From: William Faulkner’s Mosquitoes
“Well, it is a kind of sterility — Words,” Fairchild admitted. “You begin to substitute words for things and deeds, like the withered cuckold husband that took the Decameron to bed with him every night, and pretty soon the thing or the deed becomes just a kind of shadow of a certain sound you make by shaping your mouth a certain way. But you have a confusion, too. I don’t claim that words have life in themselves. But words brought into a happy conjunction produce something that lives, just as soil and climate and an acorn in proper conjunction will produce a tree. Words are like acorns, you know. Every one of ’em won’t make a tree, but if you just have enough of ’em, you’re bound to get a tree sooner or later.”
“If you just talk long enough, you’re bound to say the right thing someday. Is that what you mean?” the Semitic man asked.
“Let me show you what I mean.” Fairchild reached again for the book.
“For heaven’s sake,” the other exclaimed, “let us have this one drink in peace. We’ll admit your contention, if that’s what you want. Isn’t that what you say, Major?”
“No, really,” Major Ayers protested, “I enjoyed the book. Though I rather lost the habit of reading at Sa — ”
“I like the book myself,” Mark Frost said. “My only criticism is that it got published.”
“You can’t avoid that,” Fairchild told him. “It’s inevitable; it happens to everyone who will take the risk of writing down a thousand coherent consecutive words.”
“And sooner than that,” the Semitic man added, “if you’ve murdered your husband or won a golf championship.”
“Yes,” Fairchild agreed. “Cold print. Your stuff looks so different in cold print. It lends a kind of impersonal authority even to stupidity.”
“That’s backward,” the other said. “Stupidity lends a kind of impersonal authority even to cold print.”
Fairchild stared at him. “Say, what did you just tell me about contradicting myself ?”
“I can afford to,” the other answered. “I never authenticate mine.” He drained his glass. “But as for art and artists, I prefer artists: I don’t even object to paying my pro-rata to feed them, so long as I am not compelled to listen to them.”
“It seems to me,” Fairchild rejoined, “that you spend a lot of time listening to them, for a man who professes to dislike it and who don’t have to.”
“That’s because I’d have to listen to somebody — artist or shoe clerk. And the artist is more entertaining because he knows less about what he is trying to do. . . And besides, I talk a little, myself.”
There are several of my favorite lines about writing and writers, “artists” in general, in this work from 1927. Quotes more applicable to today’s explosion of stylistic and “voice” sausage in the cavalcade of self-published casseroles that almost read like writing. A number of conversations in this work are textbook examples of how characters can have opinions and preach for the author’s POV without “preaching.” We get Faulkner’s take on artists, art groupies and pinball relationships wrapped up in a novel, not standing in front of his soapbox.
Aside – God knows I love to see Grammarly telling me how to correct (sterilize) Faulkner.