Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thought for the Day

There is an interesting interview with Norman Mailer in the Summer 2007 Paris Review. Here's what Mailer has to say about the difficulties of being a novelist. I think the same could be said of writing poetry, but I am not sure all novelists (or poets, for that matter) would agree.

MAILER: You bring whatever powers you have to high focus. It's why very few people ever become successful novelists and are able to remain successful novelists. They have the talent, but it's also about bringing the powers to focus. It involves stuff that isn't agreeable. For instance, being a novelist means you have to be ready to live a monastic life. When you are really working on a novel there can be ten days in a row when you are just out there working and offering nothing to your mate and nothing to anyone else. You don't want to be bothered. You don't want to answer the phone, you don't want even to talk a great deal to your kids--you want to be left alone while you're working. And that is hard. And of course every morning you have to go in there and face that blank page and start up again. So this business of bringing your powers to focus is not routine. You have to believe you're going to engage in spiritual discomfort in order to get to the place where you can think. Not just to think as yourself, but to do so as the person who's fashioning the novel.


Blogger Talia said...

This may be true for him, and it may be true for many others, but in a way it seems a bit obnoxious. I mean, I don't think it any less heroic than the person working the typical 9-5 job. That sort of sounds like what he is saying; that he is courageous enough to take on this demeanor or something in order to focus his talents...and that becomes an excus to ignore his wife...I don't know...he is Norman Mailer.

2:22 PM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...


Yes, Norman may be a special case--he has been married six times!--but I do think there is something heroic about being a writer of poetry or creative prose in today's world.* I have the same feeling about the role of any serious artist today in any genre.

And Yes, it is hard work--for very little reward but for the art itself and the hope of making a lasting contribution.

I am obsessed lately (as may be apparent from recent posts) with the idea and the process of "work."
I had a productive time last week--away from my day-job--and now I feel like I will not accomplish what needs to be done in my writing over the rest of the summer.

I am somewhat depressed about this.

Well, "bird by bird," as Ms. Lamott is wont to say.

* And also something more than a little heroic about the people who love and sustain that artist!

2:50 PM  
Blogger Talia said...

I've only ever read one issue of The Paris is too expensive for me.

3:42 PM  
Blogger jenni said...

I can relate in my own way. I mean if I leave the house once a day I am doing pretty darn good! But I also am extremely grateful that I can do what I love. But it is work. I enjoy it, yes, but it takes discipline to sit down each and every day even when you don't much feel like it and when the muse is on vacation and push through a draft that you know is a mess and will need major reworking, and there's always the possibility it won't work no matter how hard I try. And there's guilt, for sure, because sometimes hubby and child get ignored (daughter has now learned not to "mess with mommy" when she is at her writing desk).

7:22 PM  

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