Saturday, October 19, 2013

But the book itself does not count

Are you  someone who has somehow manage to develop a rather stately impression of your own writing ability and also feel you possess a critic's discernment?

Do you have a capacity for delusions of grandeur - is that even a question, of course you do. So much so that you can exaggerate - not just your writing and critical abilitIes - but even your own impressions of them, to be able to relate to the turmoil of some who is, and expresses himself, way better?
Read on then as Silvio Baldeschi - the narrator of Moravia's Conjugal Love-  writes a critique of a novel he just finished writing.
This is what I wrote on my new page. First: style. And then, underneath, quickly: polished, correct, decorous, but never original, never personal, never fresh. Full of vague generalizations, discursive when it should be brief, brief when it should be discursive, in effect entirely redundant because, entirely the result of application. A style without character, the style of a diligent composition in which there is not the slightest trace of poetical feeling. Second: plasticity. None. States things instead of representing them, writes them instead of portraying them. Lack of evident truth, of volume, of solidity. Third, characters. Negative. One feels they were not created by sympathetic intuition but studiously copied and transcribed from nature through the instrumentality - in any case defective - of a judgement that was indecisive, clouded and elementary. They are mosaics of minute but lifeless observations, not living, free creations. They disintegrate, they contradict themselves, they disappear at moments, from the page, leaving only their names behind; and these names - whether the characters are called Paolo or Lorenza or Elisa or Maria - they betray their unreality because one feels they could be changed without doing any harm. They are not characters, at all, in fact,  but poor photographs out of focus. Fourth: psychological truth. Poor. Too  much casuistry, too many subtleties, too many irrelevant remarks, and too little common sense. "Psychologism" not psychology. One feels that the author moves from outside to inside, at random, not by the main road of truth but along the byways of sophistry. Fifth: feeling. Cold and withered, beneath swellings and outbursts and flights which betray its real emptiness and feebleness. Sentimentality, not feeling. Sixth: plot. Ill-constucted, unbalanced, full of incongruities, of subterfuges and padding and other dishonest tricks beneath its apparent efficiency and smoothness. Plenty of deus-ex-machina and intervensions on part of the author. Movement is confined to the periphery, and is mechanical, for at the center there is no motive power. Seventh, and last: comprehensive verdict. The book of a dilettante, of a person who,  though, though endowed with intelligence, culture and taste is completely lacking in creative powers. The book fails to reveal anything fresh, or any fresh turn of sensibility. It is a book founded upon other books, it is second or third rate in quality, it is a hot-house product. Practical conclusion: can it be published? Yes, of course, it can certainly be published -why not in an édition de luxe, with one or two lithographs by some good artist? And, after a suitable propaganda drive in literary circles, it could also have what is commonly called a succés d'estime, that is, a number of reviews that are eulogistic, even enthusiastic, according to whether it is worth the reviewer's while and according to their degree of friendliness toward the author. But the book itself does not count. I underlined this last sentence that summed up everything I thought about my story, considered for a moment, and then added the following postscript: the fact remains, however, that the book was written in a state of mind of the most perfect and enthusiastic happiness and that it is certainly the best that can be expected from the author. Indeed the latter, while he was writing it, was convinced that he has created a masterpiece.It follows from this that the author expressed himself in the book as he really is - a man lacking a creative feeling, a mere daydreamer, well-intentioned, sterile. This book is the faithful mirror of such a man.


  1. Your wallpaper evokes the effect of (being) inside a womb, perhaps implying that your thoughts and ideas are in the process of being "conceived"...

    1. Looked more like a Rorschach test methought.

  2. Hmm you just had me take the test then. :-)