Why do we write? This is an enormous question. I think in some way I write to exist, to have some sort of voice, of visibility, which is perhaps why I'm so invested in writers and artists and figures who have been mute and marginalized. I think if I am really honest to myself I write to be loved. So a sort of complex narcissism (made all the more enhanced by having a blog, with comments, and where you can check how many people read you, and being on Facebook, where people can check whether they like you or not, I think Kafka would have hara-kiri-ed in such an environment, surely, what if we knew how many readers read our books? and we could check those stats? suicidal.)
I think I write to love. I think I write to hate. I think this has something to do with a fairly traumatic childhood where I felt alien, apart, always. So yes, something to do with solitude. A relief from solitude? The experience of luxuriating in solitude? There is almost an erotics to me of this sort of solitary play that is writing, quite akin to playing with dolls as a child (I played with dolls very actively until I was 16, which perhaps points to the weirdness of my youth, maybe not weirder than others, but certainly strange). But sometimes the solitude becomes overwhelming, and the idea of writing, anything, becomes overwhelming, combined with the necessary publicness of its outcome, and what sets in is not relief or bliss but absolute all-consuming dread.
My partner had been rereading some of Blanchot's literary essays (translated by Lydia Davis) and as we usually do we steal from each other and now I'm reading it. So much better therapy than Kristeva. And I love his essay "From Dread to Language". He would argue that the idea of a writer writing that he is in solitude is essentially absurd, because once one writes that, one is in some sort of communion with the outside world. I think there's truth to that. Writing as a sort of SOS. Save me from myself. This reminds me of the glorious opening of Rilke's Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. This is Blanchot:
The existence of the writer is proof that within one individual there exists side by side both a man full of dread and one who is cool and calculating, both a madmen and a reasonable being, a mute who has lost all words firmly wedded to an orator, master of discourse.
In Literature and the Right to Death Blanchot gets into the disease of publishing, of being public, of being read, the strange relationship between writer and reader, that can throw the writer into an existential panic (exhibit A, as am awaiting my first novel(la) to be out).
Why not withdraw into an enclosed and secret intimacy without producing anything but an empty object and a dying echo?
But Blanchot goes on to say that a writer cannot withdraw, because then they wouldn't be a writer. The whole self-devouring mechanism.
Anyway. Along with Blanchot I have been reading Bernhard's Concrete, which is glorious, and gives me such tremendous pleasure, much like when I read Extinction last year, Bernhard's books are the best to read after seeing one's families, especially if your families obliterate your fragile identity. Extinction is, like many of Bernhard's books, about the exquisite sensitivity of self-creation and creativity, especially in the face of the destructiveness of bourgeois bonds. The narrator is a musicologist, whose sister has just come to visit, and who blames his inability to begin a study on his sister, and waits for the ideal moment in which to start creating. Bernhard's monologists are to me the perfect exteriorization of what Blanchot writes about, the dread-filled writer who manages to write with such disgust-filled exaltation. Bernhard I think is a truly bulimic writer, in the best way possible.
Here is some from Concrete (I have just begun it! But it's so welcome. This is the perfect revolutionary book of the day, to reword Little Edie):
I'll calm down and begin work, I told myself. Again and again I said to myself, I'll calm down and begin work. But after I had said this about a hundred times and could no longer stop saying it I gave up. My attempt had failed. It was impossible for me to begin work in the early morning light. The dawn had completely dashed my hopes.
Glorious dread. Glorious because of the recognition, one is not alone in the world, no, not after all.
Oh, and his glorious, glorious anti-humanism. So completely isolationist.
On parenting:Parents have a child, and in doing so they bring into the world a monster that kills everything it comes into contact with, it seems to me.
On eating: When I go out for a meal I flee from the restaurant almost before I've entered it or eaten my nauseating food.
And perhaps Little Edie and Big Edie are a good reference to the above ramblings. Do you stay inside the house, and live in your revolutionary costumes, and let racoons eat the roof, and just exist in your memories? Or do you go outside, and face the chill and indifference of out there?