Saturday, May 26, 2012

some kind of perfection

"An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's."

~ J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey

“You have the right to work, but for the work's sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working. Never give way to laziness, either.

Perform every action with your heart fixed on the Supreme Lord. Renounce attachment to the fruits. Be even tempered in success and failure; for it is this evenness of temper which is meant by yoga.

Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender. Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahman. They who work selfishly for results are miserable.” 

~ from the Bhagavad Gita, quoted in F & Z

On our recent holiday, I re-read Franny and Zooey.  I first read it over twenty years ago, several times in a row.  So much about it just cracked my brain open.  The ending, certainly.  (You'll have to read it to find out, but it's rather life changing if you're open to it, especially when read at the age of 23).

I think the bathtub scene will stay with anyone who reads it forever. It must have been in the back of my mind when I wrote the bathtub scene in Hive.

The board in Seymour and Buddy's old room, covered in quotations:  "Every inch of visible surface of the board had been decorated, with four somewhat gorgeous-looking columns of quotations from a variety of the world's literatures.  The lettering was minute, but jet-black and passionately legible.  If just a trifle fancy in spots, and without blots or erasures."

At the time I had no idea you could do such a thing.  Collect quotations.  Thoughts.  Try to pin them down, remember them, decorate with them.

My favourite part of the book (excepting the ending) is near the beginning.  Franny is in the cafe drinking martinis and talking to Lane about what it is to be a poet.  Lane says to her, you're lucky, at least you have two poets (professors) in your English Department.  If you haven't read the book, they're both students.

Franny replies: "They're not....That's partly what's so awful. I mean they're not real poets. They're just people that write poems that get published and anthologized all over the place, but they're not poets."

Later she says:

"I know this much, is all....If you're a poet, you do something beautiful. I mean you're supposed to leave something beautiful after you get off the page and everything. The ones you're talking about don't leave a single, solitary thing beautiful.  All that maybe the slightly better ones do is sort of get inside your head and leave something there, but just because they do, just because they know how to leave something, it doesn't have to be a poem, for heaven's sake. It may just be some kind of terribly fascinating, syntaxy droppings - excuse the expression."  

Maybe it's a simple thing to say: if you're a poet, you do something beautiful.

Simple seems so daring some days when you're seeking the calm of self-surrender.


  1. Gotta read that book.
    And you DO something beautiful when you post your thought and pix.

  2. thanks, friend. it's a good book - can loan it to you if you like : )


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