What a joke it is to read or hear—as I have read or heard more times than I can count—that writers ‘see more clearly’ or ‘feel more deeply’ than non-writers. The truth of the matter is that writers hardly ‘see’ or ‘feel’ at all. The disparity between a writer’s works and the world per se is so great as to beggar comment. Writers who arrange their lives so as to ‘have experiences’ in order to reduce them to contemptible linguistic recordings of these experiences are beneath contempt.”—Something Said, by Gilbert Sorrentino

To believe that ‘life isn’t fair’ is to believe that there is a kind of contract between us and life, and that bad luck, unhappiness, misery, illness and so on ‘unfairly’ break the contract. But there is no contract, and life is, simply, there.”—Something Said, by Gilbert Sorrentino

Writing is difficult and ‘strange,’ insofar as its vision of reality is unlike our vision of reality. Some writing is so remote from us that it cannot be read at all—it repels us, or, on the contrary, seduces us. We pretend that this writing is the manifestation of a private vision, that it sees a world, a reality, wholly different from our own. Nothing can be further from the truth. We sequester this writing, we call it exotic, or weird, or skewed, because otherwise we would be faced with the intolerable proposition that the reality such writing offers is, indeed, our own, but that we cannot, though we live in the middle of it, recognize it. Such writing shakes our precarious sense of ourselves, so it is much safer to pretend that it is but the excrescence of a strange mind sifting through its own invented detritus.”—Something Said, by Gilbert Sorrentino

Writers often use words up, that is, certain words or phrases become such an intimate part of a writer’s vocabulary that they no longer seem to exist as ‘innocent’ signifiers, but point only to the cosmos of the writer. ‘Lay’ people may use such words innocently, but to the specialist they do not signify; they have dropped all pretense toward naming things, and point only to the work which has, in effect, consumed them. When we speak of a writer’s vocabulary, we speak of the words that he has subverted in their primary function as signifiers. They now belong to him and point to his oeuvre. Who can write ‘gong-tormented,’ or ‘stately, plump,’ or ‘brightness falls’ and insist that these formulations are innocent descriptives? These words become internally ritualized, they are ‘meta-clichés.’”—Something Said, by Gilbert Sorrentino

A writer knows that he is a writer when he has lived long enough to see that his writing defines, as clearly as a graph, his life. The shock of this is not caused by anything so homely and acceptable as ‘the record of the passing years,’ or the recognition that his work is uneven or inadequate to his desire for its excellence, but by the fact that this ‘graph’ is not a metaphor for his life, but a merciless representation of it. It is as if his work finally unmasks itself as the log wherein recorded is the vast amount of time that he has spent at a distance from the world in which everyone else lives. This log tells him that he is not quite here.”—Something Said,by Gilbert Sorrentino

* * * * *
William Gaddis
Micheline Marcom
Kjersti Skomsvold
Gilbert Sorrentino
Gertrude Stein
Flann O'Brien
Christine Montalbetti
Viktor Shklovsky


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An Interview with John O’Brien

The following interview was conducted in-house at two different times, in 2000 and 2004. The purpose of the interview was to provide a very readable documentation of Dalkey Archive Press’s mission and history. It was amended in 2004, and likely Read on! →