Writing fiction is such a rest from reality, not because you “get lost in a secondary world” or any of that bullshit, but because of this: you can begin a book by saying, “Wednesday evening at a quarter to six, and the traffic was a little lighter than usual.” Whereas if you said that aloud in the real world, someone would immediately be telling you that, if anything, the traffic was slightly worse today than yesterday. Writing is the pure relief of not having to discuss everything that happens in an attempt to agree the world into being; it is, for instance, the reverse of Twitter. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s anything else to it. In fact, don’t tell anyone you read this & don’t discuss it with anyone.
I’m trying to work out how this jibes with Valéry refusing to be a novelist because he couldn’t bear the idea of writing a sentence like “The Marquise went out at five.” It’s giving me a bit of a headache. Because he would have shared your goal — but not your means, I guess?
Hi Andrei: I should maybe have added a line of tongue-in-cheek emojis, if there is such a thing. Paradoxes abound, or seem to, I guess, in the world, the secondary world, and–especially–across the impermeable barrier between the two. & extra-especially in the back bar here at the Ambiente Hotel. This is essentially a way of saying I don’t know Valéry well enough to be able to answer you. He is long in my past–really long.
Oh, it’s nothing very complex. Just see the beginning of the second paragraph here: https://themillions.com/2012/08/the-marquise-went-out-at-five-oclock-on-the-form-and-function-of-sentences.html
I’m guessing that Valéry would have agreed that “writing is the pure relief of not having to discuss everything that happens in an attempt to agree the world into being, ” but he might have said that can happen only in “pure literature,” which avoids sentences such as ” The Marquise” etc.
On the other hand, I bet he would have approved of Viriconium.
i was going to tweet it but i will accept your directive
Hi Brendan: 😉
Hi Andrei, thanks for the reference. I like those blunt sentences, written in a “purely informative style”, sentences of a “circumstantial, needlessly specific nature”. I think they’re very useful to the symbolist, especially when managing highly nonspecific subject matter. & by the end of the story, after all, the reader should have the unnerving sense that the late afternoon traffic, though it seemed to be foregrounded, wasn’t at all the issue…
Ha ha! Oo, it’s tempting though. Stay well.
> Writing is the pure relief of not having to discuss everything that happens in an attempt to agree the world into being; it is, for instance, the reverse of Twitter.
I love the implication here that tweeting is distinct from (rather than a subset of) writing. A few years ago I would have said “ah, yes, of course, it’s more ORAL, more like chatting in a bustling cafe” etc. etc. but now, I suppose it’s clear that it’s just: tweeting.
“A [neverending] attempt to agree the world into being” really isn’t a bad definition at all.
Re: “the unnerving thought” that there’s always more to traffic. I’ve always loved this quote from Lacan, from his Baltimore lecture of 1966:
“When I prepared this little talk for you, it was early in the morning. I could see Baltimore through the window and it was a very interesting moment because it was not quite daylight and a neon sign indicated to me every minute the change of time, and naturally there was heavy traffic and I remarked to myself that exactly all that I could see, except for some trees in the distance, was the result of thoughts actively thinking thoughts, where the function played by the subjects was not completely obvious. In any case the so-called Dasein as a definition of the subject, was there in this rather intermittent or fading spectator. The best image to sum up the unconscious is Baltimore in the early morning.” http://braungardt.trialectics.com/projects/psychoanalysis/lacans-life/lacans-baltimore-lecture-1966/
Hi Robin: I love Twitter as medium, now I’ve learned how to be a self in it. But it *is* a medium, isn’t it? Or a form or a mode or whatever. & a very distinct one.
Hi Andrei: “The best image to sum up the unconscious is Baltimore in the early morning” is one of the best first lines no one ever used. Fantastic hook.
I thought you might like it!
Adam Phillips talks about the difference between talking and writing. What’s the difference between saying to ourselves “Wednesday evening at a quarter to six, and the traffic was a little lighter than usual.” and writing it? There must be an implied audience? Even if we write a diary, I think there’s a relationship with an audience. It’s a kind of performance. Winnicott writes about the difficulty of wanting that relationship with an audience, but resenting the compromise and compliance it involves. Funny because one of the fundamental principles of your work has always been ‘relationship’. The shuttling back and forth between different positions. The impossibility of a fixed position. The impossibility of solipsism. Also, the way you talk about the writing process is very much like having a conversation with an eccentric, possibly mad, non-compliant partner.
Dude, I’m offf work. Do you mind if I occasionally post my pretentious ramblings?
Yep. & that writing partner is better at it than I am, & I suspect holds me in some contempt. (See “Gifco”.) Mercurius, the boiling inner voice. Luckily I was able to imprison him early, in the so-called unconscious, & can shout & dance about outside the door just how I like.
You’re always welcome here, Mr Lloyd.
Umm… While we’re at it, may I point you to a Souncloud user who, in this time of social distancing, has stolen with impunity the name of one of your characters to post some (well, only one so far) poor excuses for music? https://m.soundcloud.com/user-724915405/imp-at-ch-2020-01-17-19-34-52
(Hint: it’s me. With apologies.)
Hi Mike- this was the most interesting, confusing piece on the internet I have come across this year. How are you so brilliant! Nothing else but thanks, and maybe a few eggs thrown back at you.
But, but… may be true for trivia, but not for matters of importance. People will always argue that the Circumlocution Office was not as bad as Dickens painted it, because of the reorganisation in 1851, and Ishiguro was miles out with people cloning because organ cloning was already around when he wrote etc etc.
Hi Mike E-D: not sure I agree with you on that.
Hi Mike J H, Thanks for the reply. Yes, I missed the quotes round “matters of importance”. I was referring to public events or trends which the novelist interprets risking contradiction. Internal and fictional events – such as your opening sentence – are just as important to story. So not “trivia” – sorry!
No problem. I was just extending the original joke with a little more irony.