A Writing Career? Are You Sure? ~ BitterSweetLife

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Writing Career? Are You Sure?

Walker Percy's Lost in the Cosmos is a book that almost defies description. The L.A. Times Book Review called it "a mock self-help book designed not to help but to provoke; a chapbook to inveigle us into thinking about who we are and how we got into this mess." I can't really improve on that, and I particularly like the fact that the reviewer said "inveigle," which is good for an honorary membership in the Vocabulary Reclamation Project. I would only add that, however deliberately elusive Percy is--you feel as if he's hunting you, circling your personality like a tiger, assessing its vulnerabilities--his insight into the vacuity of the human soul is scalpel-sharp, perhaps frightening.

I say this only to introduce a quote that I found on page 147.

The painter and the sculptor are the Catholics of art, the writer is the Protestant. The former have the sacramentals, the concrete intermediaries between themselves and creation--the paint, the brushes, the fruit, the bowl, the table, the model, the mountain, the handling and muscling of clay. The writer is the Protestant. He works along in a room as bare as a Quaker meeting house with nothing between him and his art but a Scripto pencil, like God's finger touching Adam. It is harder on the nerves.

Immediately following this paragraph is a brief explanatory section titled, WHY WRITERS DRINK. It's enough to make you stop reading and lean back in bed, staring at the ceiling, for at least five minutes.

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Rufus McCain said...

You're just in time to join the discussion of Lost in the Cosmos at Korrektiv.

Ariel said...

Thank you, Rufus. The lectures over at Korrektiv are great, and I'm enjoying myself as I read through 'em. Coming to the "course" late has its advantages--accrued insight.

I'm stealing this bit from Walker's letter describing the origins of Lost in the Cosmos:

"As you can see, this is not an entirely serious book, and yet it is serious. What it is getting at is of course my old hobby-horse that science is extraordinarily stupid about people as people and the consequences of this stupidity (combined with an instinctual confidence in science) is going to do us all in if we don't do something about it...

What I like about it is that it gives me the chance to do something of moment and at the same time have a good time getting my own licks in and both offending people and getting them to laugh."

Maybe this will help some people get a handle on what this book is about. (Maybe.)


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife