Jan 212003

From Tropic of Cancer:

The book must be absolutely original, absolutely perfect. That is why, among other things, it is impossible for him to get started on it. As soon as he gets an idea he begins to question it. He remembers that Doestoevski used it, or Hamsun, or somebody else. “I’m not saying I want to be better than them, I want to be different,” he explains. And so, instead of tackling his book, he reads one author after another to make absolutely certain that he is not going to tread on their private property. And the more he reads the more disdainful he becomes. None of them are satisfying; none of them arrive at that degree of perfection which he has imposed on himself. And forgetting completely that he has not written so much as a chapter he talks about them condescendingly, quite as though there existed a shelf of books bearing his name, books which everyone is familiar with and the titles of which it is therefore superfluous to mention.

I don’t know anybody like that. Do you?

  4 Responses to “Henry Miller Just Makes Shit Up”

  1. As a matter of fact I have known some people like that. Who can’t complete something because for some reason they think it is not "perfect" or "original". Lets see. Leroy Anderdersen had trouble with straight classical music. Only completed his one concerto. Samuel Barber toiled with the Adagio for Strings I believe.

    Might be wrong about this, but did not Wallace Stevens not write more poetry than he did becuase he wanted it to be perfect.

    And the list goes on and on and on.

    If only the author of "Grendal" had done the same.

  2. IIRC There’s a character in Camus’ The Plague who never gets past the first line of his novel, he is always revising it and polishing it and asking others for their advice about it. Maybe a satire on some French authors who took Flaubert’s search for the mot juste to extemes?

  3. That last word should be "extremes" of course. Sorry for the unintended irony there (for God’s sake, don’t start singing Alanis Morrisette).

  4. There is the Camus character, and then there is, of course, me. I will spare you Alanis Morissette.

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