Sunday, 3 August 2008

I love you I hate you

I was talking to a friend last night about what it might mean to have an inferiority complex. In one sense the term's an oxymoron. The moment you understand your inferiority is a complex rather than a simple fact about you, you're no longer inferior. You're actually sharper than those glittering automata who think they're so special, and aren't, and don't even know it. Damn them.

Given this irony - which is reassuring but, well, insufficient - we started to wonder about whether the mixture of envy and admiration that accounts for a good part of one's feeling inferior is a quality that might be useful, even indispensable, in a writer. Feeling inferior sharpens the eye wonderfully. You watch the others, the superior ones, with the attention of a fearing and doting child, but also with that of a servant, whose service is bought at the cost of his contempt; and finally with that of a dog, alert to whatever might fall from the table.
Aren't these Proustian characteristics? Isn't this what Thackeray did? And Waugh? And Genet? How often the narrator's eye seems both pitiless and enamoured.

And then there are the others. Dickens, Penelope Fitzgerald, Rohinton Mistry...

3 comments:

Ms Baroque said...

Superior posts today, yuou're clearly onto something. It is true that this sense of inferiority comes alongside the observation thing. the sense of being somehow outside the action - though, as I was reading earlier about Swift and Pope etc, they felt SUPERIORly outside the action of the hoi polloi etc...

And it is a charming psychological foible of ours that, as "creatives" wanting only to succeed on our own terms, because we can know no other, we desperately wish we could succeed on THEIR terms - it all looks so much easier, to those who can do it...

I always hold up Wallace Stevens, the vice president of the insurance company, as my example of the high-functioning poet - but at what cost, at what cost...

Oh, & I love that bit about the tautology, that never occurred to me before - see, a bit thick, the dear thing...

Ms Baroque said...

Oh God, three paragraphs in a row all ending in three dots. I apologise. I had a glass of wine at teatime.

Charles Lambert said...

Now I'm thinking about Capote, who managed to be fawning and disdainful on a daily basis. Until his cover was blown, of course, and all his rich shallow friends dumped him. Maybe he was an example of court jester complex, which is a more knowing variant...

(Those three dots weren't really necessary. They're just there to reassure you.)