Monday, December 15, 2008

The Writer’s Responsibility

“The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is worth any number of old ladies.”

William Faulkner, from The Paris Review, The Art of Fiction, No. 12 (1956).

Note: For a nice batch of Faulkner links, see this entry on As I Lay Dying at A Common Reader, where other books recently examined and discussed include Homer’s Iliad, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis. More of Chrees’s observations on Faulkner can be found in the comments following Library After Air Raid, London, 1940.

As the Conversation continues, we venture into a noir sound collage.


Chrees said...

One of my favorite quotes from that interview. Enjoyed his comments on being a landlord in a brothel as well, although I would bet there was more cache in it during his day.

William Michaelian said...

I like the brothel answer too. And on Page 11, his answer to the question, “What technique do you use to arrive at your standard?”:

“Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires
the old writer, he wants to beat him.”