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Poetic Thinking 2016 | February 26, 2020

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Writing Pain

Writing Pain
  • On January 27, 2016

Reading an excerpt of Thus Spoke Zarathustra this week was a little puzzling, and frustrating for me. Maybe I just can’t escape what I’ve heard (See Bloom’s take: “the apology of a failed poet who could not acknowledge his failure” (228)), and this coupled with my own insecurity while reading philosophers left me with a shrug and a willingness to let myself off the hook. 

That aside, I quite enjoyed Bloom’s brief meditation on Nietzsche’s “poetics of pain” and his assertion that meaning is pain; moreover, the mode of writing as a performance of failure, or crisis, or struggle, is certainly something I can relate to. It reminds me of much of J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey (an author I suspect I should have outgrown by now, but who I just can’t seem to shake off), and specifically a bit towards the end, which I’ve quoted in total here:

“‘You keep talking about ego. My God, it would take Christ himself to decide what’s ego and what isn’t. This is God’s universe, buddy, not yours, and he has the final say about what’s ego and what isn’t. What about your beloved Epictetus? Or your beloved Emily Dickinson? You want your Emily, every time she has an urge to write a poem, to just sit down and say a prayer till her nasty, egotistical urge goes away? No, of course you don’t! But you’d like your friend Professor Tupper’s ego taken away from him. That’s different. And maybe it is. Maybe it is. But don’t go screaming about egos in general. In my opinion, if you really want to know, half the nastiness in the world is stirred up by people who aren’t using their true egos. Take your Professor Tupper. From what you say about him, anyway. I’d lay almost any odds that this thing he’s using, the thing you think is his ego, isn’t his ego at all but some other, much dirtier, much less basic faculty. My God, you’ve been around schools long enough to know the score. Scratch an incompetent schoolteacher—or, for that matter, college professor—and half the time you find a displaced first-class automobile mechanic or a goddam stonemason. Take LeSage, for instance—my friend, my employer, my Rose of Madison Avenue. You think it was his ego that got him into television? Like hell it was! He has no ego any more—if ever he had one. He’s split it up into hobbies. He has at least three hobbies that I know of—and they all have to do with a big, ten-thousand-dollar workroom in his basement, full of power tools and vises and God knows what else. Nobody who’s really using his ego, his real ego, has any time for any goddam hobbies.’ Zooey suddenly broke off. He was still lying with his eyes closed and his fingers laced, quite tightly, across his chest, his shirt-front. But he now ground his face into a deliberately pained expression—a form, apparently, of self-criticism. ‘Hobbies,’ he said. ‘How did I get off onto hobbies?’ He lay still for a moment.”


  1. Silvia De Toffoli

    It is really too bad that you couldn’t appreciate Nietzsche. And too bad that Bloom gave you a pair of bad lenses through which to observe him.
    I think that Bloom can be interesting, but not as a first interpreter of Nietzsche. Maybe would have been better to read Nehamas.

    In any case, I was intrigued by the title of Bloom’s Chapter, because I have kind of a problem with Emerson (and Whitman), but not with Nietzsche. I think Bloom is totally right, Emerson is SO American, in a way that I maybe cannot understand. But the problem is that also Bloom is SO American and wants to understand Nietzsche through the American rhetoric of success and failure (at least in a first approximation). He is too sure about Nietzsche and too corse in his judgements which apply (if to anything) only to one fo the many sides of FWN.

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