[...] He'd loved writing fiction, Infinite Jest in particular, and he'd been very explicit, in our many discussions of the purpose of novels, about his belief that fiction is a solution, the best solution, to the problem of existential solitude. Fiction was his way off the island, and as long as it was working for him--as long as he'd been able to pour his love and passion into preparing his lonely dispatches, and as long as these dispatches were coming as urgent and fresh and honest news to the mainland--he'd achieved a measure of happiness and hope for himself. When his hope for fiction died, after years of struggling with the new novel, there was no other way out but death. [...]
quitting Nardil being spurred by a bunch of different things: potential food poisoning, wanting control, feeling blocked in his work
And this is why writing good fiction is almost never easy. The point at which fiction seems to become easy for a writer--and I'll let everyone supply his or her own examples of this--is usually the point at which it's no longer necessary to read that writer. [...] It's a prejudice of mine that literature cannot be a mere performance: that unless the writer is personally at risk--unless the book has been, in some way, for the writer, an adventure into the unknown; unless the writer has set himself or herself a personal problem not easily solved; unless the finished book represents the surmounting of some great resistance--it's not worth reading. Or, for the writer, in my opinion, worth writing.
[...] There was an internal click as an actual idea of Cassirer's broke through. The sentence that had so addled me suddenly made sense [...]:
The same function which the image of God performs, the same tendency to permanent existence, may be ascribed to the uttered sounds of language.
He meant that words shaped our realities, our perceptions, giving them an authority God had for other generations. The indecipherable sentence had been circumnavigating my insides like a bluebottle fly for a week, and at last I got hold of it: words would define me, govern and determine me. Words warranted my devotion--not drugs, not boys. That's why I clung to the myth that poetry could somehow magically still my scrambled innards.
from The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms
[...] I hold my liquor enough to hear--from the mouths of poets--work I'm itching to read, books I can vanish down into from my grind. The night is a burst of sea spray washed across my face, tangible evidence of a fresh existence only slightly out of reach.
Writing, whatever else it is doing, is always getting at something that it never quite obtains. There is always something unsaid, something that clings to writing like a shadow.
Thus, from the perspective of many educated political people, writing is something that one despises: an onerous task, a sacrifice one makes for the greater good. It results in left-wing writers becomingly aggressively boring, in an unconscious attempt to punish the reader: I've suffered for my writing, now it's your turn. Any writer who seems to be having a good time, revelling in the jouissance of writing, enjoying with rococo swagger the ornate sensuousness of language, is self-indulgent, a source of resentment. [...]
I'm not sure exactly who he's talking about (??) but the idea that writing should be something we enjoy is good
The literature of the left, is literary. Marx, Aimé Césaire, Suzane Césaire, Louis Althusser, Audre Lorde, Simone Yoyotte, Pierre Yoyotte, J H Prynne, Jules Monnerot, Simone de Beauvoir, Christopher Caudwell, Claudia Jones, Theodore Adorno, Walter Benjamin, CLR James, Leon Trotsky, John Berger, the prelapsarian Christopher Hitchens and Rusa Luxemburg are all notable for being, not just theorists, journalists, historians, philosophers, poets and intellectuals who opened up new worlds to their readers but, precisely on that account, great stylists. Historical materialism, at its inception, stressed the artifice - the art - in living, and goes on doing so. We make history, even if not in circumstances or with materials of our own choosing. Nothing has to be taken as it is given, not even our written language.
These literary jouissances are, far from being incidental trappings often essential to the persuasive power of the 'ruthless criticism' of all that exists, and to the new concepts to which it gives birth. They are part of the meaning of the work, which is something that is done to you, not just said to you. One way of putting this is that radical writing is an attempt at, among other things, conversion. We don't write just to pass on information, as honest brokers, but to change people: to shake them up, to make them laugh, pray, blush, worry, cry and yearn. We aim to help make revolutionary subjects, people who are capable of waging the kinds of difficult, and often unrewarding struggles that are the lot of any radical. [...]
on Marx's writing
In the conventional, thetic, paranoid form of reading imposed on children, every text is a kind of a puzzle. You can read it simply, enjoying the shape of the words in your mouth, their indistinct resonances, their minute associations which seem to hold a special meaning for you and you alone, or the ones which float in the clear vastness of possibility and never need to settle down and become fixed; you can take joy in the act of reading, and understand it as a perpetual collaboration between yourself and an author you've never met. [...]
i do like his writing style tbh
The ongoing proletarianization of intellectuals prompts any number of further questions. Should we abandon the corporate publishers before they abandon us? So far we haven’t done so, but we’ve tried — as have many others — to fill the gaps left by the industry’s consolidation and caution. In our own work, should we tend toward more “accessible” language and popular forms — or take the increasing hopelessness of making a living from writing as license to experiment? In search of cheaper rents and fertile ground for new institutions, should we leave Brooklyn and make for the provinces? (Will we cross our displaced academic friends fleeing the other way?) Or do we stay and fight for rent control and the right to the city? And how to reply to the familiar reproach: If you want to change and not just interpret the world, why not give up writing and become an organizer or activist? Part of the answer, at least, is that learning to organize, like learning to write, takes years, and you can’t just substitute one job for the other — we will have to be amateur activists. Another part is that if activists are indispensable, so are intellectuals. The words of Adorno in “Sociology and Empirical Research” (1957), arguing for the Frankfurt School’s own version of critical sociology, come to mind: “Not only theory but also its absence becomes a material force when it seizes the masses.” Just this — for theorists and the masses alike — has been our problem.
These tentative answers to the whole perplex of culture and politics can also be taxed with vagueness and no doubt confusion. We’re trying to figure what to do from an unstable position amid crumbling institutions and generalized crisis. More than one variety of brave and honest, necessarily incomplete response to the dilemma can surely be offered, and still more varieties of evasive bullshit: a good ear will know the difference. We can’t bring ourselves to cheer the failure of institutions that have sustained us — but we can at least be grateful that the collapsing structures are carrying out a sort of structural rescue of meaningful individual choice, in politics and culture. Bobo or ProBo? Siege mentality (“We writers are in this together!”) or sorties beyond the walls: “We’re in this with almost everyone!”? Reform existing institutions, or replace them, or cultivate your own garden, or retire to your Unabomber cabin? Join the traditional intellectuals and seek patronage among think tanks, foundations, rich individuals, and multinational corporations, or do something for cultural revolution? Not that the old Marxist jargon matters too much, adopted or abandoned. What counts is history asking us a question — about our content or purpose in a society of accelerating insecurity, including our own — that one way or another we need to formulate as sharply as possible, since we answer it with our lives.