Thursday, August 18, 2011
It's been over a year since I posted on this blog, a year during which I've had plenty of reasons to post and even ideas about posts, but have nevertheless successfully prevented myself - with a 100% success rate - from posting a single word. Why?
Blogging to me is a form of failure: a rich and potential-filled form, sure, but still essentially what Seth Pollins wrote at the top of another now-defunct blog that he and I wrote together: a distraction, from writing and by writing. Meaning, a distraction from what's important (a shimmering and mirage-like "career" as a novelist, or poet, or travel writer, or whatever) by what is not (the mundane but richly present worlds of blogging, translation, review writing that seem to be constantly tapping me on the shoulder).
One of the funniest things about admitting this, of course, is that the writers I love the most were almost all dilettantes. In fact, one of my own favorite novels is Harold Bloom's The Western Canon, in which the idea of literary history as a series of straight-forward thumb-wrestles (Milton fights Shakespeare, Blake fights Milton, Ginsburg fights Blake), is replaced by an upside-down, inside-out labyrinth of evasions, twists, and chickening-outs. According to this history (or my version of it, anyway), even the most industrious writers tend to have a wide streak of spiritual loafing. They "face the facts", but selectively, and in a way that makes it possible for them to write something new and strange.
Their failure gives me hope, the thing with feathers. Writing is hard for me. Writing fiction (the thing I feel like I should be writing) is especially hard - a fact that I find particularly inconvenient, since, as a Mozartian prodigy of unheard-of potential, I really should be killing this shit on a daily basis. And the fact that I'm not makes me wonder. Why can't I do this? Why don't the words flow from my fingers with the sort of facility that would make the curious peruser of my drafts stop in wonder and raise his head, to mutter at my buxom Austrian wife, "Original manuscripts?.... But there's not a mark on them!"
Blogging is a form of failure: a discipline in it, actually. But then, as Mandelstam reminds us, "Salieri is worthy of respect and burning love. It is not his fault that he heard the music of algebra as loudly as that of living harmony."