Sunday, January 25, 2009

Henry Miller: "I began from scratch ... "

From The Wisdom of the Heart:

"I began assiduously examining the style and technique
of those whom I admired and worshipped: Nietzsche,
Dostoyevsky, Hamsun....

"I imitated every style in the hope of finding the clue
to the gnawing secret of how to write. Finally I came
to a dead end, to a despair and desperation which few
men have known.... There was no divorce between myself
as writer and myself as man: to fail as a writer meant
to fail as a man. And I failed. I realized that I was
nothing--less than nothing--a minus quantity.

"It was at this point, in the midst of the dead Sargasso
Sea, that I really began to write. I began
from scratch, throwing everything overboard, even those
whom I most loved.

"Immediately I heard my own voice; I was enchanted: the fact
that it was a separate, distinct, unique voice sustained me.
It didn't matter to me if what I wrote should be considered
bad. Good and bad dropped out of my vocabulary. I jumped
with two feet into the realm of aesthetics, the non-moral,
non-ethical, non-utilitarian realm of art. My life itself
became a work of art.

"I had found a voice, I was whole again. The experience was
very much life what we read of in connection with the lives
of Zen initiates. My huge failure was like the recapitulation
of the experience of the race: I had to grow foul with knowledge,
realize the futility of everything, smash everything, grow
desperate, then humble, then sponge myself off the slate, as
it were, in order to recover my authenticity. I had to arrive
at the brink and then take a leap in the dark."

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