Heyoka’s Workbench


Perfectionists are notoriously lazy and all true artistic indolence is deeply neurotic; a pain not a pleasure.

I’m not sure where I had stumbled upon Cyril Connolly and his book »Enemies of Promise«. Was it in Elias Canetti’s memoirs? Or in Niall Ferguson’s »Empire«? Or in the preface of some modern classic I had read?

Be it as it may – I bought the book and expected eye-opening revelations. What attracted me most was, I think, the hints at Connolly’s never having finished any great novel in spite of his superior writing skills. I suspect that I hoped for explanations of my own similar ineptitude – or maybe rather for exculpations.

»Enemies of Promise« is composed of three very different parts. It’s the second one, I assume, why this book has become a classic. It’s a thorough and witty examination of the million things that make or ruin an author and of why it is that so many talented writers never live up to what their real or assumed gifts promised.

I’m still figuring out whether I should find Connolly’s remarks on talent encouraging or simply soothing – or rather understand them as a realistic and ruthlessly candid verdict …

»If it’s in you it’s bound to come out« is a wish-fulfilment. More often it stays in and goes bad.
Drawing “Cyril Connolly”