Facts are generally overesteemed. For most practical purposes, a thing is what men think it is. When they judged the earth flat, it was flat. As long as men thought slavery tolerable, tolerable it was. We live down here among shadows, shadows among shadows.
A leader is one who, out of madness or goodness, volunteers to take upon himself the woe of the people. There are few men so foolish, hence the erratic quality of leadership in the world.
Topics: Leaders, Leadership
Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face. As soon as one is aware of being “somebody,” to be watched and listened to with extra interest, input ceases, and the performer goes blind and deaf in his over-animation. One can either see or be seen.
I think “taste” is a social concept and not an artistic one. I’m willing to show good taste, if I can, in somebody else’s living room, but our reading life is too short for a writer to be in any way polite. Since his words enter into another’s brain in silence and intimacy, he should be as honest and explicit as we are with ourselves.
Topics: Style, Taste
Inhabiting a male body is like having a bank account; as long as it’s healthy, you don’t think much about it.
Bankruptcy is a sacred state, a condition beyond conditions, as theologians might say, and attempts to investigate it are necessarily obscene, like spiritualism. One knows only that he has passed into it and lives beyond us, in a condition not ours.
What you lose as you age is witnesses, the ones that watched from early on and cared, like your own little grandstand.
I complain a lot. That’s one way of coping. But I’m in a profession where nobody tells you to quit. No board of other partners tells you it’s time to get your gold watch, and no physical claim is made on you like an athlete or an actress. So I try to plug along on the theory that I can still do it. I still keep trying to produce prose, and some poetry, in the hope that I can find something to say about being alive, this country, but generally the human condition.
Topics: Authors & Writing
Nothing seems to matter quite as much. I no longer think about death in the concentrated way I once did. I don’t know … you get so old and you sort of give up in some way. You’ve had your period of angst, your period of religious desperation, and you’ve arrived at a philosophical position where you don’t need, or you can’t bear, to look at it.
We take our bearings, daily, from others. To be sane is, to a great extent, to be sociable.
From infancy on we are all spies; the shame is not this but that the secrets to be discovered are so paltry and few.
When we try in good faith to believe in materialism, in the exclusive reality of the physical, we are asking our selves to step aside; we are disavowing the very realm where we exist and where all things precious are kept—the realm of emotion and conscience, of memory and intention and sensation.
It rots a writer’s brain, it cretinises you. You say the same thing again and again, and when you do that happily you’re well on the way to being a cretin. Or a politician.
Customs and convictions change; respectable people are the last to know, or to admit, the change, and the ones most offended by fresh reflections of the facts in the mirror of art.
Wondering Whom to Read Next?
- Norman Mailer American Novelist, Journalist
- Cynthia Ozick American Novelist, Essayist
- Joyce Carol Oates American Novelist
- Paul Auster American Novelist, Poet
- Wendell Berry American Author, Environmentalist
- Ernest J. Gaines American Novelist, Short-Story Writer
- Alice Walker American Novelist, Activist
- Ralph Ellison American Novelist
- John Irving American Novelist
- Don DeLillo American Author