“In truth?  In truth, Lock writes it, Lish reads it!–which is a damn sight more than Lish will say for Proust.”  So says Gordon Lish of this installment’s guest blogger, the amphibious Norman Lock–endlessly innovative yet stylistically as muscular as they come.  The joy of Lock’s writing lies largely in the difficulty of pinning it down; yet here, finally, Lock gives us a glimpse of what it is, exactly, he’s up to . . .

Why Do I Write?


Norman Lock

I write, I think, to be less alone. I say “I think” because I am not convinced of my loneliness as a special case. We are, all of us, alone and left to feel a bitter solitude regardless of the dimensions and furniture of our imprisonment. But writers are used to saying–and I am used to thinking it is so–that writing proceeds, often, from a condition of aloneness and is both a subject and astay against it. In my case, which I insist is in no way a special one, I do feel many times alone and do take comfort in a writing that, like all other single-minded purposes, has solitude as a prerequisite. (César Aira may write at a cafe table, but I can not.) Perhaps for me then, writing is how I take pleasure–the chief pleasure in which this solitary human engages. (If the truth be said, writing is for me the preeminent pleasure in a life that is, nevertheless, surrounded by others.) And the pleasure I derive from writing lies chiefly in the construction of sentences.

So why I write must yield to a more urgent question:  why do I write what I write?

To say that I write to have the pleasure of making sentences is to admit to shameless self-indulgence, to Swinburneian aestheticism. It is true that the human condition will not be found in my fiction, prose poems, or in most of my plays, except as it underlies the work of any artist or artisan, including–to be flippant about it–those who make chairs. I mean to suggest that the human condition is inescapable in a work of the mind or of the hand, even if acknowledged only by denial or by an absence of direct reference. (Satirists from Aristophanes to Swift to Vonnegut have taught us this.) My sentences–as perfect as I can make them–are the product of a human being and cannot help but hold, in their words, something of the human experience.

This inevitability is also the case in fantasy, and like a Magic Realist, a French or Russian Absurdist, I embrace and practice intellectual fantasy as a counter to the narrow experience of Naturalism and Realism. And I will make this admission:   that for one such as I who does not feel that he knows anyone except as the “Other,” to write sentences, allowing them to accumulate into constructions that may be stories, or prose poems, or plays for stage or radio, is the only way he can write truthfully, genuinely.




Norman Lock
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