Well it is the season of the witch.. So I am picking up stitches. So it goes. Chasing leads with the writers group and earnestly tracking back a remembered line from a ‘Why I Write’ books of essays search a few years back. Stuck with me. “I write because I hate. A lot. Hard.” And the stitch threads to a more colorful garment that makes the blood stain more comfortable to wear, proving art’s worth. William Gass speaking to The Paris review. Reading now. Intense. Must read. A few more steps lit through the labyrinth. Queue up some of his work. I hope we might discuss this in the Monarch Writers in the next weeks.
From the Paris Review Interview:
Do you feel you are writing full throat now?
I hope so, but if I am a hound, at what am I baying? I am basically a closet romantic, a tame wild man. When I was in college, I closed the closet door behind me. Then, for all sorts of reasons, some artistic if you like, but at bottom personal as bottoms are, I became a formalist: I became detached; I emphasized technique; I practiced removal. I was a van. I took away things. And I became a toughie, a hard-liner. When I was in high school, I chanted Thomas Wolfe and burned as I thought Pater demanded and threatened the world as a good Nietzschean should. Then, at college, in a single day I decided to change my handwriting . . . which meant, I realized later, a change in the making of the words which even then were all of me I cared to have admired. It was a really odd decision. Funny. Strange. I sat down with the greatest deliberation and thought how I would make each letter of the alphabet from that moment on. A strange thing to do. Really strange. And for years I carefully wrote in this new hand; I wrote everything—marginal notes, reminders, messages—in a hand that was very Germanic and stiff. It had a certain artificial elegance, and from time to time I was asked to address wedding invitations, but when I look at that hand now I am dismayed, if not a little frightened, it is so much like strands of barbed wire. Well, that change of script was a response to my family situation and in particular to my parents. I fled an emotional problem and hid myself behind a wall of arbitrary formality. Nevertheless, I think that if I eventually write anything which has any enduring merit, it will be in part because of that odd alteration. I submitted myself to a comparatively formal, rather rigorous, kind of philosophical training. I stuffed another tongue in my mouth. It changed my tastes. It wasn’t Shelley any longer, it was Pope. It wasn’t even Melville, it was James. Most of these changes were for the better because, being a little older, I saw more in my new choices than I had in my old ones. But now, after maybe twenty years of not going near Nietzsche—of even being embarrassed by my youthful enthusiasms—I find him exciting again. My handwriting has slowly relaxed and is now the sloppy kindergarten scrawl I had as a child. I suspect the same kind of thing is happening in my work. I am ready to go in any direction. But I hope I’ve learned that the forms are inherent, that the formal discipline is inherent, so that when I want to start improvising I won’t have forgotten how to dance. It wasn’t until I was ready to come out of my formal phase that I began to read Rilke. Once I took my thumb out of my mouth—well—soon there was no dike. So now I try to manage two horses: there is one called Valéry and another called Rilke. I remember I once compared writing to the image of the charioteer in the Phaedrus. Intellectually, Valéry is still the person I admire most among artists I admire most; but when it comes to the fashioning of my own work now, I am aiming at a Rilkean kind of celebrational object, thing, Ding.