Every time I go to FSG I just have to look at this again and take another picture of it
I have a tiny little secret hope that, after a decent period of silence and prose, I will find myself in some almost impossible life situation and will respond to this with outcries of rage, rage and love, such as the world has never heard before. Like Yeats’s great outburst at the end of his life. This comes out of a feeling that endowment is a very small part of achievement. I would rate it about fifteen or twenty percent. Then you have historical luck, personal luck, health, things like that, then you have hard work, sweat. And you have ambition. The incredible difference between the achievement of A and the achievement of B is that B wanted it, so he made all kinds of sacrifices. A could have had it, but he didn’t give a damn. The idea that everybody wants to be president of the United States or have a million dollars is simply not the case. Most people want to go down to the corner and have a glass of beer. They’re very happy. In Henderson the Rain King, the hero keeps on saying, “I want. I want.” Well, I’m that kind of character. I don’t know whether that is exhausted in me or not, I can’t tell. But what I was going on to say is that I do strongly feel that among the greatest pieces of luck for high achievement is ordeal. Certain great artists can make out without it, Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he’s in business.
I want. I think. Maybe. Maybe I don’t want as much as I thought.
An elephant destroys a minibus after throwing its rider and going on a rampage during Sri Lanka’s sixth annual elephant polo tournament in Galle, February 15, 2007. REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe
I, too, have desperately wanted to savage the range rover of a Spanish aristocrat.
But Inigo de Arteaga, que en paz descanse, who’s minibus is pictured, always seemed like pretty nice guy. While American equine polo player, Courtney Zenz, said “I’m not playing again. It’s not safe,” Inigo shrugged that off saying, “Doing any sport is always a risk. Let’s go surfing.”
Lorin Stein answered my letter to the Paris Review last year and I just now noticed. How charming.
I recently read Poets in Their Youth, by Eileen Simpson. Now I’ve taken to doubting my every turn. Am I a lout? A drag on my partner’s freedom and happiness? Am I going to drink myself into a coronary or into some sort of baking mishap? Is there anyway I can pretend that I won’t die cold and alone?
From your note it’s hard to tell whether you’re a poet or a poet’s main squeeze. Those are both high-pressure jobs and generally conducive to drinking. But take heart. For whatever reason, poets today—even good ones—are much less likely to walk in front of a car, or gas themselves, or even destroy their livers than poets fifty years ago. This makes them easier to live with, I imagine. (How could it not?)
Yours for absolutely ever, Lorin