Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Bipolar Writer

The truth is that I'm a private man, deeply divided against myself, always half one thing and half its opposite, simultaneously given to tottering insecurity and black depression and the sudden upswing of high spirits, living life in a torment of opposing appetites. Such men do not make friends easily, less so when they belong to no group, no nation, and no tribe. 

At many times and in many places I’ve been the odd one out, sort of American and sort of Irish in Switzerland, sort of Swiss and sort of Irish in Greece, sort of Swiss and sort of American in Ireland, sort of Martian among Earthlings…. I’ve been the “intellectual” among lowbrows, the “right-winger” among lefties, the “liberal” among right-wingers. The “man of faith” among atheists, the “atheist” among the devout. The Catholic among Protestants (and here we tread lightly upon Ulster sod), the Protestant among Catholics, the Jew or dissenter among both or all of the foregoing. The drunk among teetotalers, the teetotaler among drunks (well, not very often). Joe Six-Pack among the literati, J. Whittington Bloodworth IV among the rabble. And this is as it should be, for a writer’s lot in life is to be the eternal opponent of whatever status quo he happens to find himself up against. 

As Graham Greene said, “The writer is driven by his own vocation to be a Protestant in a Catholic society, a Catholic in a Protestant one, to see the virtues of the Capitalist in a Communist society, of the Communist in a Capitalist State.” True, but GG was a bit too much the one-way oppositionist for my taste. Would he have seen from afar the virtues of America comfortably ensconced in, say, East Germany?


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