I believe that literature is defined by the presence of the writer within the work itself. His or her soul lights the nuances, sparks the paragraphs, is palpable in every word. When I speak of soul, I make no religious reference, but rather embrace that essence of each which marks us as truly ourselves. This is why a literary style or voice cannot be effectively mimicked. That particular work could only have been written by that particular person. The creation of the vital differences between the books of Cormac McCarthy and those of Toni Morrison is beyond sexual, racial, experiential, even philosophical; it is personal, the laying down on paper of that which makes a human being a human being, a blood-letting of the psyche. Literature is not necessarily a question of quality, though quality is ultimately a factor, but of immediacy of spirit. Not stream of consciousness, but rather stream of integrity.
Literature is never corporate. Any genre that is forced into commercial status may be most readable, enjoyable and certainly saleable, but the author’s presence must be questioned. Did he take chances? Did she risk that glimmer into her own consciousness, that inner-self exposed? Some commercial writers come perilously close and then back away, as if ashamed of their impulses.
The literary work is a love affair, not merely a sexual encounter. Confidences are exchanged, wounds are laid bare, no cliffs are too high to dive into the surf beneath. Remember those soft nights when you were young and in love and bared your soul and probably were ultimately rejected? That, that is literature. That gulp. That leap. That chance. That openness of spirit. That offering up of yourself to the work.
When a writer friend --- whom I greatly respect --- showed me the gooseflesh on her forearm after I read her my prologue, I wondered if perhaps I too, however inadvertently, had created literature. Does that place me grandiosely in the pantheon of The Greats? Not even a consideration. Does that mean that I have been true to myself, to my intentions, to my integrity? Yes. And that, even if publishing as we have known it goes the way of the Rosetta Stone, that is all that ultimately matters. Literature is timeless.
Truth was rare to Diogenes and with the passing millennia, it becomes rarer still. But the truth of the writer, that personal soul in a non-religious sense, those strings that vibrate within the atoms of the human being who created the work, is present in literature. Literature is more than style. It is more than intent. It is the thing that moves throughout.
Causes Mara Buck Supports
Kennebec Valley Humane Society, Amnesty International