THE WOLF LARSEN MANIFESTO
1. All great Writers should gather at the entrances of the major publishing houses and urinate on their doorsteps!
2. All great Poets should use the pages of the country’s most prestigious literary magazines as toilet paper!
3. All “poets” that rhyme should be castrated at once!
4. Poetry and prose should be immoral and blasphemous! If your poetry shocks and offends religious extremists, puritanical feminists, politicians, black nationalists, white supremacists, and everybody else than you’re probably doing something right! The paintings of Picasso, the symphonies of Mahler, and the sculptures of Rodin shocked and offended many people too! The last thing the world needs is more boring polite “literature”!
5. If you write prose just like ten thousand other writers than why bother writing? Garbage men contribute far more to society than “writers” and “poets” that write like everybody else! No two authors or poets should read even remotely alike!
6. From this day forward the words Poet, Writer, Sculptor, Playwright, Painter, Composer, and all other Artists should appear in capitals. After all, some guy named god who doesn’t even exist appears in capitals and since Artists are greater than god than words like Poet and Artist should be capitalized.
7. There is no god as written in the bible. Rather, every Human Being that lives on earth is a god because Humans are the most creative animals on the planet. Therefore, Artists are gods!
8. Who cares about the rules of grammar? Take a baseball bat and SMASH the rules of grammar into pieces! Language must obey the wishes of the Writer. The Writer should take language and mold it and reshape it as he sees fit just like a Sculptor.
9. Poets and Writers need to look at the rest of the art world and learn. Poetry and fiction currently appear to be the most backward mediums of the art world. Painting has raced forward like a fast car, jazz music has run forward like a rabbit, even classical music in the last hundred years has left the writing world behind in both innovation and boldness. Writing and poetry are progressing forward at a crawl – just like a snail. All Poets and Writers should think of themselves as wrecking ball operators – we must SMASH the literary world as we know it into bits with a bold and revolutionary writing!
10. The system we live under has nothing to offer but endless wars, prisons, poverty, homophobia, racial and gender discrimination, class oppression, anti-sex puritanism, and human extinction from nuclear war. The literary establishment has nothing to offer us but airport novels, censorship (in the form of political correctness), pretentious “literary” magazines filled with hack “poetry” that sometimes even rhymes, and the never ending boring banal “well-polished” “well-crafted” “literary” fiction whose main purpose seems to be to help insomniacs fall asleep. Bartok’s symphonies don’t help people fall asleep! Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring caused a riot when it was first played! Jackson Pollock’s paintings can hardly be considered sleepy! Poetry and literature must become explosive, chaotic, alive, exciting, dynamic, etc. – just like the times we live in!
11. More than anything else remember there is no one else like you on the entire planet! So why should you write like everybody else? Write like nobody else writes! If you’re not creative than why should future generations bother reading your writing? Every Writer should be his own literary movement! Every Writer should be his own literary revolution!
Throw Proper Grammar into the Garbage Can!
An Essay by Wolf Larsen
published under the title "Who Needs the Queen's English?"
by The Dana Society Journal, February, 2006)
poets, and playwrights should mold and bash language into whatever art
form they wish to create. Traditional grammar in creative works is unnecessary,
and can often be an obstacle to the creative impulses of the writer. The
writer should concern himself more with creativity, and less with correct
grammar. The writer must do with language as he pleases. The writer should
help destroy "standard" English, at least within the realm of contemporary
must be the servant of the writer, and the writer must be a god over the
realm of words. The role of language is to lie down in front of the writer
and beg to be ravished by him. In order to create a higher literary art
the writer should throw off the straightjacket of grammar whenever necessary.
The writer must create with the intensity and passion of a freed madman
rampaging on the streets.
grammar is not necessary in creative works. Take note that poetry and
music are cousins. Literature often has a rhythm that makes grammar unnecessary,
just as good verse has a natural flow that has made the rhyme obsolete.
Many of the traditional rules of grammar are destined to go the way of
the rhyme in poetry, at least in creative works.
should think of their literary creations in much the same why they think
of sex. Correctly obeying all the rules of grammar while in the throes
of literary creation is like having sex with your clothes on. An artist
of words should write with the same intensity as passionate sex. All boundaries
to expression should be smashed open with pens that crash through everything
lends legitimacy to "standard" English, which is the spoken and written
medium of communication of the elite. Of course, how convenient for the
upper classes that their way of talking and writing is considered "standard".
should the mode of speaking of the most privileged members of our society
be considered "standard" English? Why shouldn't the rich and constantly
evolving language of poor blacks in the ghetto be considered "standard
English" instead? People from all over the world do not crowd into giant
concerts or tune into their radios to hear the privileged members of our
society recite "standard" English. There is a worldwide fascination with
hip-hop for good reason. Hip-hop glorifies the "standard" English of the
black American ghetto, which is far more exciting and rich in contemporary
culture than the "standard" English of Park Avenue. Take note that rap
music has brought a resurgence of interest in poetry.
English is constantly under siege from the influences of the black ghetto
and immigration. Writers should stop defending "standard" English and
should participate in its downfall. Gutting "standard" English and its
rules of grammar will free the writer to express himself more freely than
reason to throw "standard" English in the garbage is that it is not worth
saving. The English language originates from invading barbarians of different
tribes and races all babbling and babbling to each other for thousands
of years on the British isles. This of course helps explain why English
is such a course and ugly language in comparison with the romance languages.
If it wasn't for the civilizing influence of the French language brought
over by the Normans English would probably sound as ugly and barbaric
as German. (Please note: I am NOT arguing that the German culture
is barbaric - I am merely stating that the German language sounds
defenders of "standard" English who obsess over its grammar are obstacles
in the necessary evolvement in what has become the most important language
of the world. Instead of rejecting the growing international and cosmopolitan
influences of an evolving language we should embrace these changes. The
further that English evolves away from its barbaric Anglo-Saxon heritage
the better. If purists and traditionalists want a language with unchanging
rules of grammar then let them learn Latin.
than ever the time is ripe for a rebellion against grammar and tradition.
With the invention of word processing there is no excuse for literature
to remain one of the most backward areas of the art world. Word processing,
because it makes change, experimentation, and innovation easier, is an
important development that can help writers, poets, and playwrights to
free literature from its chains. Look at how painting has constantly revolutionized
itself over the past one hundred and twenty years. Artists of the written
word should do the same!
we have sex most of us do not invent a bunch of rules to make the experience
less enjoyable. Why not eliminate the rules in literature? Why shouldn't
literature be as exciting and decadent as sex? Let us free literature
from the constraints of grammar like two lovers throwing off their clothes
and diving into a natural frenzy of joy!
rules of music, painting, and sculpture have been thrown in the garbage
by innovators like Stravinsky, Picasso, and Rodin. The result has been
a constantly changing art that is exciting and fresh. Painters and sculptors
deposed of a rigid faithfulness to representation, and the result has
been an explosion of artistic brilliance. Just as the painters deposed
of rigid representation creative writers should depose of grammar whenever
it gets in the way of expression. One obstacle to artists of the written
word is the straightjacket of grammar, and its anal obsession with the
placement of commas, colons, semicolons, etc. Who cares if a sentence
is a fragment? Who cares if a sentence is a run-on? I wrote a 200,000
word run-on sentence. I slashed and cut it down to seventy-thousand words.
It's called The
Exclamation Point! The idea of writing a run-on sentence
occurred to me while I was sitting in a café in Amsterdam, Holland. I
would never have dreamed up such a wild book if I had been loyal to the
rules of grammar.
should do with language whatever they please. Any obstruction to expression
must be obliterated into dust with the sledgehammers of our pens. Imagine
that while you're trying to make love to someone an old grammar teacher
is yelling at you, "PUT A COMMA THERE! AND CHANGE THAT COLON TO A SEMI-COLON!
OH NO! THAT SENTENCE IS A FRAGMENT!" It would be terrible, wouldn't it?
Why do you write under the same circumstances?
We Need a Revolution in Literature!
An Essay by Wolf Larsen
The best literature is the kind without a price tag. The goal of writing should not be to sell books, but to write the most innovative and exciting literature imaginable.
Look at all the endless varieties of music! It almost seems that there are as many kinds of music as there are drops of water in the ocean!
What a different story when you go to the bookstore! In the literature section of the bookstore you will find only novels, short stories, and poetry. That’s it! Why only novels, short stories, and poetry? Why is literature so limited? Why shouldn’t there be as many different kinds of literature as there are different kinds of music? Why must writers limit themselves only to novels, plays, short stories, and poetry? Why shouldn’t writers invent endless kinds of literature besides just novels, short stories, and poetry? It’s fine to write novels, short stories, and poetry – but why not invent new forms of literature as well?
One of the reasons literature is so limited is that it is still shackled to the major publishing conglomerates and the universities. Literature will not be free until it has unshackled itself from the crass commercial interests of the publishing conglomerates and the conservative influences of the universities.
Publishing houses have one and only one purpose: to make money. They are hostile to innovation in literature, because publishing innovative literature involves risk. And they certainly don’t want to risk their money! The publishing conglomerates want to continue pouring potential best sellers (particularly airport novels) unto the market. And to the publishing houses that’s all literature is – a market.
I am not against the publishing conglomerates. Their books provide popular entertainment to the masses. Their backlist includes many good works of literature from the past, (because they make money from them). But while I am not against the publishing conglomerates I don’t like lies – like the misrepresentation of these huge corporations that own an endless array of imprints as being anything other than money-hungry corporations. Contemporary literature of quality needs a home – and that home is not and cannot be the publishing conglomerates – because today’s publishing conglomerates are only concerned with money.
I am also not against those who work in publishing conglomerates either. For most employees of publishing conglomerates the work is hard, the pay is low, and as the publishing conglomerates have increasingly focused solely on making money the personal rewards for many editors (like getting a favorite manuscript into print) are dwindling. Today an editor in a publishing house cannot push a book for publication just because he loves it – more and more he has to work with books based on their economic potential.
Academia may claim to be interested in quality in contemporary literature, and academia may also be less interested in money. But academia is primarily interested in promoting the “great” writers and poets of the past and those who today imitate them. (Of course there are exceptions to this – there’s exceptions to everything.) Anyway, after learning in a university about the “greats” of the past what is the writer/poet to do? Should he imitate the “greats” of the past in his writing, or should he seek to create his own innovative literature?
By a young age Picasso had assimilated the “masters” of the past – and he went on to create new brazen works of art – he departed from the past – and created wonderful CONTEMPORARY masterpieces. Mozart also mastered traditional styles of classical music – and he went on to create music that at his time was INNOVATIVE.
Hence, the truly great masters of the recent past – in music (Stravinsky, Mahler), painting (Dali, etc.), sculpture (Rodin) – produced great works that were INNOVATIVE and hence FRESH and EXCITING. In contrast, those that worship the past tend to produce works that are stale and flat. Sure, there are adequate writers, painters, sculptors, and composers who can blindly copy the “greats” of the past – but by copying what’s already been done they are contributing nothing to the arts and literature.
There are those that argue that first you must learn tradition to be a great writer. By all means I agree you should read as much “great” literature as possible – both traditional and contemporary. But then some of these same people will go on to say “learn the rules before you break them.”
Forget learning the rules unless you plan to write a conventional essay or a guide to used car repair. In creative literature go ahead and unshackle yourself from all rules! SMASH any and all rules with a sledgehammer, a wrecking ball, or better yet with a pen or a paintbrush! Works of literature, music, painting, etc, should obey no conventional rules whatsoever. If you feel the urge to have rules invent your own! Look at Schoenberg’s 12 tone scale! Wow!
Let’s take grammar for example. Obeying the rules of grammar is fine if you’re writing a conventional essay or a manual about car repair. However, when you’re writing creative literature you should write as freely as possible – without rules.
There are those that argue that if the writer does not obey the rules of grammar his work will be incomprehensible. That depends. It depends on the writer and his style and it also depends on the reader. In some cases, the writer may be creating for a more limited audience – like those who are familiar with modern and postmodern developments in the arts and literature, for instance – and that would explain why many readers might find a given work incomprehensible. In other cases, the writer may simply be incompetent. However, at times when a work seems incomprehensible it might be the reader’s fault. For example, if the reader hates a work of literature for no other reason than that it is different (i.e. more creative than more conventional works) than it’s the reader’s fault that the work seems incomprehensible. Certainly, if the reader is lazy, ignorant, or simply close-minded he may choose not to apply himself to any literature that is different than what he is used to. Such a person may be more comfortable reading an airport novel or one of the works of the past “greats”. At times, such a person may have an advanced degree and consider themselves highly cultured and learned, but all those years reading literature that is conventional can make it harder for that person’s brain to concentrate on and grasp anything that’s written in a new and innovative manner. The fact that their brain may have a hard time grasping anything that’s written differently than what they’re used to is not the fault of the writer, it is the fault of that particular reader.
There are people who look at a Jackson Pollock canvas and say, “My five year old can do a better job than that.” Of course, such people are ignorant of art. Instead of studying art (which they don’t) they take their prejudices (which are pro-representational and pro-realism) and from a position of ignorance and prejudice they proclaim everything that doesn’t conform to their ignorant and prejudiced misconceptions of art to be bad. In the world of literature it is even worse. Those who are ignorant, prejudiced, and close-minded stand in judgment of what is “good literature”.
Should the writer create works of “literature” easily accessible to even the most ignorant and close-minded of readers? Sure, if he wants to make money or be accepted by the conservative world of academia.
But let us suppose the writer is either not employed by academia or is employed in academia but could care less what some of his “colleagues” in the English department think – in other words he has a decent day job and thus doesn’t give a damn about making money from his writing. Such a writer may be influenced by such innovators as Baudelaire, Rilke, Octavio Paz, Anne Sexton, etc. and less influenced by the “greats” of the publishing conglomerates (the best-sellers) and the “greats” of the academic world (people who have been dead a very long time).
Frankly, I am rather disappointed with English literature and have ironically found greater inspiration for my writing outside of literature in the other arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, music, modern dance, postmodern theater, etc.). Many of the past “greats” that are in the canon of English literature are not so “great” at all.
Many of the “great works” of English literature in the canon were written by “gentleman” with disposable income (that they didn’t have to work for) and lots of free time, as well as the high social connections to insure that their work was published. Not all of them were talented or had much to say. Is a writer/poet’s work “great” just because it’s included in the Norton Anthology and the professor taught it in your literature 101 class?
Of course, some “great” works of the past are better than others. Some of these gentleman of leisure in the canon had talent – in addition to the work ethic necessary to produce great literature – but not all of them.
Literature has not even begun to reach its potential. In fact, literature will not even begin to reach its potential until all of humanity has ample food in its stomach and plenty of free time.
The seed of talent falls where it may. Most of those who have disposable income without having to work for it and thus have plenty of free time to write are inborn, have little or no work ethic, and are of mediocre abilities – like the president of my country George Bush. Besides, the outlook of the leisure class is often conservative, so it would not occur to them to write literature that is innovative.
Most people are so engaged in the struggle for survival that they do not have the time to create innovative literature. When humanity is freed from its bondage to an economic system that benefits only a privileged few than a shorter workweek for all will make it possible for more people to create great works of literature, painting, sculpture, etc.
Hence, the greatest most innovative period of literature does not lie in the past – but in the future.
In a different kind of economy huge amounts of money will not be wasted on maintaining a class of worthless bourgeois bums – and huge amounts of money will also not be wasted on gigantic bloated militaries.
With more money available culture, literature, and the arts would flourish more than ever – because we could improve the quality of education – including teaching more art in the schools – and offering free higher education to all. In such a society, we could also give a modest living stipend to writers and artists. And since more diverse parts of humanity would be free to create great literature – instead of just a small privileged leisure class – literature will have more variety and innovation than ever.
Thus freed from their chains to market forces and academia writers would be free to create a new innovative literature. A general population with a reduced workweek would have more time to read a new revolutionary literature that’s constantly changing and evolving. If the world of painting can constantly evolve and change – why not literature? If classical music can constantly evolve and change than certainly literature can also evolve and change.
The defenders of tradition look to the past because they cannot imagine a future any different than the status quo.
But in fact, civilization is constantly changing. The world is different than it was a hundred years ago – and extremely different than it was just three hundred years ago.
Human civilization has existed thousands of years – imagine the human race thousands of years from now! We as a species (homo sapiens) have existed 150,000 years – imagine the human race 150,000 years from now!
If the human race is not extinct in a thousand years – and with constant war and the nuclear bomb that’s a big if – but if the human race is here a thousand years from now it is certain that capitalism will be a distant memory as feudalism is today. So far the human race has gone from hunter gathering to ancient city states to empires like the Roman to feudalism than national monarchies to capitalist “democracy” for the rich.
Hence, human civilization is constantly evolving, and as civilization evolves so will literature. And just as human civilization has not even begun to reach its full potential, so the same is true for literature and the other arts.
The best contemporary writers of creative literature – those who write today and will be read a hundred two hundred a thousand years from now – will not be those who copy the past but instead those who CONTRIBUTE to the DEVELOPMENT of literature. The writers who will be read a thousand years from now will be those who helped literature to advance.
I don’t care whether you like my own literature or not – for the purposes of this essay it is irrelevant. If every writer wrote completely different from each other – and completely different from the “greats” of the past – then there would be more reason to pick up a book – because god knows what’s in between the covers of that book! And if you don’t like that author’s writing you can pick up another author’s book knowing that that book will be completely different than the one you just glanced through.
Hence, THERE IS NO CORRECT WAY TO WRITE. In fact, the more we depart from the idea that there’s a correct way to write the more variety we offer to our readers. We thus begin to offer readers an exciting universe of literature where every author is completely different than another – how exciting!
Traditionalists will argue that it is preferable and natural that literature remain the most backward and conservative medium of the art world. (Compare literature’s snail-like advancement to the great innovations in painting, sculpture, and the other arts since the beginning of modernism in the late 19th Century.) However, there is nothing positive about literature’s relative backwardness compared to the other arts. Even classical music in the past 120 years has left the literary world behind in innovation, boldness, and creativity! How pathetic!
Look – the reason that literature is so backward compared to the other arts can be explained by several simple reasons. The first is money. For a writer to make enough money to support himself comfortably he has to sell A LOT of books. A painter, on the other hand, needs only a few appreciative buyers to support himself. Thus, it is easier (not completely easy – but easier) for the painter to paint whatever he wants. The painter may have to deal with galleries – but he doesn’t have to deal with publishing corporations. The painter doesn’t have to consider entertaining a large reading audience primarily looking for cheap entertainment like the writer does. Hence, partly or mainly for monetary reasons painting has left behind the literary world in boldness, innovation, and quality.
The writer enjoys little independence. He is dependent on publishing corporations to help him reach a large audience seeking cheap entertainment. Hence, in order to make a living from his craft the writer often has no choice but to write mediocre and non-innovative “literature” that will be acceptable to conservative publishing conglomerates. In addition, since “success” is defined by how many copies are sold, the emphasis is on producing cheap mass entertainment.
So writing remains the most conservative, mediocre, and backward medium of the art world partly or mostly because of money.
Another conservatising influence (yes I probably just made up a word – good! We writers should make up words more often) – another conservatising influence on the literary world is the whole prestige game. You get your work in certain prestigious “literary” magazines, get nominated for certain prestigious “literary” awards, etc. – and suddenly you’re considered a “great” writer/poet.
The pages of many (not all) of the most prestigious literary magazines are filled with excrement masquerading as great literature that doesn’t even qualify as mediocre – it’s just plain bad, conservative, and bland.
The same is true for many “literary” awards. An “avant-garde” poet received a very large monetary award recently. I won’t name him here – but his work was so conservative, so dull, so devoid of innovation, so much like a zillion other poems you see everywhere that I don’t see how his poetry could be considered “avant-garde”. I guess for the people giving out the prestigious awards and the money anything that doesn’t rhyme is considered “avant-garde”.
The contemporary writer/poet who wants literature to advance forward instead of being stuck in backwardness is inherently outside the literary world. He views the official literary world with contempt. He understands that the publishing conglomerates, academia, prestigious literary magazines, and award givers are mostly hostile to innovative literature. The contemporary writer/poet who wants literature to advance understands that the literary world is an obstacle to wonderful innovative literature and therefore must be SMASHED TO PIECES. Literature is great – but the literary world is not.
It would be a great day for literature if all writers and poets started using the pages of the prestigious literary magazines as toilet paper. We don’t need the editors of the prestigious “literary” magazines to showcase great literature because they don’t even know what literature is – let alone great literature. The same can be said of those who give out prestigious “literary” awards – but maybe I shouldn’t say that – sometimes they actually give money to people who write good poetry!
The great literature of our time is rarely found in prestigious “literary” magazines – it’s rarely found in the Sunday books section of the New York Times – and you would be lucky to find the great literature of our time in the bookstore.
The great literature of our time can sometimes be discovered in the less famous literary magazines. The great literature of our time can sometimes be discovered on posting boards.
The poetry stacks of the nation’s public libraries are filled with poets who were famous and prestigious in their times but who have since been forgotten. You open the book and begin reading and you often encounter mediocrity. These formerly famous poets were usually able enough – but their work lacked vision – their work appealed to the popular tastes of their day – but their lack of boldness and originality doomed their work to obscurity over time. The literary establishment has rarely been right in judging who are the great poets and writers of their day, because the tastes of the literary establishment are so conservative and backward.
As writers most of us – with the exception of the airport novelists – have nothing to gain from the literary world. The traditional literary world is an obstacle to great contemporary literature. The literary world as we know it is an obstacle – an unnecessary middleman – between the writer and the reader. The literary world limits the reader’s choice to an array of airport novels and boring banal “literary” novels that help people fall asleep at night.
Why should big publishing conglomerates decide which books are available to the general public? After all, there is no positive reason for the publishing conglomerates to exist anymore – except for their backlists.
With the new technology print-on-demand a reader purchases a book and a copy is printed up especially for him or her. How nice! And the price is almost the same as a traditionally published book – and further advancements in technology will only bring the costs down more. The reader no longer needs to be satisfied with merely choosing amongst the thrillers, romances, and “literary” novels at the bookstore. With the Internet and print-on-demand the reader’s choices are no longer restricted by the dictates of the publishing industry – the reader’s choices are endless!
Of course, the traditionalists and people employed in the traditional publishing conglomerates may argue that many of the books available via print-on-demand are not masterpieces. But the same is true of the books sold by the traditional publishing industry. In fact, if the book is published by the traditional publishing industry you can bet that the book was published primarily because of its commercial potential.
With the technology print-on-demand books that are not commercial can now be made available to the general public. For the first time ever the general public can purchase and read all kinds of works of literature that were never available before.
Another great innovation that makes more possible than ever is the Internet.
The Internet weakens the traditional prestigious “literary” magazines vis-à-vis the less famous literary magazines that are more likely to publish innovative literature. Before, the more traditional literary magazines could use their prestigious names to receive greater distribution in the bookstores, and it was more difficult to get hold of the less famous literary magazines. But now, with the Internet, the less famous literary magazines that publish more innovative literature are only a click away.
Of course, traditionalists will argue that not all innovative literature is good. However, most literature written in a traditional style is not good either. In fact, contemporary literature written in a traditional style is more likely to be stale – which is what often happens when one copies from the “masters” of the past. I am not saying that all contemporary literature written in a conventional style is stale. However, most contemporary poetry and prose written in a traditional style seems to be stale.
Also with the Internet comes the posting boards. I’ve heard other writers/poets complain that many literary posting boards are no more than cliques hostile to outsiders, and other posting boards engage in all kinds of censorship, and still other posting boards are presided over by control freaks who ban everybody who they disagree with, and on some boards there’s intolerance towards writers/poets who feel shy about commenting on the works of others.
I can understand why writers and poets would find the above problems very irritating. However, I still feel that posting boards are a positive – or can be a positive influence in the world of literature. In addition, posting boards have a great potential to transform the literary world.
Posting boards make it possible for writers/poets to view each other’s work. In addition, the general public can enjoy a greater variety of literary voices than ever before.
In addition, another extremely important innovation is the word processor. The word processor, by freeing the writer from the typewriter, has made it possible for the writer to experiment more than ever! A writer can try out zillions of new styles of writing on his processor and go back and change anything he wants easier than ever!
With the word processor the writer is freer than ever to experiment. The writer may ravage the page at will! The writer is free to change, improve, evolve, invent new words, etc!
Other technologies like print-on-demand make it easier than ever for the writer to bypass the publishing conglomeracy. You are now free! You don’t have to write some crass commercial novel to get published – you don’t have to write within the “literary” novel’s limitations on creativity – you can write anything any way you want to and the general public will be able to read your book.
Of course, traditionalists will argue that a self published print-on-demand book stands little chance of being “successful”. But the traditionalists seem to define a book’s “success” more by its sales, and less by its quality or innovation.
To this I respond that a traditionally published book stands little chance of commercial “success” either. The vast majority of traditionally published books fail commercially.
Each publishing conglomerate works on much the same premise as a tree. A tree you ask? Yes, a tree – a tree throws out endless seeds every spring – and as you know only a small number of those seeds ultimately become trees.
The same is true of traditionally published books. Each publishing conglomerate throws out lots and lots of books every year – and the few that make it and generate high sales sustain the publishing conglomerate’s profits.
And just as a tree throwing out seeds does nothing to nurture its offspring publishing conglomerates nurture very few of their books with adequate publicity.
The system works for the publishing conglomerates and the few airport novelists whose books become best sellers – but the losers are the vast majority of authors whose books never generate good sales and whose books are out-of-print within a few years.
The other loser is the member of the general public who walks into a bookstore wanting to read something different than the same fare of romances, action-thrillers, and “literary” fiction.
But now, with the advent of the Internet and posting boards and print-on-demand and the endless choices on Amazon.com and other online retailers the man or woman who wants something different than romances, thrillers, “literary” fiction and the like can now find an endless variety of literature on posting boards, in obscure e-zines that publish “out there” literature, and on author’s web-sites.
Hence, now both the writer and the reader are free from the restraint of choices found in traditionally published books.
The posting boards have a very important role to play. Over time, some posting boards may acquire a reputation for having more daring writing and will draw more interest from the general public. The public will be able to purchase on Amazon.com via print-on-demand whatever author they choose. Old outmoded institutions like the traditional publishing industry and the New York Times Book Review will play no role in any of this at all.
Hence, the posting boards, (or at least some of them), will provide the general public with a venue to read all kinds of exciting innovative literature like they’re never read before, and the posting boards will thus help the writer of innovative literature to receive exposure and thus help writers to become increasingly independent of the big publishing conglomerates.
Of course, not all writers want to be independent of the big publishing conglomerates. Many writers want to make big royalties, and the only way to do that is to write commercial airport novels. Of course, after the aspiring would-be airport novelist has actually written the commercial work he has to somehow get the attention of a literary agent, which is nearly impossible. If after writing the commercial work the writer is lucky enough to get a literary agent and then (hopefully) a publisher the would-be airport novelist is still not on easy street yet. After you sign the contract with the publisher the literary agent’s work is done, but the author’s headache is just beginning. Publishing conglomerates are notoriously stingy in putting resources and time into promoting their books. They publish LOTS of books every year – and they don’t have the time, resources, or inclination to adequately promote all their books.
You might have the most commercial book in the world, but if your book doesn’t receive any publicity than nobody will know about your book which means nobody buys it and your book will be out-of-print in a few years – which is what happens to most traditionally published books anyway.
Of course, you could max out your credit cards and take out loans to buy more publicity for your book – but this will more likely result in bankruptcy than a bestseller. The traditional publisher might offer to pay half of the publicity/promotion for your book if you pay the other half – but unless you want bankruptcy in your future you might want to be careful how much you put up for publicity.
When (and if) a traditional publisher signs up your book you might receive all kinds of promises about how they’ll promote your book. Take it all with a grain of salt. The person in the publishing house in charge of promoting your book is also in charge of promoting LOTS of books. And unless your name is Stephen King or John Grisham don’t expect the publicity of your book to be given much priority – especially if you’re a first time author. And if your first book doesn’t sell there’s a good chance that no publisher is going to want your second book.
By the way, don’t be surprised if the publishing conglomerate re-writes your book to make it more commercial.
Why bother with all that? Why not write what you want to write? Why bother writing a commercial novel that’s just like so many other books already out there anyway?
But one thing: in the unlikely event that a publishing house offers you a big advance my advice is to take it! If a publishing house gives you a big advance they’re almost definitely going to heavily promote your book – because they want to get a return on their investment.
Something you may want to ask yourself is – why do you write? Do you write to make money? Do you write for prestige and acclaim? Do you write with the opinions of others in mind? Or do you write because you have to create?
If the reason that you write is that you have to create than money, prestige, and the opinions of others are all secondary. Creating innovative works of literature is probably not going to make you money or give you prestige and acclaim anytime soon. And like many others who were creative – like Gauguin, Mahler, Rodin, etc. – you will receive endless harsh attacks.
Let others make all the money from their airport novels, let others receive all the prestige and acclaim for their conventional banal “poetry”. Let others receive all the applause for their conservative traditional works written in “good taste”. Their work will wither into dust over time. A hundred years from now no one will be reading their novels, poems, and plays.
Nearly everything ever painted, sculpted, or written in “good taste” later withered and died with time. “Good taste” is nothing more than what is in fashion at the time – and as time passes what was in “good taste” centuries ago becomes trivial.
Many of the masters of the past in literature, painting, sculpture, and music were nothing less than innovators and revolutionaries in their time. Their work often caused controversy because they were not enslaved to tradition. They did not care about “good taste”. They could give a damn about the opinions of others.
There is no correct way to write – at least in the creative sense. The very essence of creativity is to write without rules. In the arts there is no correct ism – except INDIVIDUALISM. Hopefully, you are a unique person. And if there’s no one else in the world like you why should you write like anybody else?
I am not against conventional writing. It has its place. I have utilized it for essays and autobiographical novels. But I reject the idea that everything – particularly creative literature – must be written in a conventional manner according to any set of rules, including grammar. There is no correct way to write creative literature! As writers we should SMASH TO PIECES any obstacle to individual expression – especially in literature – which has been chained to tradition and convention for far too long.
Literature: Self Expression Versus Tradition
An Interview with Wolf Larsen
Question: Traditionalists hate your writing. And hate does not seem to be an exaggeration. (Laughs) However, others love your writing – why is that? Why does your writing bring such strong reactions from people?
Answer: The traditionalists believe that we should all write the same. They believe that a work of literature should be written in the same manner as a book on used car repair – that is, they believe that grammar should always be perfect. The traditionalists also like a conventional plot. There are other people who are bored with all of this and are hungry for something different! There are many people who are bored with the fact that many traditionally published books are too much a like.
Q. Don't you think it's a bit of an exaggeration - that all traditionally published books are exactly like?
A: I didn't say that all traditionally published books are exactly alike - I said that they resemble each other too much. In many ways a lot of the contemporary so-called literary fiction is not much different than the spy thrillers or the romance novels or even the country westerns. Sure, they might have different plots, but otherwise they're very much the same. A work of literary fiction might take place in a coffeeshop, a country western might take place in the western part of the country, and some spy thriller might have an international backdrop - but other than that these books are too often basically the same. The dialogue might be a little different, but it's almost like each one of them is painting in exactly the same manner, but they are merely painting different scenes - a coffeeshop versus a country western landscape. Imagine if everyone painted in the same way - wouldn't that be boring?
Q. I still don't get what you mean by written in the same way - could you explain it better please?
A: Look, I wrote a 70,000 word run-on sentence. As I understand I am not the only person to have written such a work. But still it's not every day that you come across a 70,000 word run-on sentence. On the other hand, one comes across literary fiction that puts one to sleep all the time. (Laughs)
Q. Maybe that's why there's so much literary fiction, to help people fall asleep at night? (Laughs)
A: I guess so. (Laughs)
Q. So you wrote a 70,000 word run-on sentence – have you written any other unusual works?
A. Most of my works are unusual. I wrote a book called Conversations with My New Friends in the Graveyard which is a novel/poem/symphony/sculptures/painting/modern dance - among other things.
A: I also just completed a symphony. Each instrument blurts out a different phrase of poetry and all the different instruments interacting with each other is poetry – although I don't call it a poem – I call it a symphony. I think it's very important for writers – serious writers – to contribute something to literature – to contribute something new and wonderful and exciting and innovative to literature. What's the point of writing a book that's just like 10,000 other books out there? If you write like that maybe the publishing conglomerates will like your work but in fact you're not contributing anything to literature and you're wasting your time and you're wasting the time of the readers.
Q. But to be the devil's advocate, don't you think that a great book is a great book regardless of whether it's conventionally written are not?
A. Yes. But if the book is conventionally written you better have a very compelling story. If the book is conventionally written it's probably garbage – or maybe that's going too far – if it's conventionally written it's probably a Xerox copy of a zillion other books already written – so why bother? Maybe your book is not exactly a Xerox copy of a zillion other books – but if your book is not truly unique why bother?
Q. But once again to be the devil's advocate, what's the point of being different just to be different – isn't that also pointless?
A. (Laughs) What we consider conventional today was often innovative when it was first written, painted, sculpted, etc. Beethoven was an innovator, he experimented all the time. Van Gogh was a great innovator. So was Picasso. As was Rodin. There were very negative reactions against the work of these innovators, whose work with time is now considered conventional. Hopefully, regardless if you're a writer or a painter or a sculptor you are contributing something new and dramatic to the arts. If you're not – how boring! Boring will help you avoid controversy. If you're boring you certainly won't get kicked off of literary posting boards. You might even get published. But, your work is still boring. You're not contributing anything new to literature. Great writers, painters, composers, and sculptors are driven to advance the arts – to drive the arts to ever greater heights of expression – to drive the arts beyond the present frontiers – to do things with words and paint and music that nobody has ever done before. This is exciting! It makes you lots of enemies but so what? The conventional conservative types are always holding back the arts and literature – and that is why we must do battle with them. Because they are hostile to individual self-expression.
Q. What do you mean that the traditionalists are hostile to individual self-expression? Isn't that what literature is all about – expressing yourself?
A. Exactly – literature is about expressing yourself! And fuck all rules that get in the way of expressing yourself! If grammar is in the way of expressing yourself then stomp grammar into pieces!
Q. But don't you think grammar is necessary?
A. I think it's definitely necessary in a manual on used car repair.
Q. But doesn't grammar – or correct grammar – make reading easier on the reader?
A. The 70,000 word run-on sentence I wrote is easy to read. Everybody tells me so. And there's whole pages in that work that have no commas, dashes, colons, or anything like that. And people tell me that it's easy to read. Well, almost everybody. It's interesting that everybody from high school dropouts to people with college degrees all tell me it's easy to read. But some people with advanced degrees have the opposite reaction – they tell me it's hard to read.
Q. Maybe they're used to reading things a certain way – that is, they have a hard time reading something without proper grammar?
A. Exactly! They're too closed minded. They're so used to reading something a certain way that their brain has a hard time processing anything that's different.
Q. Do you think most people in the literary world are too closed-minded?
A: Most is a strong word. I wouldn't say most. But I would say many people in the literary world are far too closed-minded. Generally, the more prestigious a literary magazine is the more conservative is, but of course there's exceptions. Traditional publishers are certainly very conservative and cautious, because their main goal is to make money, and publishing a book is always a risk, there's always the risk that they might lose money. Also, there's a lot of people who were so thoroughly brainwashed by their grammar school teachers that to them anything that's not written in standard grammar is unthinkable – and thus they react strongly against anything that their grammar school teachers wouldn't approve of. How sad. Grown adults that still carry the mentality of their grammar school teachers. (Laughs) You would think they would have grown out of that by now!
Q. Do you think the major publishers are more concerned about making money than about publishing quality literature?
A: Definitely. What do you expect? They're big corporations!
Q. So how do you propose that great contemporary literature be made available to the general public if the publishing corporations are not making great contemporary literature available?
A. Print on demand is one way. Print on demand is a form of self-publishing except print on demand does not require the writer to do anything but write the book. The writer does not have to store books or send books or collect money for his books – all this is done for you. With print on demand the writer's books are available at venues like Amazon.com. The price is a little bit higher than traditionally publish books, but not that much higher. There's also e-books. There's posting boards. There's author's Internet sites. This is a very exciting time for literature because writers have more ways than ever before of exposing the reading public to great new literature!
Q. What do you think of literary posting boards?
A. Literary posting boards are a relatively new phenomenon that have great potential! Hopefully, literary posting boards will help give birth to a new brave literature.
Q. Looking at literary posting boards today, don't you think that's a bit naïve?
A. Maybe. But, you gotta admit that literary posting boards have great potential.
Q. Potential is the key word here, I guess?
A. (Laughs) Yeah, I realize that there are problems with some of these posting boards. Some of them ban anybody that has the nerve to include a little sex in a work, which seems downright puritanical. I think the key word here is potential – literary posting boards have great potential.
Q. You've been writing for nearly 2 decades now. Do you have any thoughts you'd like to share with other writers – particularly newer and younger writers?
A. I think you have to choose between writing commercial fiction and writing great literature. I don't see how you can do both.
Q. In other words you have to choose between writing great literature and making a living from writing? (Laughs)
A. (Laughs) Yes.
Q. It's very difficult being a writer isn't it?
A. Except for a rich and fortunate few who made it big selling commercial fiction yes it is very difficult being a writer. If I could do it all over again I never would've started writing. I knew it was going to be hard, but I never realized it would be this hard.
Q. What's so hard about it – about writing?
A. I supported my first 12 years of writing by working in seasonal labor jobs connected to Alaska's fishing industry. If you know anything about the commercial fishing industry in Alaska you may have a clue about how difficult that was! 100 hour weeks of hard manual labor working all hours of the day and night. But I had most of the year off to write and travel. That part was good. But now I have permanent injuries that are related to my work in Alaska. In addition, ever since I stopped working in Alaska I've been trying to get by on almost nothing.
Q. So the main problem with writing is the money? But aren't there people and organizations giving money away to writers and poets?
A. I guess so. I read about in the papers. But I don't know anybody who receives any help for writing. Chances are if you're broke writer or poet you don't have money to enter contests to try and win money from the contests. (Laughs) I also think there is a strong bias in favor of those who write in a traditional manner. However, I do recall some quote unquote avant-garde poet receiving $100,000 from somebody or another. But I read some of his poetry on the Internet, and it was quite traditional.
Q. But isn't it up to the people who have the money to decide who they feel like giving it to?
A. I guess so. But you know, Van Gogh never received a dime for his painting and lived in absolute poverty. Much can be said for the best painters, sculptors, writers, and poets of any generation. The people giving away money often have traditional tastes and only give the money away to people who create traditional literature, which seems pointless, because the publishing conglomerates are already publishing plenty of traditional writing. The best literary voices of any generation are probably never heard from. Their work winds up in the garbage. We are extremely lucky that Van Gogh's paintings didn't wind up in the garbage, but he happened to have a brother who was an art dealer. Almost everybody else at the time thought that Van Gogh's paintings were garbage.
Q. Do you think that you are one of the greatest literary voices of our time?
A. I've never said that. My critics keep calling me arrogant, perhaps because I'm uppity enough to say that writers and poets should write whatever they feel like writing God dammit. One thing that really penises off the critics is when I say writers should throw grammar in the garbage can whenever it gets in their way. And I say that if tradition and grammar gets in the way of expressing himself than the writer should smash tradition and grammar into pieces. I think the greatest literary voices of our generation are probably writing in complete obscurity and poverty – and they can't get published because their work is not commercial. I think there's lots of people out there who are better writers than myself, their works are probably far more innovative and exciting than mine, and the traditionalists would hate their work even more than mine, and insult them even more than they insult me. But, am I better then the vast majority of published writers and poets? Yes of course. But that isn't saying much. Most traditionally published so-called literature is garbage.
Q. Most traditionally published literature is garbage? Isn't that a bit harsh?
A. No, it's not harsh enough. (Laughs) The romance novels, the spy thrillers, the Westerns, etc. – it's all like the McDonald's of so-called literature. Literary fiction is often a step above – literary fiction is more like the Denny's of literature – it's not great, but not quite as bad as the rest of it.
Q. Many people might actually agree with you that much of contemporary so-called literary fiction is garbage. However, what about the back lists– the great literary fiction of the past?
A. You mean the stuff that's in literature 101 in college? Not bad. There's some decent books in literature 101 type classes in college. Perhaps those were the best literary voices of their generations. Or perhaps the works of the best literary voices of those generations wound up in the garbage, because they couldn't get through all the obstacles to getting their books published and read widely enough so that their books didn't fall into obscurity and die. Who knows. But often times the professor uses those books in those literature 101 type classes in college and high school because that's what he's told to do, and he wants to keep his job and keep collecting a paycheck. You never know, he might not think too highly of some of the books he's using in the classes he's teaching. Anyway, for better or for worse some books have found their way into something called a canon, and if you question why some of these books are in the canon you can bet the traditionalists are going to hammer you into the cross as if you're Jesus Christ or something.
Q. But don't you think there are some good literary voices in the canon?
A. Yes. But I don't think everybody in the canon belongs there, maybe a lot of them don't belong there. I think everyone's entitled to their own opinion, and anyway just because something is in the canon and taught in literature 101 doesn't mean it's great. And just because some contemporary book received some award doesn't mean it's great either. Receiving some award means nothing. Although if the award comes with cash I certainly wouldn't turn it down. (Laughs.) Because money helps a writer keep writing. It helps him to eat and pay the rent, which is important. People should question the assumptions of the literary establishment, they should question the assumptions of the conservative academia which is often hostile to innovation. People need to understand that traditional publishing has become a huge business controlled by a handful of corporations owned by people like that Australian billionaire – his name escapes me at the moment – but he ruined a major newspaper back in my hometown of Chicago and turned it into a toilet – I mean tabloid.
Q. (Laughs.) Do you think that all conventional books are garbage?
A: No. Sometimes a conventional style of writing is the best choice for a particular work. I've written several conventional books myself. The first book I wrote – a book of short stories written in Honduras – was a conventional book. Just like Picasso, I learned my craft and mastered tradition before I moved on into true creativity. Later, 10 years later, I returned to the conventional style to write Unalaska, Alaska and Travel around the World? Why Not? because those books were best served by a conventional style. However most of my books are not written in the conventional style, because I am a creative person. Hopefully, other people who write will decide to be creative too. And in the future hopefully no two writers will write in the same style. That is, in the bookstore every time you pick up a book from a different author the style of writing will be completely different from any other author. Every author will be truly creative then! And if you don't like the writing style of one writer then it won't matter because the writing style of a different author's book will be totally different. At least, you won't be bored by a bookstore filled with books all written in the same manner, all enslaved to proper grammar and tradition and corporate greed.
Q. (Laughs) I think that day is a long way off! Maybe when hell freezes over?
A. We will need to live in a different kind of society. A society where literature is free. A society where literature is not controlled by huge greedy corporations. A society that gives writers and artists a living stipend, so that they can dedicate themselves to their work. In other words, a non-capitalist society.
Q. You keep accusing the publishing corporations of only being interested in money. Is that true about the people who work in these publishing corporations? Many of them are not making very much money!
A. No they're not. Their wages are low. They work in New York City most of them. And New York City is very expensive! I was also surprised to find out how low wages are in bookstores. Somebody's making money from books. Maybe that Australian billionaire guy is making lots of money from books. Which makes me wonder - who is being served by corporate fiction? Readers get a whole bunch of books that are often similar to each other. Most writers starve and give up. Perhaps the best potential writers and poets of any generation never start writing in the first place, because they have too much common sense! Who in their right mind wants to live in poverty, or work some 40 hour week job and then come home exhausted and try to write a great work of literature exhausted?
Q. So what's the solution? I mean, what do we do until this new society that you talk about arrives? (Laughs)
A. Traditional publishers and bookstores become obstacles to making great contemporary literature available to the public. So we need an infrastructure to get great contemporary literature to people other than the traditional publishers and bookstores, because the traditional publishers and bookstores are not making great contemporary literature available. I think there are many exciting new developments like print on demand, like authors' Internet sites, like literary posting boards, like Amazon.com and other online retailers, and the Internet in general, as well as new technologies that allow people to download lots of books onto light weight portable devices with easy-to-read screens. All this technology provides us with the infrastructure to go around the traditional publishers and bookstores, and make exciting innovative literature available to the public.
Q. But with this new infrastructure will come also lots of garbage available to the general public – isn't that true?
A. Well, (Laughs), in that sense the new infrastructure will have something in common with the traditional publishers and the bookstores. (Laughs)
A. Just think, you can write any style you want. Write any kind of book you want. You can write a kind of book that nobody has ever even written before if you want to! You are totally free! People can download your book onto their computer or onto these portable reading devices for a few dollars (that goes to you!), a lot cheaper than what you pay for most books in a bookstore, or they can get your book in traditional book style via print on demand on Amazon.com. What do you need traditional publishers for? Why not write what you want to write, instead of what you think some big corporation will publish? Did you know that for every writer that is traditionally published thousands of more writers are not? And for every book that's successful thousands of other books are out of print within a few years. Why bother with all that? Well, in the unlikely event a traditional publisher offers you a big advance you probably should take it
– I would! After all, you need to eat and pay the rent. In the unlikely event a traditional publisher wants to publish your book you might want to insist in the contract that the publisher cannot change your manuscript in any way. Many authors complain that editors rewrite their books to the point that they hardly recognize their own book.
Q. But isn't that what the editor is supposed to do – edit your book?
A. If you're a decent writer you shouldn't need an editor to do that for you. However, if you wrote a piece of commercial garbage, what do you care what they do with the book, as long as you make lots of money! (Laughs). If George Bush ever writes his memoirs I'm sure he'll definitely need the help of an editor. (Laughs) But you're not George Bush, you're a writer, you don't need anybody to rewrite your book.
Below is a manifesto co-written by Andre Breton & Leon Trotsky in 1938. I am posting this manifesto not to push the cause of surrealism. Instead, I advocate the emancipation of the Poet, the Novelist, the Painter, the Sculptor, the Musician from the chains of the profiteers. As Writers, Poets, & Artists we should seek to free our art & literature from the negative effects of commercialism. As Writers & Artists we are not – or should not be – mere prostitutes for the publishing conglomerates and “art” galleries.
In the world of art the only “ism” I believe in is INDIVIDUALISM. I advocate the Writer free himself from the chains of traditionalism – I encourage other Writers & Poets to make wild experiments with the literary form and find their own voice. There is no one like you on the whole planet – so why should you write like all the Writers who came before you?
I realize that some of the themes in the manifesto below may be dated. But the fascists & Stalinists mentioned in this manifesto can be metaphors for all repressive & conservative forces today that seek to limit the creativity & freedom of the Writer & Artist.
I also find the manifesto’s criticism of the capitalist system intriguing. Just as I advocate the liberation of the Artist & Writer from all chains of repression & tradition I also advocate the liberation of the Human Race from the chains of the capitalist system. The capitalist system has nothing to offer the Human Race except war, prisons, poverty, racial & gender discrimination, homophobia, & extinction from huge arsenals of nuclear weapons.
MANIFESTO: TOWARDS A FREE REVOLUTIONARY ART
This manifesto was written by Andre Breton and Leon Trotsky in Mexico in the late 1930s. Diego Rivera was a co-signatory.
We can say without exaggeration that never has civilization been menaced so seriously as today. The Vandals, with instruments which were barbarous, and so comparatively ineffective, blotted out the culture of antiquity in one corner of Europe. But today we see world civilization, united in its historic destiny, reeling under the blows of reactionary forces armed with the entire arsenal of modern technology. We are by no means thinking only of the world war that draws near. Even in times of "peace" the position of art and science has become absolutely intolerable.
Insofar as it originates with an individual, insofar as it brings into play subjective talents to create something which brings about an objective enriching of culture, any philosophical, sociological, scientific or artistic discovery seems to be the fruit of a precious chance, that is to say, the manifestation, more or less spontaneous, of necessity. Such creations cannot be slighted, whether from the standpoint of general knowledge (which interprets the existing world), or of revolutionary knowledge (which, the better to change the world, requires an exact analysis of the laws which govern its movement). Specifically, we cannot remain indifferent to the intellectual conditions under which creative activity takes place, nor should we fail to pay all respect to those particular laws which govern intellectual creation.
In the contemporary world we must recognize the ever more widespread destruction of those conditions under which intellectual creation is possible. From this follows of necessity an increasingly manifest degradation not only of the work of art but also of the specifically "artistic" personality. The regime of Hitler, now that it has rid Germany of all those artists whose work expressed the slightest sympathy for liberty, however superficial, has reduced those who still consent to take up pen or brush to the status of domestic servants of the regime, whose task it is to glorify it on order, according to the worst possible aesthetic conventions. If reports may be believed, it is the same in the Soviet Union, where Thermidorian reaction is now reaching its climax.
It goes without saying that we do not identify ourselves with the currently fashionable catchword: "Neither fascism nor communism!", a shibboleth which suits the temperament of the philistine, conservative and frightened, clinging to the tattered remnants of the "democratic" past. True art, which is not content to play variations on ready-made models but rather insists on expressing the inner needs of man and of mankind in its time - true art is unable not to be revolutionary, not to aspire to a complete and radical reconstruction of society. This it must do, were it only to deliver intellectual creation from the chains which bind it, and to allow all mankind to raise itself to those heights which only isolated geniuses have achieved in the past. We recognize that only the social revolution can sweep clean the path for a new culture. If, however, we reject all solidarity with the bureaucracy now in control of the Soviet Union, it is precisely because, in our eyes, it represents, not communism, but its most treacherous and dangerous enemy.
The totalitarian regime of the USSR, working through the so-called cultural organizations it controls in other countries, has spread over the entire world a deep twilight hostile to every sort of spiritual value. A twilight of filth and blood in which, disguised as intellectuals and artists, those men steep themselves who have made of servility a career, of lying for pay a custom, and of the palliation of crime a source of pleasure. The official art of Stalinism mirrors with a blatancy unexampled in history their efforts to put a good face on their mercenary profession.
The repugnance which this shameful negation of principles of art inspires in the artistic world - a negation which even slave states have never dared to carry so far - should give rise to an active, uncompromising condemnation. The opposition of writers and artists is one of the forces which can usefully contribute to the discrediting and overthrow of regimes which are destroying, along with the right of the proletarian to aspire to a better world, every sentiment of nobility and even of human dignity.
The communist revolution is not afraid of art. It realizes that the role of the artist in a decadent capitalist society is determined by the conflict between the individual and various social forms which are hostile to him. This fact alone, insofar as he is conscious of it, makes the artist the natural ally of revolution. The process of sublimation, which here comes into play and which psychoanalysis has analyzed, tries to restore the broken equilibrium between the integral "ego" and the outside elements it rejects. This restoration works to the advantage of the "ideal of self", which marshals against the unbearable present reality all those powers of the interior world, of the "self", which are common to all men and which are constantly flowering and developing. The need for emancipation felt by the individual spirit has only to follow its natural course to be led to mingle its stream with this primeval necessity - the need for the emancipation of man.
The conception of the writer's function which the young Marx worked out is worth recalling. "The writer", he declared, "naturally must make money in order to live and write, but he should not under any circumstances live and write in order to make money…..The writer by no means looks on his work as a means. It is an end in itself and so little a means in the eyes of himself and of others that if necessary he sacrifices his existence to the existence of his work…..The first condition of the freedom of the press is that it is not a business activity." It is more than ever fitting to use this statement against those who would regiment intellectual activity in the direction of ends foreign to itself, and prescribe, in the guise of so-called reasons of state, the themes of art. The free choice of these themes and the absence of all restrictions on the range of his exploitations - these are possessions which the artist has a right to claim as inalienable. In the realm of artistic creation, the imagination must escape from all constraint and must under no pretext allow itself to be placed under bonds. To those who urge us, whether for today or for tomorrow, to consent that art should submit to a discipline which we hold to be radically incompatible with its nature, we give a flat refusal and we repeat our deliberate intention of standing by the formula complete freedom for art.
We recognize, of course, that the revolutionary state has the right to defend itself against the counterattack of the bourgeoisie, even when this drapes itself in the flag of science or art. But there is an abyss between these enforced and temporary measures of revolutionary self-defense and the pretension to lay commands on intellectual creation. If, for the better development of the forces of material production, the revolution must build a socialist regime with centralized control, to develop intellectual creation an anarchist regime of individual liberty should from the first be established. No authority, no dictation, not the least trace of orders from above! Only on a base of friendly cooperation, without constraint from outside, will it be possible for scholars and artists to carry out their tasks, which will be more far-reaching than ever before in history...
The independence of art - for the revolution.
The revolution - for the complete liberation of art!
For more click here: Wolf Larsen interview
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