Awe-Inspired Paralysis

Clockwise from top left: Henry James, Joan Didion, Proust, Virginia Woolf, and a photo by Zan McQuade of Maud Newton interviewing Rupert Thomson

From Maud Newton:

Joan Didion suffered from an extreme case of awe-inspired paralysis. She told The Paris Review that, while Henry James was as formative as influence on her writing as Hemingway, she could no longer read him at all.

He wrote perfect sentences, too, but very indirect, very complicated. Sentences with sinkholes. You could drown in them. I wouldn’t dare to write one. I’m not even sure I’d dare to read James again. I loved those novels so much that I was paralyzed by them for a long time. All those possibilities. All that perfectly reconciled style. It made me afraid to put words down.

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The photo of Maud and Rupert is by Zan McQuade, whose blog is called a cup of tea & a wheat penny


One thought on “Awe-Inspired Paralysis

  1. Hemingway thought that we SHOULD compare ourselves to the greatest writers, and try to “beat them.” I agree – I try to find inspiration from their perfect sentences, rather than intimidation.

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