The Charlotte News



Conversation Piece:

Private Literary Lives

--On Fakers, by W. J. Cash

Literary people are, by and large, the most candid people I have encountered. And they are also the biggest fakers.

Conversations among men of most sorts--in the higher levels of society, anyhow--is pretty well-bounded by inhibitions and conventions. It rarely becomes personal, and when it does, it is conducted with the general effect of man walking on eggs. The average businessman will tell you almost nothing of his really private life, and probably couldn't if he would. But most writing people and the people who think it would be just ducky to be writing people--the people who hang around with writing people--are quite without such inhibitions. More than that, they are almost invariably colossal egotists, and have spent most of their days introspecting themselves. They know all about themselves--and at length. And conversation among them consists mainly in a series of monologues in which the speaker holds forth plainly and continuously on, say, the likelihood that he is really a frustrated saddist who would have been better off if he hadn't turned soft and bawled the time he killed the bird at age seven, or that she was really ordained by nature to be a priestess in the temple of the Cyprian Aphrodite.

They don't mind at all talking about their sex life. Many of them, damn 'em, cannot, in fact, be dissuaded from talking about it incessantly. They cheerfully reveal to you in all candor the darkest Freudian spots in their souls--always with the delicate suggestion, you feel, that these dark spots are precisely the shadows which determine the undeniable beauty of those souls. And it would be quite impossible to imagine asking one of them a question so personal that it would be felt as insulting.

Yet and for all their determined candor, they are, as I have said, also the world's biggest fakers. When they can be got off the theme of their private life, they can be persuaded to talk about ideas--sometimes. Only sometimes--for usually an idea brings one of them straight back to talk about himself. But if you succeed in heading that off, why yes, they talk about ideas. Talk with the most disarming candor. Without mincing words or pulling punches. Talk charmingly often, and even sometimes brilliantly--as they themselves will be ready willingly to testify if you ask them. But ever quite honestly? I doubt it. For honesty is essentially a naive, un-self-conscious sort of thing. And as I have recorded, these people being overweening egotists, are above everything else self-conscious. The vain donkeys are forever attempting to prove themselves such clever fellows as were never heard of before.

All their arguments and notions are developed to the end of demonstrating that, and without much regard to anything else. I think it would not be possible, in many cases, indeed, for them to find out what it is they really think and feel and believe even if they set out honestly to find out.

Sometimes I don't like literary people.

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