Barnacles on the Boat: The Undeserving Dreamers
"Oh, my Lord, they come day by day, season by season, clutching a few dollars from home and some deranged dream that they matter, that they have a gift that can transform a medium, a world, a lover who will not, at long last, turn away and find stimulation and surcease with something or someone else. There is a quickening of the world and parts of the spirit when the artistic temperament is mobile and ambitious, but there is also a necrotic effect when so many undeserving, under-endowed descend upon the collective soul, hectoring, badgering, poking, begging, seducing, and all saying, pleading 'Please, look at me. Give me a life.'"
From Follies of God (Knopf)
Notes from my journal, September, 1982:
He calls them barnacles on the boat--he will sometimes revert to growths or intrusions; when angry he will call them ambulatory occlusions. He refers to the undeserving dreamers within the arts world, and the shifting of standards that have transformed the world of theatre, of music, of film, of everything that "one soul puts forth or puts down for the delectation or education of others" into a form of social service for which full employment of all dreamers is sought.
"I come from and I believe in an order in the arts," he said. "You must reveal and you must pass judgment and muster. I believe that now a desire is deemed sufficient, and so the avenues that should allow easy passage to the deserving to try and to see if they can move and connect with people are crowded with those who feel that their blighted childhoods, their emotional and physical lacuna, their primordial vengeance on a world that ignored them or forced them into games of self-creation in a room that belonged to the neighborhood queer is the only baggage they need to stand on that road and announce their arrival; to stand on a stage and claim they deserve the space; to clutter the printed page with their cries of a fractured heart.
"There is not enough space for all of these people: there is not enough space for the genuinely gifted, because--and I hate to keep telling you this--the world does not need the arts, does not care for the application of the arts as we do. The world needs water and milk and power; sex and surcease; meat and mobility. All of these things can be replicated within art; all of these things can be discussed and meditated upon in the arts, but the real items are out there in the world, used and enjoyed and coveted. In order for the artist to honestly connect with the world, with his audience, he must be morbidly honest, full of clarity and courage. This is rarer than you now realize. But you will.
"So the stragglers on the grand camino of the ambitious, the belligerent, the dreaming determined, will find a way to slap their entities upon the gleaming ship of artistic state--they will become a barnacle who takes an undeserving trip to some shore, somewhere. They will become dramaturgs; they will invent departments of membership and development; they will create theatres--all of them LORT 3(c) or some such nonsense, paying and giving and allowing nothing of value--and they will devote themselves to those things queer or Latin or Irish or handicapped or prize-winning: they will create theatres and venues and opportunities that possess themes and purposes that might impress a grant committee or a social worker, but which no one needs and no one deserves.
"This will come to enrage you--anyone, really, who cares about what art really means--and you will dream of a way to scrape off the bottoms of the boats, to burn down the theatres built only to employ those who are not needed, only needy. I must tell you to fight them in the most effective and violent manner possible--with the truth. The dreamer cannot, and will not, handle the truth. This is how we clear the boats and the highways and get back to work."