Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Faulkner's Words Moved Me

William Faulkner delivered the following moving speech on accepting the Nobel prize. So relevant for writers of our generation too!

"I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work -- life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed -- love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he learns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail."

William Faulkner - December 10, 1950

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Interesting News on Muslims

I found the following as interesting developments (copy and paste the urls in the browser window to access the news items):

Now, universities to enrol imams

Non-Muslim students fast during Ramzan in US

Yo Puta

Read my article "Whorrible!" at

Monday, December 06, 2004

Why write?

I often wonder: why write? Why write when you can watch a movie or eat a gourmet dish or have sex or work overtime and earn more money? Why write if the written piece might not be read by even one person, other than your wife (if you are not divorced yet)?

What is it about writing that attracts us?

Writing is hard work, to me at least. Many people say: I love writing. The hyper prolific Stephen King is one of them. I say that too. Maybe it is about the whole process, this professed love for writing. But it is hard work. I have Maugham on my side. And end of the day, it seems all so irrelevant to the world outside. How does it matter what I write to the hooker who waits for her client at the cafe outside my house? How does it matter to a bunch of waiters who live in the apartment next to mine? My colleagues don't even know about it, and they couldn't care less.

So what?

My writing is, so it seems, as important to others as my taking a crap.

If you turn to Naipaul for help on this, he is of no use. He wanted to become a writer, ever since he could remember. But why? He doesn't know.

I saw a little book in Kinokuniya recently. It was pertly titled, So many books or So much to read (something like that). It was written by some Latin American writer (I had never heard of him, not that I am an authority on Latin American writers). The small sized book, slim enough to be carried in palms by the less-stout and weak-elbowed, seemed awfully tired of all the books in the world. I love slim books. They look so readable- betraying my prefernce for the slim than the fat (Don't rush to call me demented and hit me with a copy of The War and Peace). Anyway, the point that that book was making was that at the rate at which the species of (general book) readers is vanishing, the day is not far when there would be more writers than readers in the world.

Another point that cute little book made was that in these unfortunate times most people are writing (also reading) non-fiction. This is a fraud. These buggers (found on university faculty lists in profusion) are writing not to get readers but to "puff up" their CVs.

Anyway, I always suspected this. And you can't believe it, whenever I see a person lurking around the literature shelves of a bookstore, I immediately pigeonhole him/her as a wannabe writer.

If one wanted money, glamour and fame, one would be "better off working at the drive-through window at McDonalds!"

So how? Why write? Why bother?

The answer comes from Kurt Vonnegut, one of my the authors I have heard so much about that I am afraid to read his books. In his book, Timequake, Vonnegut describes his experience writing and teaching writing. To the question, “Why bother?” Vonnegut says:

“Here’s my answer: Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people don’t care about them. You are not alone.’”

So, there we are. We write because we want to say and feel that you are not alone, that we share the same stupidities and idiosyncracies.

Maybe. Maybe right. Maybe wrong. I still don't know.

In Richard Attenborough's (f...k the spelling) Shadowlands, Anthony Hopkins plays C S Lewis. Lewis roars in his Oxford university tutorials-"we read to know that we are not alone."

So, both the reader and writer is paid in the same coin. Both basically try to ease each other's lonliness, and in the process, the publisher laughs off to the bank.

I think the movies, video games, and even the belly dancers are doing a better job in this. No wonder Naipaul said: the novel is dead. he is right. The novel is dead. Long live the novel! And in case you did not notice, Naipaul's latest novel is Magic Seeds.

And yet, I stand where I was in the beginning, none the less wiser.

So how? Why do we write?

Wolf's wedding

In Kurusawa's "Dreams" the first story is about a boy who, in the first scene, comes out of a house and stands at the entrance of the courtyard. The sun is shining and it is raining at the same time. The boy's mother tells the boy that it is both sunshine and rains because a wolf's wedding is taking place. The boy is curious and he goes to the woods to see for himself if anything like this is really taking place.

When I was a child, living in a village, I was told the same thing about the wolf's wedding at such sunshine-with-rains times. Is this a common myth? I was wondering.