Sext by W.H. Auden

Stumbled across this in Dan Pink’s book, Drive:

You need not see what someone is doing

to know if it is his vocation,

you have only to watch his eyes:
a cook mixing a sauce, a surgeon

making a primary incision,
a clerk completing a bill of lading,

wear the same rapt expression,

forgetting themselves in a function.

How beautiful it is,
that eye-on-the-object look.

Sext by W.H. Auden

Something to shoot for:

What is the function of a critic? So far as I am concerned, he can do me one or more of the following services:

1. Introduce me to authors or works of which I was hitherto unaware.
2. Convince me that I have undervalued an author or a work because I had not read them carefully enough.
3. Show me relations between works of different ages and cultures which I could never have seen for myself because I do not know enough and never shall.
4. Give a “reading” of a work which increases my understanding of it.
5. Throw light upon the process of artistic “making.”
6. Throw light upon the relation of art to life, to science, economics, ethics, religion, etc.

This reminds me of Auden’s Notes on the Detective Story, by an Addict that was featured at Harper’s recently, wherein he dissects whodunits and argues for why they’re escape and not art… “The most curious fact about the detective story is that it makes its greatest appeal precisely to those classes of people who are most immune to other forms of daydream literature.”

Art has no shortcuts, folks:

In the course of many centuries a few labor-saving devices have been introduced into the mental kitchen—alcohol, coffee, tobacco, Bezedrine, etc.—but these mechanisms are very crude, liable to affect the health of the cook, and constantly breaking down. Artistic composition in the twentieth century A.D. is pretty much the same as it was in the twentieth century B.C.: nearly everything has still to be done by hand.

W.H. Auden, The Mental Kitchen [$]