October 29, 2009

"Severe but just"

Flaubert to Maupassant:
"You complain about fucking being ‘monotonous’. There’s a simple remedy: cut it out for a bit. ‘The news in the papers is always the same’? That’s the complaint of a realist – and besides, what do you know about it? You should look at things more carefully … ‘The vices are trivial’? – but everything is trivial. ‘There aren’t enough different ways to compose a sentence’? – seek and ye shall find … You must – do you hear me, my young friend? – you must work harder than you do. I suspect you of being a bit of a loafer. Too many whores! Too much rowing! Too much exercise! A civilised person needs much less locomotion than the doctors claim. You were born to be a poet: be one. Everything else is pointless – starting with your pleasures and your health: get that much into your thick skull. Besides, your health will be all the better if you follow your calling … What you lack are ‘principles’. There’s no getting over it – that’s what you have to have; it’s just a matter of finding out which ones. For an artist there is only one: everything must be sacrificed to Art … To sum up, my dear Guy, you must beware of melancholy: it’s a vice."
(via LRB)

4 comments:

Steven Augustine said...

Christ, if only *I* could be castigated so grandly...!

Edmond Caldwell said...

Me too -- I could use a dressing-down of that calibre about now....

HumanProject said...

Our behavior is constantly being shaped by social others; a kind smile here, rebuke there, and our neural networks fine tune our behavior to bring about more of the former and less of the latter.

But this subtle (or not so subtle) shaping is drastically reduced for the famous and powerful. The Bay of Pigs disaster was analyzed by social psychologists as resulting from too many yes-men sitting around the table (coining of the famous term "group think").

My girlfriends and I have promised each other, If/When I'm powerful, still, just kick me, don't let me do that (exploit subordinates, be an ass). Except by definition of being powerful, there's almost no one left to rein you in.

Today, even the lower nobility or those of some moderate accomplishments like Augustine and Caldwell don't get enough criticism and miss the famous dressing-downs of an earlier age. Now, we're just ignored; the modern crisis of too few eyeballs per unit of print (or eyeballs monopolized by bad paper, according to EC). The thing worse than being talked about... etc.

If only *I* could be noticed so grandly...

My solution: Read who you know.

Edmond Caldwell said...

"Read who you know" is wisdom indeed, but, excuse me . . . "moderate" accomplishments? Ahem.