December, 1976 (Written as an unsent letter to a friend)
"Even the most boring type of book discoverable in the literature of the past is never wholly dead. It will come back- if only as an antidote to the boredom that the most exciting type will end up by inducing."
These thoughts of Valery continue to excite me. He says "What's needed is to have the energy one day to pick up the book we regard as boring, order it to *exist*, and try to recapture the interest the author took in it." Also- "False 'depth' I loathe, but neither do I greatly relish the true variety. 'Depth' in literature is the outcome of a special technique; one kind of effect among many, procured by one of the many possible techniques. You have only to see how a book of "thoughts" is manufactured ("deep thoughts," I mean).
What does it matter whether that lake is twenty inches deep or twenty thousand fathoms? It is the surface sheen that fascinates us."
He was able to spell out the subtleties of the art of making poetry. Pick up those thoughts that are obvious difficulties that come up when you write poetry- really he sees what makes it magic, "slick," he really has a slick mind. His comments are like good Warholisms. The remark about depth reminds me of what you and I like best.
"The martyr: 'I'd rather die than think it over.'"
What really gets me is how I'll remember all these things I've thought about writing as I read those comments. I think one of the beautiful things about writing that acknowledges the "boredom" of reading includes a lot of irony and detachment from words. Who wants to pin them on their objects like playing pin the tail on the donkey with your eyes blindfolded?As Andy (I wrote "any") Warhol said "So what" All writing contains a lot of 'so what' but the writers go on like wise professorial baboons saying things. Hey- isn't "any" a great word, especially if you think of it as a thing? Anything. He also writes: "Conspiracy. It would be nice to bring together all the people for whom we think and to whom we dedicate, within ourselves, our best ideas." "A literary work should be a monument to such a 'gathering of the clan'"
What can I say? You should get the book- incredible. You'd love what he says about proselytizing- I wish I had the energy to write a lot of it out- I'll write out as many as I can.
I have a feeling that all my study of Rilke made Valery so exciting for me. Probably related to Rilke's love of Valery's work- see book on Rilke in Switzerland- a lot of Valery.