words on foot

I’ve been reading Nietzsche today. As thinkers go he’s clear and reasoned. In fact, he’s a little too perceptive for those who like their self-delusions, so sometimes his surgical excision of unpleasant human motivations can make for glum reading. He’s a bit of a grump at times too, especially when it comes to young people.

In Human, All too Human he has an entire section called “From the Soul of Artists and Authors”, which had me laughing, nodding, and sometimes grimacing.

He has high standards:

Speak not of gifts, or innate talents! One can name all kinds of great men who were not very gifted. But they acquired greatness, became “geniuses” (as we say) through qualities about whose lack no man aware of them likes to speak; all of them had that diligent seriousness of a craftsman, learning first to form the parts perfectly before daring to make a great whole. They took time for it, because they had more pleasure in making well something little or less important, than in the effect of a dazzling whole. For example, it is easy to prescribe how to become a good short story writer, but to do it presumes qualities which are habitually overlooked when one says, “I don’t have enough talent.” Let a person make a hundred or more drafts of short stories, none longer than two pages, yet each of a clarity such that each word in it is necessary; let him write down anecdotes each day until he learns how to find their most concise, effective form; let him be inexhaustible in collecting and depicting human types and characters; let him above all tell tales as often as possible, and listen to tales, with a sharp eye and ear for the effect on the audience; let him travel like a landscape painter and costume designer; let him excerpt from the various sciences everything that has an artistic effect if well portrayed; finally, let him contemplate the motives for human behavior, and disdain no hint of information about them, and be a collector of such things day and night. In this diverse exercise, let some ten years pass: and then what is created in the workshop may also be brought before the public eye.

Nietzsche is very quotable. There are numerous examples I’d like to repeat, but perhaps I’ll just tantalise you with another epigram that made me laugh, and merely suggest you delve further into his work (if you haven’t already).

One should regard a writer as a criminal who deserves acquittal or clemency only in the rarest cases: that would be a way to keep books from getting out of hand.

He’s strict!

Since it’s Thursday here’s my weekly snippet of prose. Nietzsche might not have approved of the length of time it took to compose, but every word fought for its place — especially since I only had 140 characters in which to complete it.

My lips, damp, your mouth, eager. Pressed together, we devour emptiness with voracious need. We possess each other’s flesh. I and you bleed.

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