Wednesday, May 6, 2009

alone through the gateway entered

"It may be well for a reader to enter the world of literature, to stay there, going from favourite city to favourite city, taking a full share of the good things;it is not well for a writer. To visit the land - yes; again and again; but not to stay, not to set up house within a favourite gateway where the view of the 'world' provided by Dostoevsky,Tolstoy, Shakespeare, may combine to give a lifetime of spectator pleasure. A writer must go alone through the gateway entered or arrived at, out into the other 'world', with no luggage but memory and a pocketful of words, some of which may be like shells crumbled to sand before the oncoming waves, while others may turn out to be jewels - turquoises - that time has shown to be the teeth of the dead mastodons" Janet Frame, Times Literary Suplement, 1964

I saw this in the hallway at Massey University where I'm teaching today. It is included on one of the marvellous Book Council writer posters. Powerful stuff, and it came at the right time - after a creative writing/short fiction tutorial with the usual mix of those who yawn so deeply they can barely read the lines in front of them and those who sit bright-eyed with copious notes, those who run in bare feet so as not to be late and those who trip on the wet steps and text to say they're missing class to get an x-ray (I kid you not), those who write of salt flaking from skin or dancing sheets or 'frightful fruit eaters' and those who don't, just don't. So shells that are sand or jewels that are dinosaur teeth. Only Frame. Oh, and a nice blog post here by someone called Maria Angeles about visiting Frame's house in 2006. An Angeles at my table indeed.


The Paradoxical Cat said...

I guess nobody would ever have the courage to write anything if they took the "baggage" of the great writers with them into the writing room.

It would just be too intimidating!

On the other hand their example is so inspiring.

Those lovely keen writers sound wonderful!

P x

Ruth said...

Aw man, why didn't you teach at Massey University when I was there (2007/08)? :) What class were you teaching? It would have been great to have an actual author come to one of the writing classes there....