Monday, August 04, 2008


Suzanne Menghraj interviews Luc Sante at Guernica:
Music crept up on me in childhood from a variety of ambient sources. In any case, soul music came to seem like something I’d always known, and—beginning when I was nineteen—reggae even more so, as if I’d somehow heard it in infancy.

Rhythm in writing is somehow analogous, but it’s a completely intuitive matter. I don’t really understand the process. It’s related to the substance of Flaubert’s famous letter to George Sand: “When I come upon a bad assonance or a repetition in my sentences, I’m sure I’m floundering in the false. By searching I find the proper expression, which was always the only one, and which is also harmonious. The word is never lacking when one possesses the idea. Is there not, in this precise fitting of parts, something eternal, like a principal? If not, why should there be a relation between the right word and the musical word? Or why should the greatest compression of thought always result in a line of poetry?” This is crucial stuff for me. I write intuitively, not knowing where I’m going, not knowing what the next sentence will be until this one has guided me there, and knowing how the sentence goes begins with my hearing its rhythm in my head, and then filling in the specific words. If the sentence is cloddish and clunky, it’s simply wrong—and not just wrong-sounding but wrong in its meaning. I realize at this point that I seem to be conflating two separate senses of the word “rhythm”—beat and flow—but they are inextricably linked in my mind and the matter lies largely outside my ability to articulate it. Rhythm also guides my reading, that part of which has nothing to do with acquiring information.
And another bit I wholeheartedly endorse:
[O]ne thing experience has taught me is that enthusiasm will not make a piece. Only the existence of a problem will. I discovered this years ago when I was movie critic for a monthly, so that I might see thirty or forty movies in a month and have to pick one or two to write about. The ones that made good subjects were the ones I couldn’t resolve emotionally or intellectually after leaving the theater. If there was a problem I would have to work it out on paper, and that made for the sinew of the piece. The same logic applies pretty much to all writing, it seems to me.
I am mildly horrified to learn that he has three books currently under contract - I think my nerves would not stand that kind of a situation...

(Link courtesy of Bookforum.)