"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

A New Thought for Today

"A work of art is 'good' only if it came into being out of some necessity. It is in this way and in no other that it can be judged."
Rilke Letters to a Young Poet

Like the Kafka quotation below this implies that all great works of art, all great books, are there because they have to be there. They are not superfluous. Though this is true, I wonder if it is perhaps too austere a view of all books - what of the light, the playful, the ludic? Do we always read at the most strenuous pace, at the demanding edge of things, or do we sometimes read to amuse or divert ourselves? Not that lightness of touch and seriousness of purpose are necessarily at odds with one another. Another quote, this time from Sterne's Tristram Shandy: "Sometimes, in his wild way of talking, he would say that Gravity was an errant scoundrel."

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Nietzsche wrote something along the lines of only loving books written in blood. I agree with your dissent, though. I blame Puritanism. And perhaps the Old Testament. Life as something to be conquered & overcome...the tortured artist always battling a hostile world, & the desire to cling to pain as if it were the most desired possession imaginable.