The Mind of the Maker

Dorothy Sayers' The Mind of the Maker was one of five books I resolved to read in 2009. It was deep--I admit to glazing more than once. But in between, I gathered some great quotes:

[Writing] is a social act; but the poet is, first and foremost, his own society. (Emily, anyone?)

Idea, Energy, Power (Brilliant concept) For other minds, other analogies; but the artist's experience proves that the Trinitarian doctrine of Idea, Energy, Power is, quite literally, what it purports to be: a doctrine of the Creative Mind.

The componants of the material world are fixed; those of the world of imagination increase by a continuous and irreversible process, without any destruction or rearrangment of what went before.

[The good playwright] feels within himself a continual shifting of his Energy from the one character to the other as he writes. He is usually (I think) aware of the stage itself in his imagination; by an act of mental vision he disposes his characters upon it, and his centre of consciousness ' shifts as he goes, so that in writing down John's lines he seems to view the stage from John's point of view, while in writing Mary's reply he views it from Mary's point of view. At the same time, he knows quite well that his responsive Power is sitting, so to speak, in the stalls, watching the whole scene from the spectator's point of view, and he is also dimly conscious of the original and controlling Idea, which does not take the stage into account at all, but accepts or rejects every word according to some eternal scheme of values that is concerned only with the reality of all experience.

Our speculations about Shakespeare are almost as multifarious and foolish as our speculations about the maker of the universe, and, like those, are frequently concerned to establish that his works were not made by him but by another person of the same name.

...when plot precedes character and must be adhered to whatever happens, character inevitably suffers. (Writing Aloud, J. D. Beresford)

...if the characters and the situation are rightly conceived together, as integral parts of the same unity, then there will be no need to force them to the right solution of that situation.

The shadow on the world, thrown by the world
Standing in its own light, which light God is.

Where a book is concerned, the average man is a confirmed theist.

There are the propaganda writers -particularly the propaganda novelists and dramatists - Manichees, whose son assumes what looks like a genuine human body, but is in fact a hollow simulacrum that cannot truly live, love or suffer, but only perform exemplary gestures symbolical of the Idea. (This made me think of a lot of Christian Fiction)

Like "happiness", our two terms "problem" and "solution" are not to be found in the Bible-a point which gives to that wonderful literature a singular charm and cogency. . . . On the whole, the influence of these words is malign, and becomes increasingly so. They have deluded poor men with Messianic expectations .. . which are fatal to steadfast persistence in good workmanship and to well-doing in general. . . .-L. P. JACKS: Stevenson Lectures, 1926-7.

...the artist does not see life as a problem to be solved, but as a medium for creation.

...the Father-Idea of the book, providing the mechanics of the [problem], the catalyst that precipitates the instability of the emotional situation, and also a theme which unites the microcosm of the book to the macrocosm of the universe.

What is obvious here is the firmly implanted notion that all human situations are "problems" like detective problems, capable of a single, necessary, and categorical solution, which must be wholly right, while all others are wholly wrong. But this they cannot be, since human situations are subject to the law of human nature, whose evil is at all times rooted in its good, and whose good can only redeem, but not abolish, its evil. ... We do not, that is, merely examine the data to disentangle something that was in them already: we use them to construct something that was not there before: neither circumcision or uncircumcision, but a new creature.

[Each new book] is a "still" cut out and thrown off from the endless living picture which his creative mind reels out. It is a picture in itself, but it only leads from the picture behind it to the picture in front of it, as part of a connected process....And though he may imagine for the moment that this fresh world is wholly unconnected with the world he has just finished, yet, if he looks back along the sequence of his creatures, he will find that each was in some way the outcome and fulfilment of the rest-that all his worlds belong to the one universe that is the image of his own Idea.

[Theologians] are ready to use the "Father-symbol" to illustrate the likeness and familiarity between God and His children. But the "Creator-symbol" is used, if at all, to illustrate the deep gulf between God and His creatures. Yet, as Berdyaev says, "The image of the artist and the poet is imprinted more clearly on his works than on his children."

No comments: