A Vanishing Breed of Writer

I feel like part of the vanishing breed that thinks a writer should be read and not heard, let alone seen. I think this is because there seems so often today to be a tendency to put the person in the place of his or her work, to turn the creative artist into a performing one, to find what a writer says about writing somehow more valid, or more real, than the writing itself.

William Gaddis — from his acceptance speech for the National Book Award in Fiction for J R , April 1976

3 thoughts on “A Vanishing Breed of Writer

  1. I think the writing is more real and more valid than the writer, at least in the sense that our interest in the latter stems from our delight in the former, as when we want to thank a cook for a meal wellwrought. We want to know who formed those worlds and how they did so. But being that they are so far removed, I’d rather spend my time in their textual mazes and meadows, meand’ring and munching, than having to hear what the writer has to say. That’s extra.

    In the first sentence, I didn’t immediately grasp what G– meant by a writer being read but not “heard.” Because I took reading the writer to refer to the text (though I like how a literal reading of “a writer should be read” would undermine his argument), I figured that hearing referred to the same. That is, I thought he preferred not to have his prose read aloud but merely scanned. I thought that “person” subbing for the text was myself, or he who tries to turn what was creatively written into a vocal “performance.” Perhaps, I slipped into the passage without without my headlights on.

    .

    • I read the passage in the same way.

      Part of me would rather not even know of the writer’s identity prior to opening a book, it is impossible not to bring preconceptions to a reading. In the labyrinth, this would work perfectly, just pluck a book off the shelf and read, then continue or discard as necessary.

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