My closest friends have always protected, that is to say shielded, me from receiving what others, readers far removed from the field of battle, might understandably consider my due portion of worldly recognition. No irrelevant plaudits will they allow–knowing, these close friends, that I would surely collapse under the weight of false, or even sincere, compliments. I have repaid these kind and caring friends by affecting an air of grand nonchalance, almost as if I didn’t notice what they have accomplished on my behalf. And over the years have found this pose, which fawning strangers often see as coldness and unfair reserve, more and more comfortable–seeing in fact that such affectation preserves a childish innocence–and, miraculously, even provides me continued access to original mysteries. Thus I keep drawing from the depths, the black mirrors one might say, of my spiritual self. And of course, since time is a slide rule, and not merely an hourglass, this childhood seems to grow deeper, the farther away it gets–like, another simile: outer space. Luckily–most luckily, indeed–these close, kind, caring, and thoughtful friends, who really spend some of their own valuable time strategizing about my fate, and the question of my fame, at the expense perhaps of their own productivity–luckily, I point out, this circle consists of artists and writers who, while having to protect me, are genuinely striving in their own right. None of them are wheedling, jealous critic types, with that sort of academic mentality that tries to understand what it cannot even begin to do. “Acrobats understand other acrobats,” says the sage Mondrago, best of all my shadow friends who follow me so closely.
Yes, constantly I am faced with the fatiguing problem that only the writer understands what his tricks are. These sycophant critics and lovers of literature who make bold to speak about books as if they understood anything about the writer, are . . . what are they exactly? They are loan sharks. A writer cannot afford to listen to them, because what they are after is . . . what are they after? Getting that author to pander to them, and squander his fortune! And write for them! Write books that are policy . . . And the reader (that is you, sucker) is given false recommendations, which are offered only and corruptly as part of a way of advancing that reviewers idea of books, and his attempts to push back those authors whom he, that critic, does not get and cannot get to. Ugh, I lose my vocabulary in this rage. These recommendations of the lover of literature are disingenuous, this whole business is disgusting and the reason at its root is simple. I know what the reason is. I face it constantly, and have to screen it out, in order to work. What is my work? Wouldn’t everyone like to know, up front, as if it were separate from the explicit results. And that is just the very reason why I am the one in charge, and why I am ringed by so many close friends who won’t let me fall victim to this literary culture. Have I lost the thread–I mean the swinging rope? No, it is impossible, I have the rope right here. The reason is that these critics have no understanding that it is language that directs and controls content, and that therefore the writer himself must be a consummate stylist, in order precisely to get into the flow of the language and while in that flow watch out for the content he is really interested in as it swings past. And jump. And in the midst of the harangue, despite the laughter and the howls of appreciation, land in the place where no one is looking.
“Still I don’t think Credence Clearwater Revival ever got their due,” my buddy said, referring to the band who we were listening to, right then over the sound system in Tavern Purple, where the world can’t find me. Who is it, I wonder, we infernally think gives anyone their due? Don’t I constantly hear a kind of empty formula, that due fame is dispensed by an untraceable authority outside all accomplishment measured in any other terms but: shamefaced fame itself. When one is resting on accomplishments, they are licking their wounds. Staring at an empty hourglass. Tracking a distant star. Whereas famous people are at a party somewhere, which may even include the dead. Some of the dead, though, are not invited; these are the immortals whose company I prefer. Lonely for fame? Not on your life! That is what I say. But do I mean it? By any reasonable standard, who would want such a thing? No one, but am I reasonable? (Now I have lost the thread.) Here it is: We are measured according to invisible standards, the huffing and puffing critics are everywhere, they clutch at you and define the culture like it were, what? a culture in a biology lab. I am metaphor-mad alright, and this fate anyone who accomplishes anything knows and therefore they must constantly wonder whether it wouldn’t be better to be engaged in a fight and seek to clutch in a parallel acrobatic act, the bathos of fame. But fame does not secure existence, Mondrago tells me. And, this is what all my vigilant, now legendary friends have protected me from, and why I am free from having to deal with what would only be, if it were to snag me, a life of irony. Plus I would never write anything.