Monday, February 11, 2008

Raise High the Jim Beam ... I Mean the Roof Beam, Carpenters

I love that title of one of J.D. Salinger's stories: "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" --- but I'm actually going to quote today from another of his stories, "Seymour: An Introduction" because it is full of self-conscious examination (by the narrator) of the writing process, and it makes me laugh. So, here goes:

"I happen to know, possibly none better, that an ecstatically happy writing person is often a totally draining type to have around. Of course, the poets in this state are by far the most 'difficult,' but even the prose writer similarly seized hasn't any real choice of behavior in decent company; divine or not, a seizure's a seizure. And while I think an ecstatically happy prose writer can do many good things on the printed page --- the best things, I'm frankly hoping --- it's also true, and infinitely more self-evident, I suspect, that he can't be moderate or temperate or brief; he loses very nearly all of his short paragraphs. He can't be detached --- or only very rarely and suspiciously, on down-waves. In the wake of anything as large and consuming as happiness, he necessarily forfeits the much smaller but, for a writer, always rather exquisite pleasure of appearing on the page serenely sitting on a fence. Worst of all, I think, he's no longer in a position to look after the reader's most immediate want; namely, to see the author get the hell on with his story. Hence, in part, that ominous offering of parentheses a few sentences back. I'm aware that a good many perfectly intelligent people can't stand parenthetical comments while a story's purportedly being told. (We're advised of these things by mail --- mostly, granted by thesis preparers with very natural, oaty urges to write us under the table in their off-campus time.)"

Hee hee.

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