sometimes bordered on sickness. He always seemed bewildered by it, but I think his stories scraped on some darkness in people. I'm not sure anybody could or can explain it, Max least of all, but sometimes it frightened me - what was in him."
(p. 19)

Siri Hustvedt, THE SORROWS OF AN AMERICAN, New York, Henry Holt, 2008

Inga met Max when she was a graduate student in philosophy at Columbia. He gave a reading at the university, and my sister was sitting in the front row. Inga was a twenty-five-year-old blond beauty, brilliant, fierce, and aware of her seductive power. She held Max Blaustein's fifth novel in her lap and listened intently to every word of his reading. When he was finished, she asked him a long complicated question about his narrative structures, which he did his best to answer, and then, when she laid her book on the table to have it signed, he wrote on the title page, "I surrender. Don't leave." In 1981, Max was forty-seven years old and had been married twice. He not only had a reputation as a major writer but was also known as a profligate seducer of young women, a carousing wild man who drank too much, smoked too much, and was, all in all, too much, and Inga knew it. She didn't leave. She stayed. She stayed until he died of stomach cancer in 1998 when he was sixty-four.
(p. 17)

vendredi 16 juillet 2010

Bernard Malamud, THE TENANTS, New York, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1971

Mourning died slowly. It never fully dies for something truly loved. He read an ink-stained wet letter he found in a puddle. In it a man wept for love of a woman who had died. How can Lesser go on after the loss of his manuscript? It isn't all, he tells himself, but doesn't believe it. It isn't all, It isn't all. The book is not the writer, the writer writes the book. It is only a book, it is not my life. I will rewrite it, I am the writer.
(p. 179-180)

Bernard Malamud, THE TENANTS, New York, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1971

"Lesser, you tryin to fuck up my mind and confuse me. I read all about that formalism jazz in the library and it's bullshit. You tryin to kill off my natural writin by pretendin you are interested in the fuckn form of it though the truth of it is you afraid of what I'm goin to write in my book, which is that the blacks have to murder you white MF's for cripplin our lives." He then cried out, "Oh, what a hypocrite shitass I am to ask a Jew ofay for advice how to express my soul work. Just in readin it you spoil what it says. I ought to be hung on a hook till some kind brother cots off my white balls."
(p. 165)

Bernard Malamud, THE TENANTS, New York, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1971

"What I said about revising some of my ideas don't mean I'm changing how I feel on black writing in comparison to white. Art is O.K. when it helps you say what you got to, but I don't want to turn into a halfass white writer or an ass-kissing Neegro who imitates ofays because he is ashamed or afraid to be black. I write black because I'm black and what I got to say means something different to black people than it does to white, if you dig. We think different than you do, Lesser. We do and we are, and we write different. If a white prick tears a piece of black skin off your ass every day, when somebody says, "Sit down," it's gonna mean two different things to me and you, and that's why black fiction has got to be different than white. The words make it different because the experience does. You know that, man. Also we are the rising people of the future, and if the whites try to hold us down it ain't no secret we might have to cut your throats. You have had your day and now we are gonna have ours. That's what I got to write about but I want to write it in black art, in the best way I can. In other words, Lesser, I want to know what you know and add on to that what I know because I'm black. And if that means I have to learn something from whitey to do it better as a black man, then I will for that purpose only."
(p. 81-82)

Bernard Malamud, THE TENANTS, New York, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1971

And when he doubted the self he couldn't write. Sitting at his desk in the bright morning light, scanning yesterday's pages, he had felt about to throw up: language, form, his plan and purpose. He felt sick to death of the endless, uncompleted, beastly book, the discipline of writing, the overdedicated, ultimately limited, writer's life. It needn't be so but was for Lesser. What have I done to myself? So much I no longer see or feel except in language. Life once removed. So against the will he had taken the morning off and gone for a walk in the February sun. Lesser tried to put his thoughts out of mind as he walked. He named his unhappiness "depression," and let it go at that; for though he presently resisted everything concerned with writing he could not forget he wanted more than anything else to write a fine book.
(p. 106-107)

Bernard Malamud, THE TENANTS, New York, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1971

Lesser desperatly makes a final suggestion. "Why don't you send your manuscript to a publisher and get somebody else's opinion if you're not satisfied with mine?"
"Because I tried ten of those rat-brained Jews and they all turned it down for a lot of horseshit reasons, because they are afraid of what the book says."
The black, his eyes tumid, beats his head against Lesser's wall, as the writer, not withour pleasure, looks on.
(p. 75)

Bernard Malamud, THE TENANTS, New York, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1971

Lesser asks Willie to grant him good will. "I know how you feel, I put myself in your place."
In cold and haughty anger the black replies. "No ofay motherfucker can put himself in my place. This is a black book we talkin about that you don't understant at all. White fiction ain't the same as black. It can't be.
"You can't turn black experience into literature just by writing it down."
"Black ain't white and never can be. It is once and for only black. It ain't universal if that's what you are hintin up to. What I feel you feel different. You can't write about black because you don't have the least idea what we are or how we feel. Our feelin chemistry is different than yours. Dig that? It has to be so. I'm writin the soul writin of black people cryin out we are still slaves in this fuckn country and we ain't gonna stay slaves any longer. How can you understand it, Lesser, if your brain is white?"
(p. 74-75)

Bernard Malamud, THE TENANTS, New York, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1971

The Life he writes, whatever he calls it, moves, pains, inspires, even though it's been written before, and better, by Richard Wright, Claude Brown, Malcolm X, and in his way, Eldridge Cleaver. Their self discoveries have helped Willie's. Many black men live the same appalling American adventure, but it takes a unique writer to tell it uniquely, as literature. To make black more than color or culture, and outrage larger than protest or ideology.
(p. 66-67)

Bernard Malamud, THE TENANTS, New York, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1971

Think of this sacred cathedral we're in, Willie, with lilting bonging iron bell. I mean this flower-massed, rose-clustered, floating island. I guess What I mean is what about art?
Don't talk flippy. I worry about it gives me cramps in my motherfuckn liver. Don't say that dirty word.
Art is the glory and only a shmuck thinks otherwise.
Lesser, don't bug me with that Jewword. Don't work your roots on me. I know what you talking about, don't think I don't. I know you trying to seal my manhood. I don't go for that circumcise shmuck stuff. The Jews got to keep us bloods stayin weak so you can take everything for yourself. Jewgirls are the best whores and are tryin to cut the bloods down by makin us to get circumcise, and the Jewdoctors do the job because they are afraid if they don't we gon take over the whole goddamn country and wipe you out. That's what they afraid. I had a friend of mine once and he got circumcise for his Jewbitch and now he ain't no good in his sex any more, a true fag because he lost his pullin power. He is no good in a woman without his pullin power. He sit in his room afraid of his prick. None of that crap on me, Lesser, you Jewbastard, we tired of you fuckn us over.
If you're an artist you can't be a nigger, Willie.
(p. 51)

Bernard Malamud, THE TENANTS, New York, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1971

Harry felt a momentary sense of loss, regret at having given his life to writing, followed by a surge of affection for the imaginative self as he read yesterday's page and a half and found it solid, sound, going well. The book redeemed him.
(p. 14)

Bernard Malamud, THE TENANTS, New York, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1971

Lesser had held out, thirty-six, unmarried yet, a professional writer. The idea is to stay a writer. At twenty-four and twenty-seven I published my first and second novels, the first good, the next bad, the good a critical success that couldn't outsell its small advance, the bad by good fortune bought by the movies and kept me modestly at work - enough to live on. Not very much is enough if you've got your mind on finishing a book. My deepest desire is to make my third my best. I want to be thought of as a going concern, mot a freak who had published a good first novel and shot his wad.
(p. 8)

mercredi 14 juillet 2010

John Irving, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, Ballantine Books, New York, 1998 [1978]

"Don't you want to know how I die?" Garp asked them.
They didn't say anything.
"I kill myself," Garp said, pleasantly. "In order to become fully established, that seems almost necessary. I mean it, really," Garp said. "In the present fashion, you'll agree this is one way of recognizing a writer's seriousness? Since the art of the writing doesn't always make the writer's seriousness apparent, it's sometimes necessary to reveal the depth of one's personal anguish by other means. Killing yourself seems to mean that you were serious after all. It's true," Garp said, but his sarcasm was unpleasant and Helen sighed; John Wolf stretched again. "And thereafter," Garp said, "much seriousness is suddenly revealed in the work - where it had escaped notice before."
Garp had often remarked, irritably, that this would be his final duty as a father and a provider - and he was fond of citing examples of the middling writers who were now adored and read with great avidity because of their suicides. Of those writer-suicides whom he, too - in some cases - truly admired, Garp only hoped that, at the moment the act was accomplished, at least some of them had known about this lucky aspect of their unhappy decision. He knew perfectly well that people who really killed themselves did not romanticize suicide in the least; they did not respect the "seriousness" that the act supposedly lent to their work - a nauseating habit of the book world, Garp thought. Among readers and reviewers.
(p. 466-467)

John Irving, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, Ballantine Books, New York, 1998 [1978]

It was, in Garp's opinion, the cheapest reason to read of all. Garp always said that the question he most hated to be asked, about his work, was how much of it was "true" - how much of it was based on "personal experience." True [...] as in "real life." Usually, with great patience and restraint, Garp would say that the autobiographical basis - if there even was one - was the least interesting level on which to read a novel. He would always say that the art of fiction was the act of imagining truly - was, like any art, a process of selection. Memories and personal histories - "all the recollected traumas of our unmemorable lives" - were suspicious models for fiction, Garp would say. "Fiction has to be better made than life," Garp wrote. And he consistently detested what he called "the phony lineage of personal hardship" - writers whose books were "important" because something important had happened in their lives. He wrote that the worst reason for anything being part of a novel was that it really happened. Everything has really happened, sometime!" he fumed. "The only reason for something to happen in a novel is that it's the perfect thing to have happen at that time."
(p. 457)

John Irving, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, Ballantine Books, New York, 1998 [1978]

"Art doesn't help anyone," Garp said. "People can't really use it: they can't eat it, it won't shelter or clothe them - and if they're sick, it won't make them well." This, Helen knew, was Garp's thesis on the basic uselessness of art; he rejected the idea that art was of any social value whatsoever - that it could be, that it should be. The two things mustn't be confused, he thought: there was art, and there was helping people. Here he was, fumbling at both - his mother's son, after all. But, true to his thesis, he saw art and social responsibility as two distinct acts. The messes came when certain jerks attempted to combine these fields. Garp would be irritated all his life by his belief that litterature was a luxury item; he desired for it to be more basic - yet he hated it, when it was.
(p. 251-252)

John Irving, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, Ballantine Books, New York, 1998 [1978]

It was, of course, never a popular book, and it hardly made T. S. Garp into a brand name; it would not make him "the household product" - as he called her - that his mother had become. But it was not that kind of book; he was not that kind of writer, and never would be, John Wolf told him.
"What do you expect?" John Wolf wrote him. "If you want to be rich and famous, get in another line. If you're serious about it, don't bitch. You wrote a serious book, it was published seriously. If you want to make a living off it, you're talking about another world. And remember: you're twenty-four years old. I think you'll write a lot more books."
John Wolf was an honorable and intelligent man, but Garp wasn't sure - and he wasn't content.
(p. 195-196)

John Irving, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, Ballantine Books, New York, 1998 [1978]

The story is only mildly interesting, and it does nothing new with language or with form. Thanks for showing it to us, though.

Garp was puzzled and he showed the rejection to Tinch. Tinch was also puzzled.
"I guess they're interested in n-n-newer fiction," Tinch said.
"What's that?" Garp asked.
Tinch admitted he didn't really know. "The new fiction in interested in language and f-f-form, I guess," Tinch said. "But I don't understand what it's really about it-it-itself, I think," Tinch said.
"About itself?" Garp said.
"It's sort of fiction about fi-fi-fiction," Tinch told him.
Garp still didn't understand, but what mattered to Garp was that Helen liked the story.
Almost fifteen years later, when Garp published his third novel, that same editor at Tinch's favorite magazine would write Garp a letter. The letter would be very flattering to Garp, and to his work, and it would ask Garp to submit anything new he might have written to Tinch's favorite magazine. But T. S. Garp had a tenacious memory and the indignation of a badger. He found the old rejection note that had called his Grillparzer story "only mildly interesting"; the note was crusty with coffee stains and had been folded so many times that it was torn at the creases, but Garp enclosed it with a letter to the editor at Tinch's favorite magazine. Garp's letter said:

I am only mildly interested in your magazine, and I am still doing nothing new with language, or with form. Thanks for asking me, though.
(p. 181-182)

dimanche 11 juillet 2010

John Irving, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, Ballantine Books, New York, 1998 [1978]

Garp had other ambitions for "The Pension Grillparzer." It would never make him much money; it would first appear in a "serious" magazine where almost no one would read it. Years later, when he was better known, it would be publish in a more attentive way, and several appreciative things would be written about it. but in his lifetime "The Pension Grillparzer" wouldn't make Garp enough money to buy a good car. Garp, however, expected more than money or transportation from "The Pension Grillparzer." Very simply, he expected Helen Holm to live with him - even marry him.
(p. 169)

John Irving, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, Ballantine Books, New York, 1998 [1978]

His "breakthrough," as he would call it when he wrote Helen, occured one cold and snowy day in the Museum of the History of the City of Vienna. It was a museum within easy walking distance of the Schwindgasse; somehow he had skipped seeing it, knowing he could walk there any day. Jenny told him about it. It was one of the two or three places she had visited herself, only because it was right across the Karlsplatz and well within what she called her neighborhood.
She mentionned there was a writer's room in the museum; she forgot whose. She'd thought having a writer's room in a museum was an interesting idea.
"A writer's room, Mom?" Garp asked.
"Yes, it's a whole room," Jenny said. "They took all the writer's furniture, and maybe the walls and floor, too. I don't know how they did it."
"I don't know why they did it," Garp said. "The whole room is in the museum?"
"Yes, I think it was a bedroom," Jenny said, "but it was also where the writer actually wrote."
Garp rolled his eyes. It sounded obcene to him. Would the writer's toothbrush be there? And the chamber pot?
(p. 124-125)

vendredi 9 juillet 2010

James Baldwin, ANOTHER COUNTRY, Vintage, New York, 1993 [1960]

Otherwise, for the moment, he felt nothing. The coffe pot, not beginning to growl, was real, and the blue fire beneath it and the pork chops in the pan, and the milk which seemed to be turning sour in his belly. The coffee cups, as he thoughtfully washed them, were real, and the water which ran into them, over his heavy, long hands. Sugar and milk were real, and he set them on the table, another reality, and cigarettes were real, and he lit one. Smoke poured from his nostrils and a detail that he needed for his novel, which he had been searching for for months, fell, neatly and vividly, like the tumblers of a lock, into place in his mind. It seemed impossible that he should not have thought of it before: it illuminated, justified, clarified everything. He would work on it later tonight; he thought that perhaps he should make a note of it now; he started toward his work table. The telehone rang. He picked up the receiver at once, stealthily, as though someone were ill or sleeping in the house, and whispered into it, "Hello?"
(p. 427-428)

James Baldwin, ANOTHER COUNTRY, Vintage, New York, 1993 [1960]

"I'm a novelist. Unpublished."
"Well, when you do get published, you may make some money," the poet said. "Clever bastard you were, to choose a field which may allow you to pay at least a modest rent."
"I don't know if I'm clever," Vivaldo said, "it just turned out like that."
(p. 302-303)

James Baldwin, ANOTHER COUNTRY, Vintage, New York, 1993 [1960]

And he felt that if he were a real writer, he would simply go home and work and throw everything else out of his mind, as Balzac had done and Proust and Joyce and Faulkner. But perhaps they had never held in their minds the nameless things he held in his. He felt a very peculiar, a deadly resignation: he knew that he would not go home until it was too late for him to go anywhere else, or until Ida answered the phone.
(p. 300)

James Baldwin, ANOTHER COUNTRY, Vintage, New York, 1993 [1960]

"Well. If he couldn't read, and knew it, he could learn. I could teach him. But I don't care if he's a writer or not. He's the one who dreamed all that up." She paused, bony and thoughtful. "He's a carpenter's son," she said, "the fifth son of a carpenter who came from Poland. Maybe that's why it's so important. A hundred years ago he'd have been like his father and opened a carpenter's shop. But now he's got to be a writer and help Steve Ellis sell convictions and soap." Ferociously, she ground out her cigarette. "And neither he, nor anyone else in that gang, can tell the difference between them." She lit another cigarette at once. "Don't misunderstand me; I've got nothing against Ellis, or any of those people. They're just ordinary Americans, trying to get ahead. So is Richard, I guess."
(p. 275-276)

James Baldwin, ANOTHER COUNTRY, Vintage, New York, 1993 [1960]

Richard's eyes turned as dark as deep water. "Cass doesn't like writers," he said, lightly, to Eric, "not if they make a living at it anyway. She thinks writers should never cease starving and whoring around, like our good friend, Vivaldo. That's fine, boy, that's really being responsible and artistic. But all the rest of us, trying to love a woman and raise a family and make some loot - we're whores."
(p. 245)

James Baldwin, ANOTHER COUNTRY, Vintage, New York, 1993 [1960]

He felt tears spring to his eyes. "Richard, we talked about the book and I told you what I thought, I told you that it was a brilliant idea and wonderfully organized and beautifully written and - " He stopped. He had not liked the book. He could not take it seriously. It was an able, intelligent, mildly perceptive tour de force and it would never mean anything to anyone. In the place in Vivaldo's mind in which books lived, whether they were great, mangled, mutilated, or mad, Richard's book did not exist. There was nothing he could do about it.
(p. 157)

James Baldwin, ANOTHER COUNTRY, Vintage, New York, 1993 [1960]

Vivaldo turned to Richard. "When can I read your book? I'm jealous. I want to find out if I should be."
"Well, if you take that tone, you bastard, you can buy it at the bookstore when it comes out."
"Or borrow it from the library," Cass suggested.
"No, really, when can I read it? Tonight? Tomorrow? How long is it?"
"It's over three hundred pages," Richard said. "Come by tomorrow, you can look at it then." He said to Cass, "It's one way of getting him to the house." Then: "You really don't come to see us like you used to - anything the matter? Because we still love you."
"No, nothing's the matter," Vivaldo said. He hesitated, "I had this thing with Jane and when we broke up - and - oh, I don't know. Work wasn't going well, and" - he looked at Rufus - "all kinds of things. I was drinking too much and running around whoring when I should have been - being serious, like you, and getting my novel finished."
"How's it coming - your novel?"
"Oh" - he looked down and sipped his drink - "slow. I'm really not a very good writer."
"Bullshit," said Richard, cheerfully.
He almost looked again like the English instructor Vivaldo had idolized, who had been the first person to tell him things he needed to hear, the first person to take Vivaldo seriously.
"I'm very glad," Vivaldo said, "seriously, very glad that you got the damn thing done and that it worked so well. And I hope you make a fortune."
(p. 76-77)

James Baldwin, ANOTHER COUNTRY, Vintage, New York, 1993 [1960]

"Give an account of yourselves," Cass said. "Why haven't you come to see us?"
"Oh," said Vivaldo, "I'vs been busy. I've been working on my novel."
"He's been working on a novel," said Cass to Leona, "ever since we've known him. Then he was seventeen and now he's nearly twenty."
"That's unkind," said Vivaldo, looking amused at the same time that he looked ashamed and annoyed.
(p. 37)

mardi 6 juillet 2010

Sacvan Bercovitch, THE RITES OF ASSENT; TRANSFORMATIONS IN THE SYMBOLIC CONSTRUCTION OF AMERICA, Routledge, New York, 1993

It is no accident that our current dissensus has found a focus in the revaluation of this period, and particularly in the so-called radicalism of America's classic writers.
The issue is not the radicalism itself: that was virtually the donnée of the entire process of canon formation, from D. H. Lawrence through Matthiessen. The literary establishment that substituted "Song of Myself" for The Song of Hiawatha also sanctified Whitman as outsider and non-conformist. The scholars and critics who raised Moby-Dick from the dust of cetology catalogues to sudden epic prominence proceeded to acclaim Melville for his No-in-thunder to the powers of the earth. Directly and indirectly, the old consensus tended to priviledge the subversive: duplicity in Hawthorne, protest in Thoreau, marginality in Poe, antinomianism in Emerson. All this, be it noted, in the name of a distinctly national tradition, a classic literature newly recovered for its quintessential "American-ness".
(p. 363)