Thursday, September 23, 2004

A few days ago, someone was making the case that a writer can never be very good if he or she suffers from an almost complete absence of human society and a lack of interest in procuring any. This idea is demonstrably wrong when one thinks of the likes of H.P. Lovecraft or Kafka--or, well, any number of writers. Just last night I was watching the special features on the Naked Lunch DVD and William S. Burroughs mentioned in an interview that writing requires a commitment to solitude. In fact, it seems to me that a sociable writer is more of an exception to the rule than anything else.

But this is probably almost obvious to most of you and I am indeed a little surprised that anyone would attempt to argue to the contrary. The only reason I bring it up is because I got to thinking last night about the relationship between sociable people and fiction. Someone who spends most of their leisure time interacting with groups of other human beings will obviously spend less time with art. And for one for whom art is a lower priority, it's not unreasonable to suspect that their exposure to art is governed by a narrow set of prejudices; if they're going to waste valuable time on art, they will obviously want the piece most likely to yield pleasurable results and, without having taken the time to study art in general or to exercise intellect to reason that one can benefit from an open mind, they're likely only to seek out those pieces that, to their untrained eye, have similarities to those pieces they either enjoyed in the past or, more likely, were instructed to enjoy by their society.

That's also pretty obvious, but I think it pays to think about it in this detail. And by the way, I don't mean to suggest that someone who spends more time with a social group necessarily places art at a low priority. There're a myriad of reasons as to why someone might feel the need to be surrounded by people often. But as this becomes a comfortable situation, one falls in danger of becoming someone whose poor attention to art taints their perception of it.

So the question on my mind last night was . . . what is therefore the value of art to someone who is afraid of solitude? How could I explain the benefit of art to the poor students obnoxiously gabbing their way through movies?

My suspicion is that there is no answer and that we're all mad here. The person who is alone writes for the person who is alone. Perhaps the writer exists as the emissary of fixation, whose job it is to fill the strange aquarium which the average person now and then has need to look in on, to gain a perspective?

Well, I've got a page to draw . . .

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