I spent 40 minutes or so this morning watching and doodling Greil Marcus’s “Why I Write” lecture, recommended by Stephanie Zacharek as “deeply personal and… extraordinary. It may help anyone involved in any creative endeavor who’s feeling…stuck.”
I write for fun. I write for play. I write for the play of words.
I write to discover what I want to say and how to say it.
And the nerve to say it.
The key word for me isn’t ‘fun,’ isn’t ‘play,’ but it’s ‘discover.’
I live for those moments when something appears on the page as if of its own volition, as if I had nothing to do with what is now looking at me in the face…
He then tells the story of the father who he never met, who was also named Greil.
(Perhaps this is too obvious, but unless I missed something, he never explicitly points out that his name sounds like “grail,” or the mysterious thing which is eagerly pursued and sought after. In fact, if you try to type his name into your computer, spell check will correct it to “grail” — nominative determinism!) *
You can watch the whole thing on YouTube.
* I was struck by the autodidact’s curse here: I’d always read Greil as “Grail” and ignored all evidence to the contrary, though Greil emailed me and told me when his great-grandfather first emigrated from Prague to Alabama, the name was pronounced “grail” and changed to “greel,” so maybe I was onto something after all. (In talks, whenever I have to pronounce a name like “Brancusi,” I joke that I’m from Texas, so I’m allowed to mispronounce anything I want to.)