Following Dangerous Recipes

There’s a school of thought, a mightily popular school of thought, which claims that great art springs from a place of darkness and struggle; that a genius is essentially a tortured soul; that one has to lose oneself in order to find oneself; that creativity flourishes only when someone has ‘been through it’ (whatever it is). The Flight of the Dusky Duck, a new novel by Alex Gronsky, perpetuates this well-worn myth.

It happens, of course it does. But it just as often doesn’t happen. Take Anton Perwahlsky, for instance: all the right ingredients mixed together in the right way. Madness, ambition and an immense will to create. The result: tedious nonsense. On the other side of the boat, Mr Alexis Pathenikolides: a dull man who creates twisted and troubled works. A genius hiding in an accountant’s clothes. Or to put it another way, a highly professional and deeply capable writer whose ability to organise the chaos raging inside of him makes him what he is. And when I say ‘chaos raging inside of him’ I do not mean to pretend that this makes him an irregular human. Chaos reigns within us all.

My fear is this: that young writer’s will read The Flight of the Dusky Duck and assume that externally-expressed pain is the norm. Worse still, that it is expected. That unless one is seen to suffer as a person, one’s work will suffer. This is clearly not the case. One can be a bore, outwardly, and still bear fruit. God bless the artists who simply ‘get on with it’. Other recipes may contain more spice, but they cannot guarantee a lasting flavour.

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