Monday, September 29, 2008

Thoughts From Messrs. Huxley and Faulkner

I was recently forwarded a pair of interviews published by The Paris Review. One with Aldous Huxley in 1960, and one with William Faulkner in 1956. They both are brilliant, and I feel compelled to share some choice quotations from each herein.
All of us failed to match our dream of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. In my opinion, if I could write all my work again, I am convinced that I would do it better, which is the healthiest condition for an artist... Once he did it, once he matched the work to the image, the dream, nothing would remain but to cut his throat, jump off the other side of that pinnacle of perfection into suicide. -WF

There are lots of excellent storytellers who are simply storytellers, and I think it’s a wonderful gift, after all… When you can find storytelling which carries at the same time a kind of parable-like meaning (such as you get, say, in Dostoyevsky or in the best of Tolstoy), this is something extraordinary, I feel. -AH
The trouble with Freudian psychology is that it is based exclusively on a study of the sick. Freud never met a healthy human being-- only patients and other psychoanalysts. -AH

Everybody talked about Freud when I lived in New Orleans, but I have never read him. Neither did Shakespeare. I doubt if Melville did either, and I'm sure Moby Dick didn't. -WF

I never got very much out of Ulysses. I think it's an extraordinary book, but so much of it consists of rather lengthy demonstrations of how a novel ought not to be written, doesn't it? He shows nearly every conceivable way it should not be written, and then goes on to show how it might be written. -AH

You should approach Joyce's Ulysses as the illiterate Baptist preacher approaches the Old Testament: with faith. -WF

I have a great difficulty in inventing plots. Some people are born with an amazing gift for storytelling; it's a gift which I've never had at all. -AH

Interviewer: Some people say they can't understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them?
Faulkner: Read it four times.

If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us... The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important, since there is nothing new to be said. Shakespeare, Balzac, Homer have all written about the same things, and if they had lived one thousand or two thousand years longer, the publishers wouldn't have needed anyone since. -WF

I'm all for satire. We need it. People everywhere take things much too seriously, I think... I'm all for sticking pins into Episcopal behinds, and that sort of thing. It seems to me a most salutary proceeding. -AH

The writer's only obligation is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one... 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. -WF

I think fiction, and biography and history, are the forms. I think one can say much more about general abstract ideas in terms of concrete characters and situations, whether fictional or real, than one can in abstract terms... My goodness, Dostoyevsky is six times as profound as Kierkegaard, because he writes fiction. -AH

The best job that was ever offered to me was to become a landlord in a brothel. In my opinion it's the perfect milieu for an artist to work in. It gives him perfect economic freedom; he's free of fear and hunger; he has a roof over his head and nothing whatever to do except a few simple accounts and to go once every month and pay off the local police. -WF

My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey... Between Scotch and nothing, I'll take Scotch. -WF


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