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The Writer’s True Goal

Advice from The Unquiet Grave by Palinurus (Cyril Connolly) 1981

“The more books we read the clearer it becomes that the true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and that no other task is of any consequence. Obvious though this should be, few writers will admit it, or having drawn the conclusion, will be prepared to lay aside the piece of iridescent mediocrity on which they have embarked! Writers always hope that their next book is going to be their best, and will not acknowledge that they are prevented by their present way of life from ever creating anything different.
“Every excursion into journalism, broadcasting, propaganda or writing for the films, however grandiose, will be doomed to disappointment. To put our best into these is another folly, since thereby we condemn good ideas as well as bad to oblivion. It is in the nature of such work not to last, and it should never be undertaken. Writers engrossed in any literary task which is not an assault on perfection are their own dupes and, unless these self-flatterers are content to dismiss such activity as their contribution to the war effort, they might as well be peeling potatoes.”

Thanks a lot, Cyril.

David Bouchier

“The real problem of humanity is the following: We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology.”

Biologist E.O.Wilson

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