Christian Connor

"What is an artist? For every thousand people there's nine hundred doing the work, ninety doing well, nine doing good, and one lucky bastard who's the artist."


Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

I want to break out — to leave this cycle of infection and death. I want to be taken in love: so taken that you and I, and death, and life, will be gathered inseparable, into the radiance of what we would become…
Thomas Pynchon (via observando)
What is an artist? For every thousand people there’s nine hundred doing the work, ninety doing well, nine doing good, and one lucky bastard who’s the artist.”
- Tom Stoppard
Henry Carr: And what did you do during the Great War?
James Joyce: I wrote Ulysses. What did you do?
Travesties, Tom Stoppard (via asheli)



“A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.” 

—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

How solitude intermingles with interconnectedness

Untitled 23 June 2014

Untitled, 23 June 2014

She, for it must be a ‘she’ for you. Nameless, without a particular character—ideally. Ideal and idealising, she introduces the notion of ‘glamour’ to you.

Glamour is that necessary function that converts life—experience, sensations—into art. It makes chaos into ornate design, makes chance into necessity, makes suffering as exciting as it is exacting. By glamour, the mess of life is arranged into a story that someone else would like to live. (As though that were living! But it can be comforting to all the Rosencrantzes and all the Guildernsterns.)

She is glamorous, your muse. Howsoever she operates, you can recognise her vivacity. What seems conditional in life-as-lived is essential to her.

It is a commonplace of etymology but worth the reminder: inspiration is about the breath of the muse, about inhaling that divine creativity. There is a headiness to it: the act, properly executed, makes you dizzy. You wonder how far it must be like breathing through a paper bag—where every inhalation is filled with stale and poisonous exhalation. You ingest your own excretions. It is a cul-de-sac of creativity, isn’t it—and don’t you delight at the coincidence of ‘cul-de-sac’ (literally, the bag’s end) with your paper bag metaphor.

Is to write to commit suicide? You expend your very being, disguised as your muse’s lifeblood—and what is left of you at the end?

No: if the muse in any way represents a real person, rather than a florid metaphor for your own creativity, then it is homicide you practice with your pen, with your bloodied nib. It is abuse—cruel and specific.

(Remember Neil Gaiman’s ‘Calliope’, where the muse is held hostage and abused, where her power is not gifted but seized from her by rapists.)

And it is prostitution too—exploitation where you, the pimp, the madam, profit by your muse’s experience, by her suffering, by her vivacity. What does she get from it, when you construct your writings from the facts of her life? What does she get from it when you hold captive her utterances with the bondage of your speech marks?

Guilt: shamefully claiming that you are creative when all you manage is the bland rearrangement of the facts of her life. You are not blessed by her gift. What she offers you serve as reminder that you are, in fact, bankrupt. You rely on the charity and pity of your muse.

You fool yourself that she’ll be flattered and recompense by your ‘dedication’ to her.

Some of us only read dead authors. Read ‘How it strikes the contemporary’ in Woolf’s The Common Reader. We read dead authors because they have the weight of history behind them. They have been proved. New books don’t have that fixed assurance.

This is all nonsense, of course. Opinions can change and once-great authors and novels can be forgotten. Remember how you struggled to recall any English writers of the 19th Century, suitable for the GCSE curriculum—how it took a special effort to itemise even Scottish Stevenson. Your mind kept lapsing to the Americans and the French and the Russians: Hawthorne, Flaubert, Turgenev.

Yet there is a certain logic to it—the logic of Sartre. He says only with death can we judge a person, because only then is their life concluded. Their life is whole and inspectable: there is nothing new to be discovered.

Woolf, meanwhile, avers that the reason why critics fail to universally hail contemporary fiction is (mainly) due to the surfeit of novelists and the lack of any clear leaders. No one apprentices themselves to a master of literature. Potential leaders (like Conrad) are too distant and abstracted as figures and become instead idols. In the past, she seems to discern a clearer pack of masters.

And she doubts that any novel of her time will last in one hundred years. She’s obliged to doubt it, otherwise she must see that her time is no different from the others: most books vanish, others endure—and in enduring give the impression that they were the only literature, that the previous era was a ‘golden age’.

Certainly none have universal acclaim but plenty have lasted, endured to 2014 and will persist beyond the scope of our lives. Ulysses, which she describes as a ‘terrific catastrophe’, will last. Her own novels will last—at least, Mrs Dalloway and To The Lighthouse. Nabokov will last. Fitzgerald and Hemingway too. Rowling may. Pynchon may not. Even Ian McEwan and Iain Banks will likely become obscure. Meyer and E. L. James will be forgotten by literary critics but recalled by historians and sociologists for the phenomena they precipitated.

The contemporary writer must be suspicious of the perfections of his or her contemporaries. He must judge them critically and surely. He must not be nostalgic or weak: to be weak here is to weaken one’s own writing. Your fellow writers are part of your network, your problematic: they reflect your weltanschuang, your own writing. In this, Woolf’s essay is admirable. In its short-sighted vision of the past, it is plainly nonsensical.




The adorable and unlikely friendship between a fox and a dog that’s being turned into a children’s fairytale book

Photographer Torgeir Berge