I was just struck by this paragraph from one of the letters -- to someone who wishes he or she was a writer, but probably isn't. And I thought, I should put it up here for all the people who write to me convinced that they would be happy if only they were writers.
A new art film: I Even Met Happy Writers."Writers are people who write. By and large, they are not happy people. They're not good at relationships. Often they're drunks. And writing -- good writing -- does not get easier and easier with practice. It gets harder and harder -- so eventually the writer must stall out into silence.The silence that waits for every writer and that, inevitably, if only with death (if we're lucky the two may happen at the same time: but they are still two, and their coincidence is rare), the writer must fall into is angst-ridden and terrifying - and often drives us mad. (In a letter to Allen Tate, the poet Hart Crane once described writing as "dancing on dynamite.") So if you're not a writer, consider yourself fortunate."
Delaney is of his generation and his generation is-- half a generation ahead of mine, as it turns out, and hence even more prone to accepting the romantic concept of suffering writer. Err- also male, which is relevant, I think. Male writers, like male anythings now-I-think-of-it, start young, blaze early, and then slow. Female writers start slow and build up steam. It's perfectly possible for a woman writer to /begin/ writing in her forties and fifties and go chugging along happily thereafter, without grieving that she isn't blazing with the same brilliance as when she was seventeen.
Now, the idea of The Silence chills me as much as anyone. There's a nightmare-for-me moment in a Dick Francis thriller, incidental as far as the plot is concerned, where the narrator's poet sister, not an especially nice woman, lets him know that she can't write poetry any more. Low-key and throwaway, something like him asking When's your next book coming out and her saying It's not, and him realizing what that means- it's gone, it's not coming back.
But I always feel that the male idea of life is this remorseless descent from the physical peak of adolescence. (I had a 21 year old friend mourning that he'd passed his best and it was all downhill from there.) They may know better, but it probably *feels* like that, body and bones. Damn few men say Thank god I'm not twenty any more; a lot of women do. Thirty-five is the age I'd have stopped at, though forty-five was just as good, and god knows age has its physical compensations for a woman. No more cramps, no more hormonal migraines, no more bloating-- the list is endless.
So, yeah. I don't see this inevitable oncroaching of Silence accompanying the twinging knees and aching feet. Summer cicadas, more, that sing louder the closer they get to ending.