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"Sometimes when writing it is as if we were suddenly before the Medusa of life. In this moment, although we don't like Medusa, we can't send her to the hair dresser to make presentable her serpent head. Even when the writer would like that his double spoke of different things, he must pass him the microphone. Without complacency. I spoke once with Sabato -- once you go to the underworld, you discover two and two is maybe four, maybe seven. But when you once again are on the surface, you don't abuse that knowledge to pay your bill at the restaurant."
It was early this year when I was visiting an elderly acquaintance, a man who has this sprawling library at his house in the country. I'd gone there to look at certain eighteenth century pamphlets and bulletins referring to Bosnia, when talk fell upon Roth. My friend was an admirer and had known him somewhat thirty years ago, when both were living in London. As we sat there, he seemed to remember something and rose with some excitement and went over to unlock a glass-fronted vitrine. When he came back he handed me a book. I looked at the spine: "Philip Roth | Night Among the Tombs."
There is value in that bravado, however over-the-top it can be. The rhetorical aggression in BLAST is at one with its overall boldness and vision. Manifesto prose from the Modernist epoch can be tiresome (in the case of the Futurists and some of Pound), but not nearly as much as the tepidness of most of today’s highly regarded lit-mags. At one point in the Vorticist Manifesto, Pound and Lewis speak of “violent boredom” with certain aspects of their time and place’s literary culture. Violent boredom: a useful enough phrase, especially for describing how one (or I, me, forget the impersonal universal “one”) feels when scanning the pages of most “quality” online and print literary magazines.
It’s not that I’m pro-depression. It’s not that I think writers and artists need any particular form of illness or madness or suffering or trauma to work, any more than dancers need plantar fasciitis or torn ligaments to work. It’s just that, if a prima ballerina trains properly, at some point her body will get injured from the training or in the performance. Her body will also be honed and stretched, brutalized and seduced, into something more beautiful than it might be if she sat on the couch all day and never danced. Maybe, rarely, like Margot Fonteyn, she will dance Giselle at age forty-two and it will be an incredible Giselle. Always, no matter how she trains or how beautiful she stays, no matter how many drugs she’s given, no matter how many scientists experiment on how many sad monkeys, her body will give out for good and she will die and not dance again, the way Margot Fonteyn died of cancer at age 71 in Panama City. Do I think we shouldn’t try to treat diseases? No, of course we should try to treat them -- but we should be careful not to treat tendonitis by lopping off a dancer’s legs.
"It has always seemed to me that realism attempts to describe what daily life looks like while the fantastic attempts to express what daily life feels like. Getting evicted from your home -- I mean genuine court-ordered, City Marshal enforced eviction -- can feel like an episode from a piece of Gothic fiction. The reportorial aspects of realism just aren't going to capture the matter. I can't fathom how only one type of writing -- whether realism, the fantastic, romance, mystery, etc. -- can ever summarize life on its own. Using all of it -- within the same book, sometimes within the same sentence -- seems like the only sensible way to try and capture the whole spectrum of human experience."
"In my late teens I became obsessed with aikido. For a period of eleven or twelve years, I trained for hours almost every day, read up and watched everything on it -- books, manuals, instructional videos. Aikido's practical and philosophical aspects fascinated me. I attended seminars conducted by visiting Japanese masters and talked to them about aikido techniques and their views on life. To understand aikido and its roots, you have to know the world it originated from, so I became interested in Japanese culture and history. At one point, I even considered going to Japan to be an uchi-deshi, a live-in apprentice, at one of the schools there. That didn't happen, and looking back now I'm relieved. I wouldn't have survived it."