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)

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

Significantly, the studies I referred to exclude consideration of the rhetoric of civil rights, the ideals of conservationism and self-realization, the appeal to liberty, and for that matter the sheer imaginative power of the culture as well as its enormous vitality. That may be no more than a choice of focus, but the choice itself misrepresents the very nature of ideology, which is to enact the purposes of a society in its totality. We come to feel, in reading these critics, that the American ideology is a system of ideas in the service of evil rather than (like any ideology) a system of ideas wedded for good and evil to a certain social and cultural order.
(p. 359)

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

And lest I seem to have exempted myself from that process, I would like to declare the principles of my own ideological dependence. I hold these truths to be self-evident: that there is no escape from ideology; that so long as human beings remain political animals they will always be bounded in some degree by consensus; and that so long as they are symbol-making animals they will always seek to persuade themselves and others that in some sense, by relative measure if not absolutely, the terms of their symbology are objective and true.
(p. 356)

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

In earlier chapters I advanced this model as a description of what we have come to term the American ideology. Here I would like to enter two caveats. The first is that the term itself is somewhat misleading. The American ideology suggests something almost allegorical - some abstract corporate monolith - whereas in fact the American ideology reflects a particular set of interests, the power structures and conceptual forms of liberal society in the United States, as these evolved through three centuries of conflicts, upheaval, transformation, and discontinuity. So considered, "America" is not an overarching synthesis, e pluribus unum, but a rhetorical battleground, a symbol that has been made to stand for diverse and sometimes mutually contradictory outlooks. My second caveat tends in the opposite direction - a qualification of the qualification. I would urge that, in spite of all the diversity and conflict, the American ideology has achieved a hegemony unequalled elsewhere in the modern world. For all its manifold, it is an exemple par excellence of the successful interaction between resctriction and release.
(p. 355-356)

Cathy N. Davidson, REVOLUTION AND THE WORD; THE RISE OF THE NOVEL IN AMERICA, Oxford University Press, New York, 2004 [1986]

In many ways, the novel was the perfect form for this imperfect time. As Mikhail M. Bakhtin argues, prose fiction has been perceived as a subversive literary form in every Western society into which it was introduced: subversive of certain class notions of who should and should not be literate; subversive of notions of what is or is not a suitable literary subject matter and form and style; subversive of the term literature itself. The novel did not rhyme or scan. It required no knowledge of Latin or Greek, no intermediation or interpretation by cleric or academic. It required, in fact - from reader and writer - virtually no traditional education or classical erudition since, by definition, the novel was new, novel. Furthermore, the novel was, formalistically, voracious. It fed upon and devoured more familiar literary forms such as travel, captivity, and military narratives; political and religious tracts; advice books, chapbooks, penny histories, and almanacs. It appropriated drama (in its dialogic moments) and even (in its epigraphs and endings) poetry. It also appropriated nonliterary forms such as letters [...] or diaries as well as traditionally oral forms of culture such as local gossip, rumor, hearsay, folktales. It was a dangerously inchoate form appropriate for and correlative to a country first attempting to formulate itself.
(p. 71)

Cathy N. Davidson, REVOLUTION AND THE WORD; THE RISE OF THE NOVEL IN AMERICA, Oxford University Press, New York, 2004 [1986]

Protest need not (and maybe should not) be logical but expressive and performative. The desire to change, disrupt, or even destroy aspects of one's society that one sees as immoral and intolerable is, after all, one impulse that structures a culture. The desire to move outside of one's culture deserves validation - so long as one accepts that the desire does not (and cannot) move the subject outside of his or her own culture. And on certain occasions, these powerful desires to fragment or even restructure a culture. For many, these bottom-line convictions inform the way we read our world. The desire itself is cathartic and sometimes transformative. The ability to stir affect into action (individual or collective) has been a particular function of the artist not only in Western society but in many of the world's societies. I want to hold on to Melville's famously pure negation - "Saying 'no' in thunder!" It is the ultimate clarion call for writers, intellectuals, and anyone else who does not feel cozy within the State one cannot avoid inhabiting.
(p. 27)

Cathy N. Davidson, REVOLUTION AND THE WORD; THE RISE OF THE NOVEL IN AMERICA, Oxford University Press, New York, 2004 [1986]

If subversion doesn't work as a category of analysis, neither does sophistry. If subversion has shortcomings as an action plan, it beats apathy. In some ways, I admit that I still value the affective role that words such as "subversion" and "opposition" perform since they insistently evoke a different tradition from the one of compromise and moderation that I have adressed earlier in this introduction and that, as I have emphasized, contribute to a complacent national history. For all the inherent theoretical contradictions and flaws in parsing out dissident elements of a culture whose ultimate shape has to be some articulation of all its elements, including the dissident, there is a power to resistance that I'm not prepared to give away. Like faith or even faith healing, oppositionality may well have a placebo effect. Yet who's to argue with the result if a placebo enacts productive and positive change?
(p. 27)

lundi 5 juillet 2010

Dominick LaCapra, HISTORY, POLITICS AND THE NOVEL, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1987

I do not believe in destroying canons ("canon-busting") if this means no longer reading texts that have traditionnally been included in them. Indeed, I think that texts included in canons have critical potentials often occulted in canonical readings of them and that it would be foolish to to neutralize these potentials through a quasi-ritualistic condemnation of canons. My approach questions the canonical uses to which certain texts have been put, and one of the incentives of its "noncanonical" readings is precisely to destabilize and contest such uses.
(p. 209)

Dominick LaCapra, HISTORY, POLITICS AND THE NOVEL, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1987

If there is one general notion if not "theory' of the novel that is especially active in my analyses, it is Mikhail Bakhtin's understanding of the novel as a self-contestatory, carnivalising genre that tests the limits of generic classification and enacts a dialogical interplay of often dissonant "voices" and ideological currents. This is a "theory" which, despite its difficulties, provides a measure of orientation in research while resisting full closure or "monologism" in one's understanding of novelistic discourse. My own instistence upon the intricate and variable interaction of symptomatic, critical, and possibly transformative elements in the novel's relation to its pertinent contexts may itself be read as an attempt to inflect this "theory" in more insistently political and historical directions.
(p. 207-208)

Dominick LaCapra, HISTORY, POLITICS AND THE NOVEL, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1987

The idea that reality and fiction are two discrete "realms" is quite misleading, for it blinds one to the more subtle displacements and carry-over effects between the two as well as to the specific and mutable nature of the contradictions or modes of alienation that may arise between and within them.
(p. 206)

Dominick LaCapra, HISTORY, POLITICS AND THE NOVEL, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1987

A recurrent question nonetheless guides my approach to interpretation: how does a text relate in symptomatic, critical, and possibly transformative ways to its pertinent contexts of writing and reading? My answers to this question are perforce limited and make no pretense to being exhaustive. But my contention is that particularly significant texts, such as "classic" novels, are not only worked over symptomatically by common contextual forces (such as ideologies) but also rework and at least partially work through those forces in critical and at times potentially transformative fashion. Indeed, the novel may be especially engaging in both being worked over by and critically working through problems in a gripping and forceful way. But the novel tends to be transformative - at least with reference to social and political contexts - in general, suggestive, and long-term respects. And it may have transformative effects more through its style or mode of narration than in the concrete image or representation of any desirable alternative society or polity.
(p. 4)