5.30.2006

Voice, Money, and Celine (not Dion)

Ever since the magic of watching Barfly in high school, I’ve loved the strong character voice from Salinger to Bukowski to Henry Miller. A friend has just fallen in love with Miller, so I’ve been lending her my copies. The man could write about but nothing but a meal and you’d have to gobble his prose. Of all the grungy wit writers, Miller was probably the best.

I never got around to Louis-Ferdinand Celine, for some reason. When I was in college at Iowa City, Celine had been recommended because of my love of Miller. I thought I’d finally sample the man. The preface is strangely defensive. His book is popular enough to be republished, but he doesn’t want to republish the book because of all the grief he’s been given over it. But he has to because he’s broke.

It’s funny. Writers back then used money as a reason for writing. Vonnegut did in the aforementioned interview with the BBC. A lot of genre writers still do. Maybe the Depression changed perspectives: I’m doing this because I have to, to put food on the table. You probably couldn’t be respected if you didn’t labor, keep yourself useful to society.

Now that there’s no real money for beginning artists (and many established ones as well), you’re supposed to write out of love, not money. Art for art’s sake.

Which perspective is better? Do they look down their noses at each other?

While I appreciate Celine, I'd have probably loved him better at a different age.