And one of the things I always say to my students is you don’t write your books for bad readers.1 And you write your books for readers who are going to like your books, because the danger is then you start — because as an author, you don’t want to have — you don’t want to write from a defensive position. You don’t want to write preemptively.2 You don’t want to write that — I mean it’s kind of one of those eternal questions that you’re always sort of having to answer on an ad hoc basis, because on the one level — kind of like the anecdotally kind of on the one level you have the anecdote about Beethoven and — he finished one of the string quartets, like 132, I don’t know. The first violinist of the city comes to him and he says “Herr maestro, nobody can play this.” And Beethoven says “Do you think I give a damn about you and your fiddle?”3 So there’s that kind of — you don’t want to write anything less than what you can write.4

 

But then on the other hand, you have somebody like William Tyndale doing his translations of the Bible.5 So, he’s taken it upon himself to translate the most kind of like sublime, profound, western canon of sacred literature. But his stated goal was to make it accessible to the boy plowing the field.6 So, you’re always negotiating between these two poles of high art, but accessibility and transparency, and you want everybody to be able to understand what you’re trying to do. But then necessarily if you’re putting a legitimate, respectable amount of aesthetic pressure on your material, there’s going to be sort of formal and aesthetic innovation that sort of is going to require a little bit of work on the reader’s part too.

 

There’s also that great anecdote about when Faulkner first was having The Sound and the Fury published, he asked Random House to publish it in different colored ink, so people wouldn’t get confused.

  1. Literary World []
  2. Paint By Numbers []
  3. Shocking Experience []
  4. Exploratory Search, Pandering To A Market []
  5. Norman Gottwald []
  6. Bonny Sweet Robin, Stand In A Circle, Their Voice In My Songs []
Return to Index