creativity …

… is the boss, for many artists. It can lord over their friends and other commitments, including ones to goodness.

One day, my first year as a graduate student at Stanford, I was having lunch in the student union with a faculty member in the Creative Writing program. He was a merrily caustic sort. He asked me what I thought of California. I told him that I found that, here, people smile easily but they rarely laugh. He told me that was the stupidest thing he had ever heard. And, with that, he stood up, threw his napkin down, just like in the movies, and took off, leaving most of his lunch uneaten. I was puzzled. Normally that “smiling but not laughing” line made a nifty impression.

Six or seven months later I opened a famous monthly periodical and found a story written by this man. I had a few beers in me at the time, so on a lark I read it. The story’s last line: “In California people always smile, but they never laugh” (or something close). I was irritated.

And was for a very long time.

Now I understand. Why he ran to his typewriter. He was serving his master.

Which had found me unworthy, of a line I created.

7 Comments»

  Robert wrote @

“He was serving his master?” Sorry. Can you explain what you mean by this?

  Robert Basil wrote @

His master was his “muse.” Not to obey one’s muse means annihilation as an artist, for some. Not for me. But I get it.

  sanjose61 wrote @

Still don’t quite get it. You gave him material and he rushed off impertinently because your comment inspired in him some thought (beyond plagiarism) that he didn’t want to forget? Hmmm. What of his disingenuous parting comment? Schtick? Sounds kind of like an asshole.

  sanjose61 wrote @

or, you know, a jerk.

  Robert Basil wrote @

He was indeed, and famously, a jerk. He was a widely published author and had been a powerful editor – and was a tenured professor at one of the world’s great universities and in one of the great writing programs – but he was considered by his colleagues to be a mediocrity as a literary figure.

I admit I don’t really understand his parting comment. It seemed a sort of spasm. I did not talk to this person for a year, for fear of what I might do in response to what he said to me.

  sanjose61 wrote @

Thanks for indulging my interest! It’s always interesting to guess what that sort of behavior is caused by. My guess based on scant data is: Insecurity = Forced Eccentricity or “Style” due to lack of substance.

  sanjose61 wrote @

The eccentricity is a deception or a distraction. A red herring.


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