Friday, August 29, 2014
"Why I Write" I give all this background information because I do not think one can assess a writer's motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in — at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own — but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write. Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are: (i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money. (ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations. (iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity. (iv) Political purpose. — Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude. It can be seen how these various impulses must war against one another, and how they must fluctuate from person to person and from time to time. By nature — taking your ‘nature’ to be the state you have attained when you are first adult — I am a person in whom the first three motives would outweigh the fourth. In a peaceful age I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books, and might have remained almost unaware of my political loyalties. As it is I have been forced into becoming a sort of pamphleteer. First I spent five years in an unsuitable profession (the Indian Imperial Police, in Burma), and then I underwent poverty and the sense of failure. This increased my natural hatred of authority and made me for the first time fully aware of the existence of the working classes, and the job in Burma had given me some understanding of the nature of imperialism: but these experiences were not enough to give me an accurate political orientation. Then came Hitler, the Spanish Civil War, etc. By the end of 1935 I had still failed to reach a firm decision.
Friday, August 08, 2014
On a day when lyrics have become fluted, like rain, flickering. As if announced, the entertainment portion of the event swallows any serious discussion. A correct calibration of nonsense, humor, desperation. A gentle brush, a silence. We long for anything poignant. Imbibe flattery. This generic unfulfilled wish is like constant flattery, a repetition of a single last hope. I am trying to describe the way that sci-fi captures each fault and promise of something better. In the stars a construction of syllables that equal personal expression and salvation. The intoxicating sound of eyelashes fluttering will lead us all into Nirvana. In the meantime, details shatter. Noise is metallic. We forget to walk through the park. Fashion has become political. We can’t remember yesterday. The pink sky behind industrial jobs blinds us to its pollution. We use the word temporary. Pain is like a weed that flowers by chance, dies off in winter. Only hiding out until the return of spring. We have come so far, a visual sensation narrates progress and the sun rise of each morning. Potential lies under the surface, bubbling. Bare tree branches represent the inconceivable. Hope has feathers you know, little else maybe. Concrete lies against wild nature. Grey and orange mix, become indiscernible. Storms linger. Silence repeats, holds back texture and choreography. A body impulse is more like intoxication, a drunken monologue of manic silence. We create a theory of expression. We claim our spaces. Watch political intention like soap on the box of media saturation. We imbibe the status quo. And we recalculate. In bold colors, against skin, using a thesaurus of words, dictionaries piled like castles, the power of language, we correct your misconceptions. You shatter. You blaspheme, spit nonsense, fake pleasure. We no longer love. We shame you and your deceptions. Our homes may be made of glass but the walls are covered with roses, tinted and peeling, but still scented sweet. We cook stone soup and name it future, an inspired culinary choice. Respect a slower pace. Practice the erosion of monotony. Combat violence in thought and action. We are endeavoring for a sense of meaning. Fill in the edges until the edges are full of power and commitment. We are 99% of the fed up and concerned with alternatives. We want you to give back: our money, our time, our dreams, our integrity. We are embarrassed for you. And we are moving out.