Few of the stories one has it in one’s self to speak get spoken, because the heart rarely confesses to intelligence its deeper needs; and few of the stories one has at the top of one’s head get told, because the mind does not always possess the voice for them; and even when the voice is there, and the tongue is limber as if with liquor — loud, lilting and Irish, or soothing and French, liquid and Italian, sweet as the Spanish lisp — where is that second ear? No court commands our entertainments, requires our flattery, needs our loyal enlargements or memorialising lies.
Literature once held families together better than quarrelling. It carved a common ancestry from mere air, peopling an often empty and forgotten past with gods, demons, worthy enemies and proper heroes, until it became largely responsible for that pride we sometimes feel in being Athenian or Basque, a follower or a fan. It’s no small gift, this sense of worth which reaches us ahead of any action of our own, like hair at birth, and makes brilliant enterprises possible.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Couldn't resist this - it has been sent out just now in the regular newsletter from the International Institute of Modern Letters here in Wellington which is where I did my Creative Writing MA. Nice to be told literature is 'no small gift' when you're slogging away at home to get down two hundred words you're happy with by close of day.
William Gass's words are also apposite now with the United States waiting on the results of the polls with history ringing in its ears. Also ringing will be the stumbling words, the stories, the slippery language, the pleas, the assertions, and the oratory of politicians. One especially, Barack Obama: he of the 'limber' tongue.