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Monday, November 3, 2014

On Rage and Failure

In the past 12 hours, I have read two online articles that are worth passing on.

1) The first is an interview with Claire Messud at Guernica, including quotes from the novelist such as the following:

"There are, too, particular questions that seem to me more gendered. Questions of wanting to be an artist, and what does that mean, what makes you an artist? Are you an artist if you’re in a gallery in New York and not an artist if you’re doing it at home? Do you need legitimation to count? If you’ve been acculturated to believe that you have certain obligations—familial, social, human—if multitasking has been your forte and that’s what’s been praised and rewarded, where do you find the single-mindedness, the selfishness to do something like art? I think those are questions that arise differently for women and for men."

"Someone asked me, Is it hard to understand Nora’s rage? And I said, No, not at all. Nora’s rage is maybe different from mine. But I think if you had a Venn diagram there would be some overlaps. That first chapter was the first part I wrote and it came to me in a volley.

When we were in Germany [for a fellowship] I read from it and there was a Dutch anthropologist in his sixties and he came up to me afterwards and said when he was growing up he never saw his mother angry. Saturday morning was cleaning day and she would go upstairs and his father and the children would all be sitting in the kitchen and would hear her cursing at the top of her lungs while she was changing the beds and sweeping the floor. And then she would come back downstairs smiling, and they would all go on as if they hadn’t heard. They never spoke of it.
I think there’s a lot of rage that rises from always being the good one."

"The extent of her anger is directly commensurate with the grandeur of her hope. It’s the enormousness of her disappointment."

"I think there’s no question that there’s a reason why small children make great art and why slightly bigger children don’t. And it’s because small children don’t worry about what anybody else thinks and slightly bigger children start to worry about these things. So, we can call it selfishness, but I think these are often names that make us feel better: you know, wow, I would never be that selfish. But it certainly takes some single-minded commitment, whether that’s selfishness or selflessness I don’t know."

2) And this compilation of authors on failure, from The Guardian, including: 

"Art is made by those who consider themselves to have failed at whatever isn't art. And of course it is loved as consolation, or a call to arms, by those who feel the same. One of the reasons there seem to be fewer readers for literature today than there were yesterday is that the concept of failure has been outlawed. If we are all beautiful, all clever, all happy, all successes in our way, what do we want with the language of the dispossessed?"  Howard Jacobson

"Success as the worldly estimate it is, is rarely a subject for literature. Gatsby cannot possibly get Daisy. Dorothea Brooke cannot be allowed to change the world. Thus does art get its own back on those without the imagination to fail." Howard Jacobson

"The criticism, no matter how virulent, has long since ceased to bother me, but the price of this is that the praise is equally meaningless. The positive and the negative are not so much self-cancelling as drowned out by that carping, hectoring internal voice that goads me on and slaps me down all day every day." Will Self

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