I've become addicted to the journals of writers. I last read Anais Nin's Henry and June and now I'm reading the journals of John Fowles, my favorite writer. Reading the Fowles journals is nothing like reading Nin's. She is utterly sensual, utterly forgiveable and human. Fowles is the essence of alienation; reading him, I both feel pity for him and see myself in him (and the latter is horrifying). As horrible as reading him can be (his existentialism is bleak, his contempt for people painful) I can't help but find truth in his pages, sad truths, but genuine.
The necessity of holding aloof from the mundane literary life. It must be very assiduously avoided. To be a critic, to always be reading and examining other people's creations, destroys one's own impulses. One draws away all one's resources in a kind of eunuch pleasure .... It's lying sleeping every night with the woman you love without touching her. And then one day when you move close and want to take her, you are impotent. A fresh approach, an approach from outside, is impossible.
This not to say that Fowles doesn't read. On the contrary, he reads constantly, speaking of E.M. Forster, Emily Bronte, Samuel Butler, D.H. Lawrence, and I'm only 70 pages in. What he seems to be saying is that analyzing novels in the manner of a critic is the death of writing. I'm sure there's room for argument here. In fact, I'm sure it's a venerable old hobby horse. I think the real reason I agree with Fowles is because I'm just as uncomfortable with the business of being a writer as he was. I'd so much rather just read books and write what I'm moved to write, and damn the rest. Damn trying to make a name. Damn trying to find some sort of key to "good" writing. Damn trying to figure out why classics are classics and why bestsellers are bestsellers. Damn trying to find anything but the truth in writing.