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Philip Larkin
“Birthdays are a time when one stock takes, which means, I suppose, a good spineless mope: I scan my horizon and can discern no sail of hope along my own particular ambition. I tell you what it is: I'm quite in accord with the people who enquire 'What is the matter with the man?' because I don't seem to be producing anything as the years pass but rank self indulgence. You know that my sole ambition, officially at any rate, was to write poems & novels, an activity I never found any difficulty fulfilling between the (dangerous) ages of 17-24: I can't very well ignore the fact that this seems to have died a natural death. On the other hand I feel regretful that what talents I have in this direction are not being used. Then again, if I am not going to produce anything in the literary line, the justification for my selfish life is removed - but since I go on living it, the suspicion arises that the writing existed to produce the life, & not vice versa. And as a life it has very little to recommend it: I spend my days footling in a job I care nothing about, a curate among lady-clerks; I evade all responsibility, familial, professional, emotional, social, not even saving much money or helping my mother. I look around me & I see people getting on, or doing things, or bringing up children - and here I am in a kind of vacuum. If I were writing, I would even risk the fearful old age of the Henry-James hero: not fearful in circumstance but in realisation: because to me to catch, render, preserve, pickle, distil or otherwise secure life-as-it-seemed for the future seems to me infinitely worth doing; but as I'm not the entire morality of it collapses. And when I ask why I'm not, well, I'm not because I don't want to: every novel I attempt stops at a point where I awake from the impulse as one might awake from a particularly-sickening nightmare - I don't want to 'create character', I don't want to be vivid or memorable or precise, I neither wish to bathe each scene in the lambency of the 'love that accepts' or be excoriatingly cruel, smart, vicious, 'penetrating' (ugh), or any of the other recoil qualities. In fact, like the man in St Mawr, I want nothing. Nothing, I want. And so it becomes quite impossible for me to carry on. This failure of impulse seems to me suspiciously like a failure of sexual impulse: people conceive novels and dash away at them & finish them in the same way as they fall in love & will not be satisfied till they're married - another point on which I seem to be out of step. There's something cold & heavy sitting on me somewhere, & until something budges it I am no good.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica

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