Sunday, March 19, 2006

Writing, naturally

Composing a piece of writing feels unnatural. Even a relatively short entry on this page is wrung out. Never mind how it appears. Never mind the typos.

The urge to write a blog entry is usually to release what's lodged inside my head, what's swirling about as words, phrases, fragments of sentences, themselves forming ill-formed ideas. The dream of writing is to make all this a coherent whole. Then those phrases and fragments are submerged in the astringent wash of rhetoric. Sometimes they stick above the surface. The dream remains, hence more writing is urged.

There are examples of success to cling to. Beckett's 'siege in the room' during which he wrote three novels of the Trilogy.
Molloy and what followed became possible the day I became aware of my stupidity. Then I began to write the things I feel.
At first this statement seems like a licence to let go, to write out those phrases, fragments of sentences and ill-formed ideas without apparent mediation; mitigated as raw feeling. But reading the Trilogy seems only to reveal that what Beckett felt included the failure of feeling and the failure of the dream.

And then there's the example of Thomas Bernhard; the Glenn Gould of the typewriter. Those late novels like Bach fugues, each giving the impression of having been written with virtuosic grace and speed. This is perhaps why I prefer these novels (Concrete, Yes, The Loser, Old Masters, Extinction) rather than earlier works such as Correction, recently reviewed by David Sepanik in the The Quarterly Conversation. It perplexes me why this novel receives such disproportionate attention. It is uncommonly weighty, as dense as the forest in the Aurach valley in which it is set. Yes, it's deep, awesomely-crafted and important, but to me, compared to the others, it seems too constructed, perhaps even forced, unnatural.

I suspect Correction is regarded so precisely because it is heavier - 'demanding' as Sepanik says - thus resembling the ambitions of more-traditional novels and fitting in with conservative hopes and expectations. The curious thing is, the novels I prefer are probably less radical and experimental in composition than this one. Yet each differs radically from the traditional novel; they seem to flow more directly from the living mind. So perhaps we should regard the traditional novel, written slowly and deliberately, with each sentence composed with utmost care, as experimental, and those which seem to fall onto the page like steady rain as the more natural form of the novel; the novel, perhaps, of the future.

But of course, such definitions are all made by the reader. Without scholarly attentions, we cannot know how much care was taken to write what we're reading. So, what's the difference between 'experimental' and 'traditional' reading?


  1. Can you recommend particular translations of the work of Thomas Bernhard you speak about here?
    Kind Regards

  2. Not really Paul. They're all as good as each other as far as I can tell (i.e. monolingual).



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