When we are young we were taught that humans are equipped with five senses: sight, taste, smell, touch, and hearing. A gift that we take for granted each day. There are some who believe that they are more sensitive or partial to one of the senses, whereupon we may say that a person is more visual, or more auditory, kinesthetic, etc.
And then there are places where one of our senses are deliberately heightened; the symphony beckons our sense of hearing, the baker attacks our olfactory, and the museum seduces our visual, the ballet virtually gets us up off our feet. Those who are creators of music, culinary delights, the visuals, the movements, all such artists are invested in the production of simulating specific senses.
But then there is the lonely author, the person who seems to be much like the outlier in a mathematical problem. This is the one among the artists who is requested by the reader to stimulate all the senses; for as a recipient of their work don’t we challenge them to show us the location of the story, demand entry into the emotions of the characters, hear their voices, taste their meals, feel the path beneath their feet as they walk, and journey in a manner that although we are sitting in a chair we are at the same time traveling across an ocean…. It is a most daunting task succinctly all packaged in what we know as a book.
And this is what the author must abide to for like an adult leads a child; the writer must lead the reader so that he or she is left satisfied in a way that it wishes to return for more…
Today’s blog invites back the esteemed author: Joseph Conrad (1857-1924). His work was often characterized as adventurous and darkly pessimistic, with traditional qualities of commitment and courage. His young adult life as a merchant seaman took him around the world, whereby he later fictionalized his early in his novels such as Heart of Darkness. Conrad was not a stranger to other literary greats and was friendly with Henry James, H.G. Wells, Ford Madox Ford.
From his book, Notes on Life and Letters, Mr. Conrad will now take us into the very private world of the writer, a novelist to be more precise… I present him to you now in hopes that you will take a few moments out of your harried day.
“… The art of the novelist is simple. At the same time it is the most elusive of all creative arts, the most liable to be obscured by the scruples of its servants and votaries, the one pre-eminently destined to bring trouble to the mind and the heart of the artist. After all, the creation of a world is not a small undertaking except perhaps to the divinely gifted. In truth every novelist must begin by creating for himself a world, great or little, in which he can honestly believe. This world cannot be made otherwise than in his own image: it is fated to remain individual and a little mysterious, and yet it must resemble something already familiar to the experience, the thoughts and the sensations of his readers. At the heart of fiction, even the least worthy of the name, some sort of truth can be found—if only the truth of a childish theatrical ardour in the game of life, as in the novels of Dumas the father. But the fair truth of human delicacy can be found in Mr. Henry James’s novels; and the comical, appalling truth of human rapacity let loose amongst the spoils of existence lives in the monstrous world created by Balzac.
The pursuit of happiness by means lawful and unlawful, through resignation or revolt, by the clever manipulation of conventions or by solemn hanging on to the skirts of the latest scientific theory, is the only theme that can be legitimately developed by the novelist who is the chronicler of the adventures of mankind amongst the dangers of the kingdom of the earth. And the kingdom of this earth itself, the ground upon which his individualities stand, stumble, or die, must enter into his scheme of faithful record. To encompass all this in one harmonious conception is a great feat; and even to attempt it deliberately with serious intention, not from the senseless prompting of an ignorant heart, is an honourable ambition. For it requires some courage to step in calmly where fools may be eager to rush. As a distinguished and successful French novelist once observed of fiction, “C’est un art trop difficile…”
First image:a poster The Bookman-artist: Flagg, James Montgomery, 1877-1960, Date Created: New York:1896