"Every novel created with real passion aspires quite naturally to a lasting aesthetic value, meaning to a value capable of surviving its author. To write without having that ambition is cynicism: a mediocre plumber may be useful to people, but a mediocre novelist who consciously produced books that are ephemeral, commonplace, conventional -- thus non-useful, thus burdensome, thus noxious -- is contemptible. This is the novelist's curse: his honesty is bound to the vile stake of his megalomania."
This week has been filled with disappointments, irritations and snot.
"In 1947, Partisan Review printed an essay, “Writers and Madness,” by one of its editors, William Barrett, claiming that the modern writer was by definition an “estranged neurotic,” because the difficulty of being authentic in a false-faced world forced him to go deeper and deeper into the unconscious, thus pushing him toward madness: “The game is to go as close as possible without crossing over.” Many did cross over, he added darkly.
Not everyone agreed that writers were mental cases, but a number of psychoanalysts did, and their loudest spokesman was Edmund Bergler, a Viennese émigré who in the forties and fifties put forth what is probably the most confident theory of writer’s block ever advanced. First of all, he coined the term. (Formerly, people had spoken of “creative inhibition” or the like.) Second, he proclaimed its cause: oral masochism, entrapment in rage over the milk-denying pre-Oedipal mother. Starved before, the writer chose to become starved again—that is, blocked. Bergler claimed to have treated more than forty writers, with a hundred-per-cent success rate. That didn’t mean that the writers became like other people. “I have never seen a ‘normal’ writer,” Bergler reported. Even if their work was going well, this was often “entirely surrounded by neuroticism in private life”—squalid love affairs, homosexuality, etc. They had recompense, however: “the megalomaniac pleasure of creation . . . produces a type of elation which cannot be compared with that experienced by other mortals” (italics his)."
-JOAN ACOCELLA New Yorker Issue of 2004-06-14 and 21