Of course all life is a process of breaking down…

Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work — the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside —  the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within — that you don’t feel until it’s too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald from The Crack-Up

Wow. Amazing. I read this the other day and it was so beautiful and sad and true that it completely depressed yet enthralled me at the same time. I have to take a moment right now and be a complete great big mushy mess of a dork but can I just say…

I. Fucking. Love. Great. Writing.

Maybe that’s not so mushy (throwing an f-bomb in there certainly helps things out) but it is me overflowing with awe.

I love it when you come across a piece of writing that so perfectly and adequately portrays a piece of the world or an experience of it, an emotion or a feeling, a moment in life, that you recognize and come to understand something you never had before.

For instance…

Maybe you have begun to feel this vague unnameable pain but can’t explain where it came from or what exactly it is. Maybe it is something so small and so subtle that you barely take notice of it. Maybe it is almost nothing, maybe it is the smallest of sensations like an itch or a limb that has fallen asleep. But then, ah, but then… But then this beautiful perfect horrible little passage comes along and spells it all out for you and you realize what it is you have been feeling. Suddenly your pain is not so vague. It is specific and real, it does not have a name but it has words and an explanation. It has been made personal and universal and has connected you to this great big mass of people who have experienced the same thing. Who have read the same thing or written about the same thing, talked about it and created art about it, and really it is put so beautifully and perfectly that it’s not painful at all. It’s just real. It’s just art. It’s just life and art interacting and overlapping and, fuck ya, I love that shit!

Ha, so yes, obviously I’m being excessively poetic and dramatic tonight. Sorry about that but it’s how I feel so too bad for you.

One of my favorite lines about the desperate power of writing comes from a short story, My Hustlers by Edmund White:

My writing would turn all this evil into flowers.

Writing, a certain type of great writing, can turn something evil into flowers. Or something painful into beauty. Just by putting it into words and arranging them in the right way. It’s such a simple yet completely complicated thing. And then there are other moments, other pieces of great writing, that turn flowers into evil. Or something beautiful into pain. It’s amazing to me sometimes. A great passage in a book or a great piece of art can be completely humbling in the same way the ocean or a mountain range can. There’s a power in great things like that. I haven’t quite gotten far enough in my personal development (or whatever it is you call this growing and progressing as a human being thing) to know exactly what it is I’m trying to talk about, or what exactly that power is. Ha, but I have a vague kind of feeling.

So ya, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff lately. It’s been good and it makes me crazy and awake and just a little bit drunk on words and writing.

But it’s getting late and I’ve probably had too much. Ha, and said too much as well. And if I read one more chapter I just may pass out.

Hmmm… that sounds kind of nice actually. I think I’ll go do that now.

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How could one navigate in an unnarrated world?

One could learn about life from literature–one could learn to spot a confidence man–but only if one woke up from the smug, dreamlike superiority of the reader, which blinded one to the actual slippery manifestations of vice and dishonesty in the shadowy world of reality. In the novel, at least in the reassuring nineteeth-century novel, one was always privy to everyone’s well-lit motives and alerted to even the first sign of corruption. But in life–how could one navigate in an unnarrated world? Of course I was always narrating my life to myself (idea for novel), but unfortunately I had no access to the private thoughts of the other characters around me. Even my own mind was too prolific to be comprehensible. It was certainly true that I was fashioning the book of my life at all times, trying out sentences, sketching out plot lines, hoarding impressions, restaging the scenes I’d just live through. I’d already written and typed two novels in boarding school, one about me and the other about my mother or some more driven version of my mother to whom I attributed my own sexual obsessions. At every moment I convinced myself that I was gathering material for the novel of my life–all experienced from the philosophical distance of the author. Even these humiliating occasions when I was robbed could be used as material. Life was a field trip. My writing would turn all this evil into flowers.

– Edmund White,  My Hustlers