“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.
I believe that Fitzgerald’s quote refers to the resilience of the human spirit to fight against a past that threatens to define our future. Whether we admit it or not, there is always a danger of becoming our parents. Sure, we rave and rant about our independent spirit, but throw us into an ocean of unknown faces, and we will find ourselves mimicking the very people we swore not to become.
In an alternate universe, Freud and Fitzgerald would have had a great conversation over tea (or scotch) discussing how we cannot escape our past. Freud would say, “primal” incidents from our childhood shape our egos, and subsequently, the people we become eventually. While Fitzgerald would nod saying, no matter where we run off to, there is no way to avoid our “destiny”, which in many ways have been shaped by our past.
And, their pronouncements would be akin to death for any writer aspiring to be a great one. Like me.
The art of writing is carefully interlinked with the art of controversy. A truly great writer is one who has absolutely no inhibitions, is completely shameless and is unafraid to take risks. Shall I cite Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses that almost had him killed, or Taslima Nasreen’s Lajja that had her banned from her own country? Both writers dared to write about issues that were off-limits. The most recent example would be of Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of South Park) who faced death threats from Revolutionmuslim.com (now offline) for depicting Prophet Mohammad in a bear suit in their 200th anniversary episode.
These are writers who knowingly (or, unknowingly) used shock value to sell their products. In my belief, real writers will take risks, death threats or not. They refuse to be pulled back into the vortex of their past, or to be held down by inhibitions and fear. Of course, the question of whether these writers are “real” or not is quite another different matter altogether. It is also possible to rely on good prose, instead of titillation to sell books (take note, Shobhaa De). A really good example would be Jeffrey Archer. However, it remains true that the ability to break boundaries will end up opening avenues for an aspiring writer (sadly, even for De).
The question is: Do I stand a chance? Do I have the “guts”? I will know when I break the current instead of get taken for a ride.