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I didn’t ever become a writer, or only by accident June 25, 2012

Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, Fortin Street, literature, New Orleans, quotes, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Writing.

If I really appreciated literature I would have become a writer for that reason. But that’s not why I became a writer. In fact, maybe I didn’t ever become a writer, or only by accident . . . maybe I’ve only ever written to understand why I was so afraid. I never wrote to participate in a noble tradition. I wrote to communicate, to explore my own feelings and work through various interpretations of the world. You know, the search for meaning, stuff like that. It wasn’t until I was at Stanford, much later, twenty-nine years old on a creative writing fellowship, when I finally met all these other writers. They all seemed to write for exactly the opposite reason of why I wrote.

That’s not even true. But many of them loved literature and wrote for that reason. How would I know why anybody wrote? Where does the poetry in this come in? Sometimes a sentence is just beautiful, but how can I learn to appreciate a painting? Do I have to learn how to paint? I’ll never be able to tell you the difference between a very good painting and a great painting. I loved the Van Gogh museum. There you just immerse in the mind of this man. It’s not required to understand which of the paintings are minor and which are major. You’re just there, taking it in.
— Stephen Elliot


1. MZell - June 30, 2012

Interesting quote. Up until recently (it seems to be improving) it seemed that too much of the Rumpus content was merely as a be all/end all of communication, concerned with different perspectives rather than a consistently high caliber, the result of which was far too often frankly flat. Like \”Zeitoun,\” which communicates but has little depth or philosophical query, seems written for middle-schoolers, and has no sense of being in any sort of tradition, no dialogue with the rest of the world other than that the protaganist is not originally from the U.S. To me, if one doesn\’t appreciate literature, than it seems silly to write, in the same way that one would wish to make movies while not appreciating the movies and directors that have preceded. I appreciate Elliot\’s autodidactic approach, but when I read someone, I want to feel like the author worked at the craft. Elliott seems more interested in \”transgression\” than the craft, and I have a nagging inkling that his similarity to James Frey goes beyond their friendship.


2. MZell - June 30, 2012

Further…dunno what is in the water in present-day San Francisco, but it seems too many, as typified by Elliott and Michelle Tea, have little to offer other than sex and drugs memoirs (and for a time, this was also the type of thing often featured in Rumpus). It’s like bad porn or a baby holding up a dirty diaper to mommy and, at least to me, does little other than push toward Genet, Bukowski, Miller, Nin, Burroughs, Crews, and Goytisolo for the sake of how certain subjects can be tackled with skill rather than simplistic shock value.


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