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Addendum: Learning again.

From William Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 1949 (thank you, Rick):

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that Faulkner was drunk when he gave the speech in Stockholm. But then I must also mention he was likely sober when he wrote it.

For my part, I don't think much has changed in the intervening fifty-seven years.

Comments

stephen_dedman
Sep. 9th, 2006 03:24 am (UTC)
For my part, I don't think much has changed in the intervening fifty-seven years.

I beg to differ: I think the fear level oscillates, and it got a lot worse five years ago. In 1949, most people in the western world would have had time to write a novel before there was any real likelihood of their being blown up. By the mid 1960s, Tom Lehrer was singing about the war being over "an hour and a half from now", and I can remember days in the 1980s when I thought that Reagan had found the excuse he'd been waiting for to bring about the end times (mind you, I was in London then, when most people were more scared of IRA bombs in tube stations than A-bombs on ICBMs). The 1990s, OTOH, seemed relatively safe, and people found different things to fear (most notably, climate change).

Of course, much of this fear is irrational to the point of being ridiculous. Did any sane person really believe that Nicaraguans were going to invade Montana in the 1980s (a la Red Dawn) - or that a petting zoo or popcorn factory in Indiana are really prime targets for Al Quaeda? But because some politicians can take advantage of this irrational fear, they play it up.

And as I said, it became a lot worse five years ago. Nearly every horror-writing panel I've heard or been on since then has made the point that it's difficult to make a living writing horror when the competition is Karl Rove.