Permission to Write


My summer reading kicked off with Leonora Carrington’s The Hearing Trumpet. Carrington was a surrealist painter, so her novel is a wonderfully surrealistic narrative. I won’t go into any analysis here, but since finishing the novel, I’ve thought much about this quote from the book:

If I remember correctly writers usually find some excuse for their books, although why one should excuse oneself for having such a quiet and peaceful occupation I really don’t know. Military people never seem to apologize for killing each other yet novelists feel ashamed for writing some nice inert paper book that is not certain to be read by anybody. Values are very strange.

The speaker is the novel’s narrator, a 92 year-old woman named Marian Leatherby. I was amused by how true these words are, at least for myself. While I self-identify as a writer, it’s often with a measure of apology that I introduce myself at dinners and such.

Do you feel this way about choosing the writer’s life? I can think of little else to do with my days than write quietly, but why do I feel like it’s such an indulgence? What do you think?

Francois, spirit of the art gallery

There are spirits in the paddy field.

“No, I’m no artist,” said Francois, in answer to my question. He directed us towards the bathroom, or to the cafe, whichever he felt we needed more urgently. “See, there is art everywhere. See here,” he said, pointing at Garuda carved into the cabana. I was sitting in it now, waving away mosquitoes. The sun was setting over the rice field.

“To create is to show gratitude to the gods, who are with us always.” He laughed and flicked away the ash from his clove cigarette.

“No,” he said, “I’m no artist. But I believe.”