In her essay, "Ghost Writers," Cynthia Ozick states that "art turns mad in pursuit of the false face of wishful distraction. The fraudulent writer is the visible one, the crowd-seeker, the crowd-speaker, the one who will go out to dinner with you with a motive in mind, or will stand and talk at you, or will discuss mutual writing habits with you, or will gossip with you about other novelists and their enviable good luck or their gratifying bad luck."
The true writer, she says, should "maintain a coveted clandestine authentic invisibility." True writers must be ghosts at their writing tables. They must "sit alone, and write, and write, and write, as if the necessary transparency of their souls depended upon it."
When I read these passionate words, I felt the old allure of the belief in the religion of art. Maybe I should get off Facebook, maybe I should stop blogging, I thought. (I was never much of a glad-hander.) Then I thought of Aschenbach in "Death in Venice." When Mann's character takes his one and only vacation from writing, he falls in love with a beautiful boy in Venice, and dies because he can't leave the city for fear of not seeing the boy. If Aschenbach had taken more vacations, he would have immunized himself: leisure would not have been fatal. So far, blogging and going to the Sofra cafe have not made me feverish. Surely we writers can have some pleasure. Ghosts never do. Yet I too find the "crowd-seeker" and "crowd-speaker" distasteful.
Look at these two photos of Ozick. In one, she's thoughtful, serious, closed mouth; she looks away from the camera and seems slightly bored. In the other, she is smiling, showing her white teeth. Her public teeth. She's trying to please us. Which do you like better?