The NYT book blog Paper Cuts recently published a nice entry about William Faulkner's late-in-life visit to West Point. It reminded me of one of my favorite moments from the (apparently out-of-print) Faulkner Reader: his acceptance speech for the 1949 Nobel Prize.Reading it again this afternoon, this portion of his speech seems especially timely and eerie …
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 the 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. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed — love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.
The rest is here, on the Nobel Prize site. You can also listen to Faulkner's speech from the Nobel archives [requires Real Player].
A few weeks ago, I subscribed to an arty Portland blog called Urban Honking. Every couple of days, a photographer who goes by the name of "Owl" posts a few quiet, dark photos. This is one of them. As with Faulkner, I'm both jealous and inspired. Check out more Owl photos; it's totally worth it.
One reply on “Lit / No room for anything but the old verities”
hi doug. i was reading through these essays rice university students wrote on leadership, and one girl said that whenever she has a giant decision in life, she always chooses the one that terrifies her the most. i thought it sounded silly but now i catch myself thinking about it, and about how often i choose the least scary to avoid that fear.
i love the owl photos and your flickr stuff too.
found you through planet carleton…