Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Most of the book <> is made up of stories, but sometimes I need to shout:

There is a usually unbridgeable gap between theory and practice in writing – a gap as big as that between a vibrant Hans Hoffman painting and a monograph by a pinched art historian….

And so within this book there is the writer's story, the play within the play, the play that can surround the play. For if writing is an art on a level with other forms of art it must have life. And the only life a writer, an artist, can really know with any certain thoroughness is the writer's, the artist’s, own. And if the writer’s work is not set somehow in the context of the writer’s life, there is nothing to let it partake of reality.

I have written here about how my time in visual art – where line and form and color unfolded in ways that astounded me – how this taught me about writing. About how scenes come from places of mystery. And in the path I followed there were skeletons and cadavers as well as live nudes – really lush, live nudes.

I have written about how writing when performed on stage, in speech or in singing as raised in writing, how this, brought me, like drawing, ever closer to my stories. And freed me helped free me from the linear traps of the English language. How more flowing versions of the language, and of theater and song and visual images and movement did for me what many carefully measured English professors in their ersatz Gothic lairs can never do.

I have tried to depict some of the places of my past – bearing in mind Flannery O'Connor's dictum that writing that is not true to concrete reality, that falsifies reality, should be dismissed as pornography. And as I wrote I knew I could not breath and live in carefully constructed the versions of reality into which I was born.

I find I must, as all writers must, keep returning to the stories, always discovering something new. Entering scenes that might have been forgotten or distorted or lost in the false but triumphant versions of others if I had not written them – forgotten as if these scenes were like what does NOT come to an amnesiac wandering on a battlefield with no memory of what the battle had been about. I might not have totally forgotten the excitement of sex and knife-edge danger, but I might have lost what I had once known of love or of betrayal.

Going back into where it began for me, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the most perfect if formal summer houses in the most beautiful if scraggly landscape, inhabited by the most fine if overly correct people – it became, when moving to the page, a place of evil inhabited by monsters – then another time, when writing, becoming somehow more fine, if not so right as before – and then places of first love, and then again places that might be country for certain old men, but were NO country for young girls and boys.

And simultaneously my lake country boarding school with its Georgian buildings from long ago was changing too – because of writing – from a traditional dark place of torture to a life-saving place where I escaped the sorry fate that was supposed to be mine.

Back and forth through the scenes. These changes. The complexities and necessities of reality….

I had to, have to, find out what had happened – especially the complex story at the center of so much I have to tell – the story of my brother the good twin and me the bad twin, the two of us winding up eventually on opposites sides in actual wars – each of us having had to fight, from the womb on, for a corner of life, though at other times surfacing as actual human beings, even sometimes friends, with even hope, but then again returning to the peril we were in. And it could have led to my death, maybe my brother Peter’s too, when he was with certain U.S. government agencies and we were sometimes in the same countries, and I was sometimes underground with the opponents of America’s favorite dictators – like Marcos, like Somoza.

If I could not get to such stories and beyond them I was not practicing art, and if there was no art, only logic, then my work and life would have narrowed down so far that nothing mattered. The much dreaded disease called Writers Block, which in reality is a symptom, Writers Block would have been the least of it. Writers Block, the friend of dictators in family, church or state who will kill to save their own falsified, self-serving versions of reality.

Dictators and their allies, the demons.

The demons who tell a writer that no one is interested in what you have to say, and anyway you say it badly. The demons. And maybe your villains are better than you are, the demons say. Every veteran writer knows the demons that are so convincing about how you cannot really write, you are a fraud, you should give up on your own little versions – SHUT UP! – or at most copy the versions of your betters.

Sometimes the demons win, and sometimes writers destroy their own written stories. But the demons do not always win.

For art keeps breaking out. Demons but also art. Writing as art. This is my story.

Let the demons be fucked.

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