Archives for September 2013

Told by an idiot, No. 4

An artist’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s an artist’s statement for?

The enormity of our semiotic struggle with reality and truth far exceeds the capacity of mere human language to express; that is why we express it in language. If it merely exceeded the capacity of music, we would have been composers instead.

Only plebs and pikers actually say what they want to say. Real literature consists in saying that what you want to say cannot possibly be said.

    H. Smiggy McStudge

Told by an idiot, No. 3

You must always know exactly what your work is about. If anyone asks, you must be able to express your theme in one sentence, like this:

‘This [novel, story, poem] is about the futility of life in a post-postmodern world of transvaluated values, and the radical failure of the spirit in the face of human cruelty and cosmic despair.’

If this exact sentence does not describe your work, you are writing the wrong story. Get it right, or throw it out.

    H. Smiggy McStudge

Told by an idiot, No. 2

The true artist must always suffer for his art. If you don’t suffer for your art, you won’t know how to make other people suffer for it when it’s their turn.

As Robert Frost nearly said, ‘No cries of agony in the writer, no cries of agony in the reader.’

   H. Smiggy McStudge

Happy (Half a) Hobbit Day

In honour of Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday, I wish to offer the following long-belated response to Bilbo’s famous compliment (or insult) at the Long-Expected Party:

I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

That’s all right, Mr. Baggins. If you knew me half as well as you liked, you would soon discover that I deserve to be liked less than half as well as you like more than half of the Hobbits that you like half as well as they deserve. And I say this, which is half of what I should like to say, on behalf of the other half.

Selections from the Octopus

Strange are the tongues of mortals: you say so much that you do not mean, and yet mean so much more than you say.

—Talanel, seeress of the yrani, in The Grey Death

Told by an idiot

As every real literary person knows, brevity is not only the soul of wit, it is the absolute sine qua non of the literary art. The most essential part of writing is cutting.

Some fools and philistines think the most essential part of writing is writing: on the silly grounds that until you have written something, you have nothing to cut. This is an error.

My latest manuscript consists of 500 sheets of blank paper, and I am cutting it already.

I am making it into paper dolls.

They are going to be the most critically acclaimed paper dolls in all of literature.

    H. Smiggy McStudge

Sayers on Hell

If we refuse assent to reality: if we rebel against the nature of things and choose to think that what we at the moment want is the centre of the universe to which everything else ought to accommodate itself, the first effect on us will be that the whole universe will seem to be filled with an inexplicable hostility. We shall begin to feel that everything has a down on us, and that, being so badly treated, we have a just grievance against things in general. That is the knowledge of good and evil and the fall into illusion. If we cherish and fondle that grievance, and would rather wallow in it and vent our irritation in spite and malice than humbly admit we are in the wrong and try to amend our behaviour so as to get back to reality, that is, while it lasts, the deliberate choice, and a foretaste of the experience of Hell.

—Dorothy L. Sayers, Introductory Papers on Dante