Thursday, May 6, 2021

the last book I ever read (Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion, excerpt four)

from Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion:

This business of the subject is tricky. Whether they are painters or photographers or composers or choreographers or for that matter writers, people whose work it is to make something out of nothing do not much like to talk about what they do or how they do it. They will talk quite freely about the technical tricks involved in what they do, about lighting and filters if they are photographers, about voice and tone and rhythm if they are writers, but not about content. The attempt to analyze one’s work, which is to say to know one’s subject, is seen as destructive. Superstitution prevails, fear that the fragile unfinished something will shatter, vanish, revert to the nothing from which it was made. Jean Cocteau once described all such work as deriving from “a profound indolence, a somnolence in which we indulge ourselves like invalids who try to prolong dreams.” In dreams we do not analyuze the action, or it vanishes. Gabriel García Márquez once spoke to The New York Times about the “bad luck” that would befall him were he to discuss the novel he was then writing; he meant of course that the novel would go away, lose its power to compel his imagination. I once knew I “had” a novel when it presented itself to me as an oil slick, with an iridescent surface; during the several years it took me to finish the novel I mentioned the oil slick to no one, afraid the talismanic hold the image had on me would fade, go flat, go away, like a dream told at breakfast. “If you say too much you lose some of that mystery,” Robert Mapplethorpe once told a BBC interviewer who wanted to talk about his work. “You want to be able to pick up on the magic of the moment. That’s the rush of doing photography. You don’t know why it’s happening but it’s happening.”

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