Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Kenneth Fearing says

It should be apparent that creative writers, those not primarily moved to produce commercially acceptable copy, will find it paralyzing to work within the purposeful, voracious, medieval terms of the official code. (Though the television networks, as everyone knows, produce dramas that daily surpass themselves; they say so.) And it should also be apparent that there is no province of communication immune to the blackdamp of these authorized values. The proprietors of the new order intend to obliterate avenues of the imagination they cannot sanctify, including further plans for the world of books….

There can be a unique exhilaration in creative writing, and it can offer the surprise of final discovery. These qualities exist in life (sometimes), and if they are not to be found in a verbal presentation of it, then the reader (or audience) has been cheated and the writer has been killing everyone's time. This excitement and surprise must be real, not counterfeit, and have in it the breath of those crises upon which most people feel their lives are poised, sometimes crossing into them, in fact, and then rarely with routine behavior, seldom with standardized results. A writer cannot do much to transmit an excitement he does not feel, and the only surprises are those that find themselves, as the work grows. None of these essentials that fuse hard uncertainty, tension, choice, and action into a sense of reality are possible, working inside the cartels of communication. The technique of subtraction, which means such rich dividends to a public relations firm, is also total bankruptcy to the creative imagination. These limitations have always held, of course, in the largest media; they are not established by the new mechanical devices for presentation, which have dazzling possibilities; they arise from the purposes for which they are controlled, and the flowering of the rackets merely added virulence to the original stagnation. Since that flowering, all literary work has grown steadily safer, risk-proofed against steadily multiplying taboos…. 

Before the eclipse, there was some barter, and human communication was quite possible without character references from these new literary arbiters. Commercial scripts must always be exactly the same, but different, and in their feverish search for a totally different sameness, story executives chronically send for another, far better, far more sensible imaginative writer, and he, in turn, needs money…. 

To write about the people and events of this time and this place, through imaginary characters and transposed circumstances, all of it coming in the end to an expression of the changing relationships between people in varied crises -- this has not always been an unmixed pleasure, of course. Some of the evidence has been too conclusive and too appalling, even for me. And it has been a privilege (though I can think of safer ones) to learn something of the nature of the eclipse, and to know people better in the way they met it, chiefly through the discipline enforced by writing about them in the margin of whatever fight remained.

But there are other forms of crisis on everyone's private, crowded calendar, apart from the central tragedy; other moods, other people, or the same people in different circumstances. Technically speaking, the mood in which a work is presented is probably the largest factor in the effect it makes; it's invisible, since it can't be pointed out, but it's there; essentially, it’s the relationship established between the author and the reader, during the course of a conversation in which the author does all the talking. In poetry, the tone establishes the rhythm, which is literally the sound of that conversation, and carries just about all the meaning of the poem.

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