Saturday, December 18, 2010

The artist’s reticence

Things that have mattered emotionally, often for the quality of their pattern, their beauty, their emotional shape, things that are not necessarily traumas, lodge in the mind, becoming shadows until you sit at a desk and begin to work out a pattern of words and images and then they become substantial and they block the way of narrative progress until they are allowed onto the page, or they offer the narrative great body and substance until they become the secret subject of the book.
Colm Tóibín quoted in an Irish Times review of All a Novelist Needs: Colm Tóibín on Henry James.


  1. Like Toibin I don't "go in for close analysis". I instinctively feel that an artist should refrain from "reticence". Otherwise, as Wallace Stevens says: Children picking up our bones will never know that these were once as quick as foxes on the hill (A postcard from the volcano)

  2. Are you misunderstanding what reticence is in this context? Do you mean critic instead?

    In this context reticence has nothing to do with an artist's agency – "Oh, I'll refrain from reticence in this next poem" – but respecting that "the web of allusions" is not a secret to be broken but the complexity that does it justice.

  3. I mean the artist is not to be reticent about using his so-called reticence, that is reticence defined here as 'shadows in the mind' or in dictionary terms as 'to be silent'.

  4. Thank you for posting this quote. It prefectly expresses some ideas that I have been worrying at lately.



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