*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Interviewer: What do you think about the artist being supported by the state?
Parker: Naturally, when penniless, I think it’s superb. I think that the art of the country so immeasurably adds to its prestige that if you want to have writers and artists – persons who live precariously in our country – the state must help. I do not think that any kind of artist thrives under charity, by which I mean one person or organization giving him money, here and there, this and that – that’s no good. The difference between the state giving and the individual patron is that one is charity and one isn’t. Charity is murder and you know it. But I do think that if the government supports its artists, they need have no feeling of gratitude – the meanest and most sniveling attribute in the world – or baskets being brought to them, or apple polishing. Working for the state, for Christ’s sake, are you grateful to your employers? Let the state see what its artists are trying to do – like France and the Academie Francaise. The artists are a part of their country and their country should recognize this, so both it and the artists can take pride in their efforts. Now I mean that, my dear.
Dorothy Parker in Women at Work: Interviews From the Paris Review
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* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
It is the beginning of a work that the writer throws away.
A painting covers its tracks. Painters work from the ground up. The latest version of a painting overlays earlier versions, and obliterates them. Writers, on the other hand, work from left to right. The discardable chapters are on the left. The latest version of a literary work begins somewhere in the work’s middle, and hardens toward the end. The earlier version remains lumpishly on the left; the work’s beginning greets the reader with the wrong hand. In those early pages and chapters anyone may find bold leaps to nowhere, read the brave beginnings of dropped themes, hear a tone since abandoned, discover blind alleys, track red herrings, and laboriously learn a setting now false.
Several delusions weaken the writer’s resolve to throw away work. If he has read his pages too often, those pages will have a necessary quality, the ring of the inevitable, like poetry known by heart; they will perfectly answer their own familiar rhythms. He will retain them. He may retain those pages if they possess some virtues, such as power in themselves, though they lack the cardinal virtue, which is pertinence to, and unity with, the book’s thrust. Sometimes the writer leaves his early chapters in place from gratitude; he cannot contemplate them or read them without feeling again the blessed relief that exalted him when the words first appeared – relief that he was writing anything at all. That beginning served to get him where he was going, after all; surely the reader needs it, too, as groundwork. But no.
Every year the aspiring photographer brought a stack of his best prints to an old, honored photographer, seeking his judgment. Every year the old man studied the prints and painstakingly ordered them into two piles, bad and good. Every year the old man moved a certain landscape print into the bad stack. At length he turned to the young man: “You submit this same landscape every year, and every year I put it in the bad stack. Why do you like it so much?” The young photographer said, “Because I had to climb a mountain to get it.”
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
Comments are welcome!