WORDS, WORDS, WORDS

Brief biographical note:

Scott Bailey is occasionally a writer of short stories and novels. He is pretty sure he was born in Beaufort, South Carolina. His youth was spent in various Southern cities in houses that no longer stand, in neighborhoods that have radically changed.

Bailey currently labors and sleeps in Seattle. He is certain that his best work is still ahead of him.

Brief statements of purpose:

"You have lost your reason and taken the wrong path. You have taken lies for truth, and hideousness for beauty. You would marvel if, owing to strange events of some sorts, frogs and lizards suddenly grew on apple and orange trees instead of fruit, or if roses began to smell like a sweating horse; so I marvel at you who exchange heaven for earth. I don't want to understand you."

--Anton Chekhov, Letters

"One would like, at such an hour as this, for critical licence, to go into the matter of the noted inevitable deviation (from too fond an original vision) that the exquisite treachery even of the straightest execution may ever be trusted to inflict even on the most mature plan."

--Henry James, preface to The Ambassadors

"The novelist doesn't write about people in a vacuum; he writes about people in a world where something is obviously lacking, where there is the general mystery of incompleteness and the particular tragedy of our own times to be demonstrated, and the novelist tries to give you, within the form of the book, the total experience of human nature at any time. For this reason, the greatest dramas naturally involve the salvation or loss of the soul. Where there is no belief in the soul, there is very little drama."

--Flannery O'Connor

"To divert interest from the poet to the poetry is a laudable aim: for it would conduce to a juster estimation of actual poetry, good and bad. There are many people who appreciate the expression of sincere emotion in verse, and there is a smaller number of people who can appreciate technical excellence. But very few know when there is an expression of significant emotion, emotion which has its life in the poem and not in the history of the poet. The emotion of art is impersonal. And the poet cannot reach this impersonality without surrendering himself wholly to the work to be done. And he is not likely to know what is to be done unless he lives in what is not merely the present, but the present moment of the past, unless he is conscious, not of what is dead, but of what is already living."

--T.S. Eliot, Tradition and the Individual Talent

"If you never look just wrong to your contemporaries, you will never look just right to posterity. Every writer has to try to be, to some extent, sometimes, a law unto himself."

--Randall Jarrell

The Prague Train Station, as viewed from the south:



One Thing Shakespeare Never Said:

"You've got to be kidding."

A note about craft:

The reader who thinks that the views here expressed amount to a deification of materials, an undue exaggeration of the importance of mere craft, should remember that […] if one gains both a wider outlook and a more complete mastery, it is worth it. Technical skill can never be great enough. No one is too able or too accomplished to learn more than he knows. Technique must be learned as a child learns to move his limbs: what was difficult at first must become easy; it must be at one’s instantaneous disposal; it must function so perfectly that its action is no longer noticed; it must sink to the level of subconscious activity.

Although the creative process in its highest stages may always remain hidden from human comprehension, as may the mysterious source of artistic work in general, yet the dividing point between conscious and unconscious work can be raised to an extraordinary degree. If this were not true, everyone in whom this point lies at a very low level could assert that he is creating the greatest works of art. There would be no difference between Beethoven and any other composer, who had with difficulty achieved a mere quarter, say, of the height of artistic achievement that men may attain, and knew nothing of the other three quarters that still lay above him. Such a little man would not care to speak of technical matters, but would instead refer to his impulse, his feeling, his heart, which had prescribed the way for him. But must not this impulse be tiny and this feeling negligible if they can express themselves with so little knowledge? Is not an immense mastery of the medium needed to translate into tones what the heart dictates? Can the inner vision of the music that the composer has glimpsed make itself at all clear to another if the resistance of the tones and the refractoriness of tonal progressions is continually coming between the impulse and its expression in sound?

The road from the head to the hand is a long one while one is still conscious of it. The man who does not so control his hand as to maintain it in unbroken contact with his thought does not know what composition is. (Nor does he whose well-routined hand runs along without any impulse or feeling behind it.) The goal must always be such mastery that technique does not obtrude itself, and a free path is prepared for thought and feeling.

--Paul Hindemith, The Craft of Musical Composition