Life as Literature

I’ve been thinking a lot about my instinctive predilection for writers whose life and work bleed into each other, an attraction I felt long before I was fully aware of their biographical details. The first was Kafka; the second Rolfe; the third Musil; the fourth Mishima and the fifth, Toole. I’ve come to the conclusion that these philosophical novelists speak to me more deeply than the greatest pure philosophers. What’s the theme binds their work? The “spiritual impoverishment” of their age, a phrase I’m loathe to use since its meaning would be vulgarized both by so-called “new atheists” and by their enemies, doctrinal fundamentalist followers.

Here are some Mishima quotes culled for the Paul Schrader’s film (here is the finale), beautifully rendered with Philip Glass’ brilliant score:

In its essence, any art that relies on words makes use of their ability to eat away – of their corrosive function… Words are a medium that reduces reality to abstraction for transmission to our reason, and in their power to corrode reality inevitably lurks the danger that the words will be corroded too.

… (There were always) two contradictory tendencies within myself. One was the determination to press ahead loyally with the corrosive function of words, and to make that my life’s work. The other was the desire to encounter reality in some field where words should play no part at all.

So if you do not acknowledge in your heart the values that surpass yourself, you are in a psychological state where your sole existence is meaningless

A sea of clouds spread out below, devoid of any conspicuous irregularities, like a garden of pure white moss… The silver fuselage floated in the naked light, the plane maintaining a splendid equilibrium. Once more it became a closed, motionless room. The plane was moving at all. It had become an oddly shaped metal cabin floating quite still in the upper atmosphere…

There was no suffocating sensation. My mind was at ease. My thought process lively. If this stillness was the ultimate end of action – of movement – then the sky about me, the clouds far below, the sea gleaming between the clouds. Even the setting sun, might well be events, things, within myself. At this distance from the earth, intellectual adventure and physical adventure could join hands without the slightest difficulty. This was the point I had always been striving towards.