- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

“In art as in lovemaking heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal and so does heartless skill, but what you want is passionate virtuosity.”

 

Happy birthday, John Barth! 89, today! Here are some quotes from the author.

“Self-knowledge is always bad news.”

“[F]iction isn’t a lie at all, but a true representation of the distortion that everyone makes of life.”

“[Plot is] the gradual perturbation of an unstable homeostatic system and its catastrophic restoration to a new and complexified equilibrium.”

“Drolls & dreamers that we are […], we fancy that we can undo what we fancy we have done.”

“Every artist joins a conversation that’s been going on for generations, even millennia, before he or she joins the scene.”

“My notion of the way to make fiction, correctly, carefully, is to make every possible aspect of the fiction resonate, reflect, emblemize, the main concerns of the fiction: your choice of place, your choice of viewpoint, your choice of language, your choice of cadence, your choice of punctuation, your cast of characters, your whole aesthetic premises about writing the fiction in so far as you have enough intelligence to be aware of them, and imagine them, and put them to use. I like them to be relevant rather than merely gratuitous. This can take insane forms.”

“Supreme in this category of human constructions to be farewelled—so much so, to this fareweller, as to be virtually a category in itself—was that most supple, versatile, and ubiquitous of humanisms, language: that tool that deconstructs and reconstructs its own constructions; that uses and builds its users and builders as they use, build, and build with it. Ta-ta, language, la la language, the very diction of veridiction in this valley valedictory. Adieu, addio, adiós, et cetera und so weiter; he could no more bear to say good-bye to you than so to say to those nearest dearest, in particular the nearest-dearest, so to say, themof: He meant the without-whom-nothing for him to bid farewell to whom must strain the sine qua non of language even unto sinequanonsense. Impossible to do, unthinkable to leave undone, and the mere prospect did undo him…”

“The nightsea journey may be absurd, but here we swim, will-we nill-we, against the flood, onward and upward, toward a shore that may not exist and couldn’t be reached if it did.”

“The reader! You, dogged, uninsultable, print-oriented bastard, it’s you I’m addressing, who else, from inside this monstrous fiction. You’ve read me this far, then? Even this far? For what discreditable motive? How is it you don’t go to a movie, watch TV, stare at a wall, play tennis with a friend, make amorous advances to the person who comes to your mind when I speak of amorous advances? Can nothing surfeit, saturate you, turn you off? Where’s your shame?”

“I particularly scorn my fondness for paradox. I despise pessimism, narcissism, solipsism, truculence, word-play, and pusillanimity, my chiefer inclinations; loathe self-loathers ergo me; have no pity for self-pity and so am free of that sweet baseness. I doubt I am. Being me’s no joke.”

“So, reader, should you ever find yourself writing about the world, take care not to nibble at the many tempting symbols she sets squarely in your path, or you’ll be baited into saying things you don’t really mean, and offending the people you want most to entertain. Develop, if you can, the technique of the pall bearers and myself: smile, to be sure—for fucking dogs are truly funny—but walk on and say nothing, as though you hadn’t noticed.”

 

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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