Noah Cicero on Why Writers Write

[Noah Cicero sent this to me last week. And yes, it is another (slight) commentary on a review of Shoplifting from American Apparel. It’s more than that, too. If you’re unfamiliar with Noah Cicero’s writing, you can visit his blog, or check out his latest book The Insurgent. -Gene]

In one of the reviews of Tao Lin’s Shoplifting from American Apparel Huw Nesbitt makes the statement, “Real art seeks to examine the truth as it is; not through relativism, atomism, or universalism, but by seeking that which once was or irrevocably, true.” If you have read analytic philosophy your first thought after reading those lines will probably be, “Those sentences don’t make any sense.” The proposition, “the truth as it is,” is actually relativism and universal in its meaning. How can something be true but not universal is a contradiction. To not believe in cultural relativism is to not believe in sociology which was a theory proposed by Leo Strauss. In his book Natural Right and History which described how sociology was evil because it leads to liberal nihilism. Leo Strauss is also the philosopher that neocons hold up as a their primary inspiration. Nesbitt then states, “but by seeking that which once was or irrevocably, true.” This statement is strange, I had to look up the word irrevocably to get an exact definition. Irrevocably means, “A decision impossible to retract or revoke.”

You can use the word irrevocably when talking about having a baby or going to war, basically starting something you have to continue to its end. I’m assuming that Nesbitt means when he states, “but by seeking that which once was or irrevocably, true” that truth is like war or having a baby and that one must continue to the end with their truth. Which is also of the conservative mindset. That one must pick a truth at an early age and never let it go no matter what information may come into play.

I sat and thought, “What makes writing? Why does a writer write?” Here are some personal ideas. These are not maxims, just some ideas from a random person who likes to read and write.

Anxiety: A writer is full of anxiety and writes to try to come to terms with their reality or choices. To try to give language to what they are feeling.

Feelings: They have feelings without words, feelings surging up in them and they are trying to give the feelings words, sentences, images, to try to understand them.

Love: They love something, can’t stop thinking about it and want to write about it because they can’t get it out of their mind.

Thought of something: They noticed something, thought of something, they assume other people might want to hear.

Forgiveness: This is a strange one, but can be seen in many writings. Jean Rhys always seems to be asking forgiveness for her strange behavior. Richard Wright seems to be asking for the behavior of black people reduced to poverty and white people being misled by their culture about black people. Richard Yates seems to be asking for forgiveness about suburban people.

Not having anyone to talk to, so they write: Some people have a hard time with impromptu conversation, but they still want to express themselves so they retreat to their computers and write.

I don’t think this ‘makes literature’ anything. But I believe these are some things literature is about for some people.