About two weeks ago I finished an interesting non-fiction book written by Eric G. Wilson, an English professor at Wake Forest University, and which will come out later this spring from the University of Iowa Press. I wrote a more formal review at Necessary Fiction, but thought I’d mention it here as well.
The book is called My Business is to Create: Blake’s infinite writing and it was an interesting combination of scholarly analysis of William Blake’s poetry and art with a kind of writer’s handbook. Wilson traces a ‘method,’ if you will, inspired by Blake, that he thinks creative types might find useful. I like the thought of combining these two ideas because I can see how close reading and literary analysis can be inspiring and, apparently, as Wilson points out, William Blake has been a source of inspiration for musicians, artists and writers for hundreds of years.
There was also something quite moving about Wilson’s evident admiration for Blake. I get that when you’ve studied someone for a very long time, you kind of can’t help becoming their champion. Not that Blake wouldn’t deserve this anyway, but Wilson’s esteem for Blake’s artistic fervor infused the book with a lot of earnest energy.
I know only a little about William Blake, so the biographical information and excerpts that Wilson provide are fascinating. I can see how across the centuries Blake has become a kind of mythical figure—the perfect stereotype of the struggling artist. A little bit crazy, a little bit eccentric, but touchingly devoted to his life’s work.
And Wilson is really serious about the method part. He traces out a way of conceiving of yourself as an artist and a way of developing a process of intense but ultimately liberating self-criticism. Underneath all of this is the simple truth that all art takes an immense amount of work and personal energy.
My Business is to Create is a slim little book, just under 100 pages, and Wilson’s writing is lively, if, at times, a little overly poetic, sacrificing clarity for exuberance. Ultimately, however, I found it an engaging and thought-provoking read.