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Wonders are there many - none so wonderful as man. His is speech and windswift thought. Sophocles

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Influences

Posted by John L. Pattillo on November 7, 2010 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (1)

     You read and you respond.  You say to yourself, "What a wonderful way this author has!"  When you sit down to write, you may say, "I would love to write in such a wonderful way."

     All well and good.  But if you try to ape that author you admire, you will be...an ape.  You will be false.  Your words will not be the mirror of your  thoughts and your values.  Your writing will not be the product of your sovereign mind and soul.

     The greater the impression that other writer whom you admire has made, the harder it may be to step out from under his or her influence.   Romain Rolland says, in his moving biography of Michelangelo, "The heroes of art are also its tyrants,"  because they are so overwhelmingly brilliant at what they do that they make followers think that theirs is the only possible way of creating.  At this time, four hundred years after, artists are still trying to get out from under the influence of Michelangelo.

     Though I have learned from many authors, the ones I have had to struggle to get out from under are Victor Hugo, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Ayn Rand.  To create dramatic juxtapositions as Hugo does, to see into the interior of a soul as Dostoevsky does, to parse the logic of events and of characters as Rand does -- these have been the temptations, the temptations within the word "as".  If one succumbs to that "as" one will be what Ayn Rand calls a "second-hander,"  an imitator...an ape.

     So I have worked to build my own voice, my own way of going at writing a sentence, a paragraph, a novel.

"To Make You See"

Posted by John L. Pattillo on September 12, 2010 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)

   

     According to Ayn Rand, an artist projects his values by making them concrete.  For example, a hero is someone who is courageous, determined, honest, has integrity, and so forth.  But merely to state those things makes you a philosopher, or a moralist, not an artist.

     The artist must make those abstractions concrete through the particular medium of his art form.  He must create a specific image that embodies them.  So, for example, in literature Dumas creates the image, the personality, the character of D'Artagnan.  In sculpture, Michelangelo creates the image of David, or French creates the Minuteman.  In painting, Leutze creates the image of "Washington Crossing the Delaware," in poetry, Kipling creates the Colonel's son in "Ballad of East and West."

      In literature, the writer of fiction or poetry must use words, which are audio-visual symbols standing for abstractions, in order to make you, the reader, perceive in your imagination a very specific image. 

     This, I believe, is what Joseph Conrad meant when he said that the serious author must say to all who come to his novel, "My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel -- it is, before all, to make you see.  That -- and no more, and it is everything."

     Conrad’s sense of life is not mine, but I believe that he succeeded in making his readers see.  He made his abstract view of the essential nature of men and their actions into concrete characters and events. Through these concretes you can see into Conrad’s soul.

     By your response to that concrete vision, or those within any other true work of art, you come to know your own soul.

 


    

Why did I write it?

Posted by John L. Pattillo on August 9, 2010 at 3:09 PM Comments comments (1)

     I think you should ask this question of any author.  What is their specific reason for writing that?   It really can be a puzzle.  If a novel's main character is a dysfunctional, miserable wretch, why write about him?  No, I really mean this, it baffles me.  What in the world motivates such a project?

    After all, to write a serious novel is not easy.  It can, in fact, be excruciatingly hard.  So you are going to expend all that effort, that sweat, that anguish -- to create something repulsive...why?

     Dostoevsky writes about repulsive people, but the writing contains a moral message, a projection of his moral code, and if you follow it through at least you can see what he thinks people should not be.  From this you can infer what he thinks they ought to be.

     But why would an author write a novel in order to say, "People (including you and I) are swine" ?

 

     I wanted to build my novel around a very good character.  Good by my standards.  I wanted to project a character I could admire, whom I would want to spend time with, without ever having to say, "Oh, I wish he were different."  I wanted to project events that were satisfying to read about over and again, for their own sake.  Events the contemplation of which would be an end in itself.

     The books I had read which do that for me I had read many times.  I rarely find a new one nowadays that makes me feel that way.  So I said, "Well, John, you will have to do it for yourself."  This kept me going in those times when I might have given up.

 


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