I had a conversation with my father once about what his life as a painter was like, and he said he could never truly be an artist because he has a family. The idea being that art requires a true sacrifice, “often of sanity,” as he put it. I wanted to call bullshit on him, not just because I’m implicated. The idea of the ivory tower artist, of Jackson Pollock or Van Gogh vibing out on colour in his studio while his life falls to pieces outside, is pretty stale these days (also pretty sexist if you consider its history of valuing works by “intense” “genius” dudes, who were supported mainly by women). But I feel like I can’t dismiss this idea of worldly rejection the way I once did. I don’t deny that artists live in the world, and need it – “he fits himself to the paint”- but at what point does the world – the worldly world – become the only domain in which you exist?
I write this at a period in my life where I am considering what it would mean to relinquish “the world” in order to be a writer. I find myself preoccupied with things that feel at the moment like schoolyard concerns – love, relationships, self-worth, jealousy, getting laid. Of course, these are the very concerns of literature. I think, in fact, that the original jacket copy of Anna Karenina read “A Tale of Love, Relationships, Self-Worth, Jealousy, and Getting Laid.” I wonder if perhaps I have enough of this raw material – what I called at another point attar – to sustain another fifty years of writing without having to engage in any more of it.