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Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible; Shakespeare's plays, for instance, seem to hang there complete by themselves. But when the web is pulled askew, hooked up at the edge, torn in the middle, one remembers that these webs are not spun in midair by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to the grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in.
To read fiction means to play a game by which we give sense to the immensity of things that happened, are happening, or will happen in the actual world. By reading narrative, we escape the anxiety that attacks us when we try to say something true about the world. This is the consoling function of narrative — the reason people tell stories, and have told stories from the beginning of time.
Not only does my play [Honeymoon Motel] have no redeeming social value, it has no entertainment value. I wrote this sprightly little one-acter only to test out my new paper shredder. If there is any positive message at all in the narrative it is that life is a tragedy filled with suffering and despair and yet some people do manage to avoid jury duty.
I ate them like salad, books were my sandwich for lunch, my tiffin and dinner and midnight munch. I tore out the pages, ate them with salt, doused them with relish, gnawed on the bindings, turned the chapters with my tongue! Books by the dozen, the score and the billion. I carried so many home I was hunchbacked for years. Philosophy, art history, politics, social science, the poem, the essay, the grandiose play, you name 'em, I ate 'em.
You often say to yourself in the course of your life that you ought to avoid having too much business, 'polypragmosyne' [incessant activity], and, more especially, that the older you get, the more you ought to avoid entering on new business. But it's all very well saying this, and giving yourself andothers good advice. The very fact of growing older means taking up a new business; all our circumstances change, and we must either stop doing anything at all or else willing and consciously take on the new role we have to play on life's stage.
There is a place for everyone, man and woman, old and young, hale and halt; service in a thousand forms is open. There is no room now for the dilettante, the weakling, for the shirker, or the sluggard. From the highest to the humblest tasks, all are of equal honor; all have their part to play.
We must understand the politics of our community and we must know what politics is supposed to produce. We must know what part politics play in our lives. And until we become politically mature we will always be mislead, lead astray, or deceived or maneuvered into supporting someone politically who doesn't have the good of our community at heart.
Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious Idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, [play or] a game in which one releases surplus energy,... not the production of pleasing objects, and is above all, not pleasure itself, but it is the means of union among mankind, joining them in the same feelings, and necessary for the life and progress toward the good of the individual and of humanity.
Nothing of importance is ever achieved without discipline. I feel myself sometimes not wholly in sympathy with some modern educational theorists, because I think that they underestimate the part that discipline plays. But the discipline you have in your life should be one determined by your own desires and your own needs, not put upon you by society or authority.