If I were to continue writing about No Name, this would be a post about the enjoyably surprising characters. Feel free to imagine that post, or to compose your own parody of it. I have become distracted:
We can easily come up to the average culture & performance; not easily go beyond it. I often think of the poor caterpillar, who, when he gets to the end of a straw or a twig in his climbing, throws his head uneasily about in all directions; he is sure he has legs & muscle & head enough to go further indefinitely – but what to do? he is at the end of his twig. (Journal of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jan. ?, 1861*)
I, too, often think of that caterpillar. Why, it is like me! In post after post, sentence after sentence, I feel I have reached the end of the twig. Writing has been unusually laborious lately. The strain shows, I assume, although I do what I can to hide it.
I am not sure if I am reading Emerson’s journals as a tonic or too precipitate a crisis. The same thing happened the last time I was reading them, in that case in the form of a little book about Emerson and writing written by Robert D. Richardson. That book put the fear in me, I tell ya. "The way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent." That sounds like it could be hard on a fellow.
Amidst all the recent chatter about blogging and the death of literary criticism, I quietly, perhaps with some frustration, ignored the fifth anniversary of Wuthering Expectations. I was busy writing. It took some time for me to even acknowledge that Wuthering Expectations is writing, and nothing but. Other people have their own purposes with their blogs; mine is to write. Why books, why literature? New writers are advised to write what they know. Literature seems to be what I know.** Emerson again (“we” is Emerson; “you” is also Emerson):
This is what we mean when we say your subject is absolutely indifferent. You need not write the History of the World, nor the Fall of man, nor King Arthur, nor Iliad, nor Christianity; but write of hay, or of cattleshows, or trade sales, or of a ship, or of Ellen, or Alcott, or of a couple of school-boys, if only you can be the fanatic of your subject, & find a fibre reaching from it to the core of your heart, so that all your affection & all your thought can freely play. (May? 1859)
Maybe I should start a hay-blog. No, I simply do not care enough about hay. I am a fanatic on the subject of literature. I am writing all of this like I have a choice!
* From Emerson in His Journals, ed. Joel Porte, p. 490. The second quotation is on p. 485.
** Or what I want to know. The helpful patience with which people read what often amount to nothing more than introductory notes, and the useful guidance they provide in comments, often astounds me. But they are fellow fanatics of their subjects.