Thursday, December 21, 2006

You're a Writer, Nathan

"You're wrong, Nathan. After years in the dark you've finally found your true calling. Now that you don't have to write for money anymore, you're doing the work you were set out to do all along."

"Ridiculous. No one becomes a writer at sixty."

The former graduate student and literary scholar cleared his throat and begged to differ with me. There were no rules when it came to writing, he said. Take a close up look at the lives of poets and novelists, and what you wound up with was unalloyed chaos, and infinite jumble of exceptions. That was because writing was a disease, Tom continued, what you might call an infection or an inflamation of the spirit, and therefore it could strike anyone at any time. The young and the old, the strong and the weak, the drunk and the sober, the sane and the insane. Scan the roster of the giants and semi-giants, and you would find writers who embraced every sexual proclivity, every political bent, and every human attribute - from the loftiest idealism to the most insiduous corruption. They were criminals and lawyers, spies and doctors, soldiers and spinsters, travelers and shut-ins. If no-one could be excluded, what prevented an almost sixty year-old ex-life insurance agent from joining their ranks? What law declared that nathan Glass had not been infected with the disease?

I shrugged.

"Joyce wrote three novels," Tom said. "Balzac wrote ninety. Does it make any difference to us now?"

"Not to me," I said.

"Kafka wrote his first story in one night. Stendhal wrote The Charterhouse of Parma in forty-nine days. Melville wrote Moby Dick in sixteen months. Flaubert spent five years on Madam Bovary. Musil worked for eighteen years on The Man Without Qualities and died before he could finish it. Do we care about any of that now?"
From The Brooklyn Follies, Paul Auster


Alex Tang said...

Writing is "an infection or an inflamation of the spirit"? Naah. Infection spread. Writing is a form of mental illness,a madness that strikes the best and also the worst of us.

Chet said...

Seems to me Paul Auster is a writer's writer.

bibliobibuli said...

infection spreads from book to man (and woman)

chet- very much so!

The Great Swifty said...

Only Auster book I've read was Country of Last Things, fabulous book. I have the graphic novel of City of Glass too, that was all right, still prefer Country of Last Things more.

Eliza said...

Nice one Sharon. Thanks.

bibliobibuli said...

swifty - i like the graphic version of city of glass but not sure it can rival the novella, so maybe read that too

i'm just starting out on the journey. very much want to buy the dvd's of the auster films i've loved. (i've asked my friend at HBO to see if she can put them on for us!)

eliza - glad you liked it.

Subashini said...

that's a lovely bit - thanks for sharing, sharon. i definitely want to read auster now. all i had to go by was that graphic novel. (which i really enjoyed) i want to start with the new york trilogy.

were his books adapted to movies? i had no idea... can you tell us which ones?

bibliobibuli said...

auster wrote the screenplays for "smoke" and "blue in the face" starring harvey keital ... and for three more films i haven't seen. you can check out more about auster, his films and writings on his website

i have asked my friend at HBO to get "smoke" and "blue in the face" for us. i will bully her some more! and maybe i will splash out on the DVD's too

"the new york trilogy" is v. differnt to "the brooklyn follies" though - clever, twisty, surreal as opposed to warm, funny, very human ... feel good stuff