Writing is in essence rewriting, and that is the trouble with the blank page. To put it slightly differently, what I am asserting is that the activity of writing properly speaking, writing that is more than the unmediated and unreflexive placement of words on a page (automatic writing, email, the world’s everyday business), takes place through editing, that is, it must have raw material in the form of words that are already there. The perversity of this view recalls Derrida’s assertion that writing precedes spoken language, and the logic is the same. Especially for writers, for those accustomed at length to weighing and pruning their words, as a daily discipline, the primacy of editing (though so often acknowledged in accounts of authorship) is likely to be concealed because it first takes place before hand touches pen or pen paper. Coherent sentences flow fully formed, as if dictated, effortless. But like any such process, with long practice, it is partially internalised. Partially.
Thomas Mann put it more succinctly: a writer is someone who finds writing harder than others do.
I first saw Tony Kushner’s play about the AIDS crisis, or at least, with
that catastrophe at its heart, currently showing at a revival in London,
in a version for television, but it makes much more sense to me in the
medium for which it was conceived; that is, it was simply transposed to
the small screen in all its resplendent theatricality, and should be
appreciated on those merits. The deliciously camp cosmology of the angels
recalls Heine’s in Die Götter im Exil (the internet tells me I may be thinking
of Die Götter Griechenlands): heaven after the death, or abandonment, of God. Like the play’s politics, this may not bear too much pedantic analysis, but it works theatrically.
The character of Prior Walter is emblematic of a countercultural style that has been
to a considerable extent subsumed in the success of its cause, however partial
and fragile that still remains. The campest figures in the play are
its heroes, and that campness expresses both a refusal to conceal itself, and
the pressure to do so that it resists in revealing gestures finely pitched
between discretion and outrage. Gay men seem much more inclined to “pass” now
that it no longer matters in quite the same way. It is almost as if what is
unacceptable to the wide world is flamboyance itself, and no longer what
occurs in the bedroom. But indeed, who cares about that? What is valuable is
subversiveness, outrage, the political resistance celebrated in the play.