dimanche 30 octobre 2011

Edith Wharton, HUDSON RIVER BRACKETED, New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1929, 536 pages.

All that made his work worthwhile, all that made the force of his vocation, was apparently invisible or incomprehensible to others. He longed to learn more about this mysterious craft, the instruments of which some passing divinity had carelessly dropped into his hands, leaving him to puzzle out their use; but the intelligent and admiring people to whom he strove to communicate his curiosities seemed unable to follow him. “Oh, you’re too modest,” one cordial critic assured him; and another: “I suppose when you start a story you don’t always know yourself how it’s going to end. . . .” Not know how it’s going to end! Then these people had never heard that footfall of Destiny which, for Vance, seemed to ring out in the first page of all the great novels, as compelling as the knock of Macbeth’s gates, as secret as the opening measures of the Fifth Symphony? Gratz Blemer, even, whom he managed to corner later in the evening, and whose book gave him so great a sense of easy power — Gratz Blemer, good-natured and evidently ready to be communicative, twisted a cigar between his thick lips, stared at the ceiling, and returned from it to say: “Novel-writing? Why, I don’t know. You have a story you want to tell, and instead of buttonholing a fellow and pouring it out — which is the only natural way — you shut yourself up and reel it off on a Remington, and send it to the publisher, so that more fellows can hear it. That’s the only difference, I guess — that and the cash returns,” he added with a well-fed chuckle. “Yes, but — ” Vance gasped, disheartened.
“Well, what?”
“I mean, how does the thing germinate, spread itself above and below the surface? There’s something so treelike, so preordained. . . . I came across something in Blake the other day that made me think of it: ‘Man is born like a garden ready planted and sown. This world is too poor to produce one seed.’ That just hints at the mystery . . . but I can’t make it all out — can you?”
Blemer gave his jovial laugh. “Never tried to,” he said, reaching with a plump hairy hand for a passing cocktail. And after a moment he added good-naturedly: “See here, young man, don’t you go and read the Prophets and get self-conscious about your work, or you’ll take to writing fifty pages about a crack in the ceiling — and then the Cocoanut Tree’ll grovel before you, but your sales’ll go down with a rush.” No, evidently Blemer did not know how or why he wrote his novels, and could not even conceive the existence of the problems which were Vance’s passion and despair. . . . The footfall of Destiny would never keep him from his sleep . . . and yet he had written a good book.
(p. 400-402)

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