Jonathon Sturgeon, “In Praise of Literary Failure,” Flavorwire 30 October 2014
The book’s introduction, too, is one of the finer pieces of literary criticism to be released this year. Written by Andrew Gallix, editor-in-chief of 3:AM Magazine, which purports to be “the first literary blog,” the intro deftly surveys the gamut of literary failure. Especially good and poetic is Gallix’s take on the scourge of the writer, the blank page:
Blankness is the sine qua non for inclusion in the BDLF, but it is seldom sought after directly. Manuscripts and books remain blank to us through being censored, lost, drowned, shredded, pulped, burned, used as cigarette paper or wrapped around kebabs, fed to pigs or even ingested by their own authors…These brief biographies are sketches that merely gesture towards the possibility of narrative development; stories that are cut short or fall silent. Stories that would prefer not to.
Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony
The essence of Romanticism consequently comes to consist in that which cannot be described. The word and the form, says Schlegel in Lucinde, are only accessories. The essential is the thought and the poetic image, and these are rendered possible only in a passive state. The Romantic exalts the artist who does not give a material form to his dreams — the poet ecstatic in front of a forever blank page, the musician who listens to the prodigious concerts of his soul without attempting to translate them into notes. It is romantic to consider concrete expression as a decadence, a contamination. How many times has the magic of the ineffable been celebrated, from Keats, with his
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter. . . .
to Maeterlinck, with his theory that silence is more musical than any sound!
Marguerite Duras interviewed by Germain Bree, 1972 [via]
I know all kinds of people who don’t write and are writers. By that I mean that the world passes to us by way of them. They hand it on; they don’t just endure it. There are many people who write and who are much farther from being writers than people who don’t. One can write very well without the blank page.
Erik Anderson, “The Sum of Two Cubes (And the Uses of Literature), Los Angeles Review of Books 23 September 2012
A light touch does not negate reality, nor, I might add, are all silences complicit. Anne Carson, in her moving elegy for her brother, talks about a muteness or opacity “which likes to show the truth by allowing it to be seen hiding.” And near the very end of Schizophrene, Bhanu Kapil gives us a page that has been totally blacked out. It’s an opaque square of ink and it defies you to see through it, or to place words on the page. There is some truth here, or perhaps some horror, that is inaccessible to us — something we are not allowed to see but are allowed to see hiding. The page has a famous precedent: in Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, a black page appears after the death of one of the characters. And as in Sterne’s famous book, the effect of the page is not, paradoxically, a sense of heaviness. Or at least, not a sense of heaviness alone: some weight has been lifted and this one page, of all the pages in the book, is allowed to levitate, to unhinge the book from its subject. It accomplishes this through a lightness so dark it’s opaque, through ink so dense it’s mute.
One could say it’s the most useless page in the book.
[…] Strangely enough, those black pages in Schizophrene and Tristram Shandy might be the purest form of literature there is, even though I’ll grant you it’s an impossible and undesirable ideal.