BRENDAN: I understand, Neal, that you are of the opinion that a novelist isn't necessarily an artist, these days, just because he writes novels, but can be one of three things.
NEAL: That is correct. He can be an artist, an anti-artist, or a philosopher, using the latter term in the contemporary sense as applying, in the main, to metaphysical writers, or men who identify more with essence than appearance.
BRENDAN: How, then, do you distinguish between novelists as artists and novelists as anti-artists?
NEAL: Very simply! Between those who write in an illusory vein, intimating of truth or envisaging a future society in an expressive style, and those, on the contrary, who specialize in writings of an autobiographical character, making the crux of their novels hinge on the story of their lives.
BRENDAN: Thus you are distinguishing, I take it, between novelists like George Orwell on the one hand, and Henry Miller on the other.
NEAL: Yes, between those who indirectly extend literature towards objective truth, and those who directly indulge in subjective fact - a distinction, in effect, between bound-electron equivalents and pseudo-electron equivalents, bearing in mind that we are discussing the novelist, within the broader framework of bourgeois/proletarian civilization, in relation to petty-bourgeois culture, as relative to contemporary Western society, with particular reference to the United States.
BRENDAN: So we are not referring the novelist-as-artist to bourgeois criteria, which would presumably be to discuss the novel in traditional fictional terms.
NEAL: No, the story-teller of old is precisely the kind of artist that the anti-artist is in rebellion against in his 'romantic' fixation on autobiography. The modern novelistic anti-artist is anti-fiction, fiction being the traditional preserve of the artist, who abstracts fictions from external facts and thus creates a story. The modern novelistic artist, on the other hand, is pro-truth, truth being the goal of evolution in pure spirit, the approach to this goal in literary terms necessarily requiring of the artist either fidelity to illusion, i.e. anticipations or intimations of truth, which is a quasi-philosophical approach, or (assuming he is more of a pure artist) an extension of abstract technical procedures in his work towards some consciously- or unconsciously-envisaged future literary goal of a totally non-expressive art, an art reflecting the post-atomic status of a free-electron age, in which only pure poetry would be produced. This artist takes the direct route to truth by approximating literature to a free-electron status whereby words, the electron equivalents, are freed from the proton/neutron constraint of emotions/meanings, about which, in atomic writings, they invariably revolve. The artist who intimates of truth, however, takes the indirect route to it, since his use of illusion requires fidelity to grammatical conventions in the interests of a meaningful expression of this intimation. He approximates more closely to the modern philosopher, who also approaches truth indirectly ... through the medium of expression, albeit in a more intensively non-literary way than the artist.
BRENDAN: You are distinguishing, I presume, between a kind of lesser modern artist and a greater modern artist, as applying to the indirect and direct approaches to truth, conceived in literary terms.
NEAL: I am! And while the lesser artist approximates to the metaphysical philosopher, the greater artist approaches, in his predominantly abstract prose, the pure poet of the future absolute civilization, a civilization in which all forms of relative literature, including the most poetic of petty-bourgeois novels, would be taboo. Generally speaking, these two types of modern artist are relative to the distinction, within the wider parameters of bourgeois/proletarian civilization, between what I call mainstream petty-bourgeois culture on the one hand, and subsidiary petty-bourgeois culture on the other hand, so that, as a rule, the greater artist will be indigenous to the United States, the lesser one to Western Europe, with particular reference to Britain and France, which are fundamentally bourgeois nations influenced by, though not pioneering, petty-bourgeois trends.
BRENDAN: So you would contend that while the predominantly abstract tradition especially appertains to the United States, the illusory, or indirect, route to truth appertains more to the United Kingdom and France, thereby enabling us to distinguish between novelists, on the one hand, like William Burroughs, particularly with regard to works such as The Naked Lunch and The Soft Machine, and novelists, on the other hand, like George Orwell, whose 1984 must rank as one of the best examples of a novel's intimating, for its time, of what were then future trends, and thereby approaching truth indirectly - through the medium of literary expression.
NEAL: Yes, such a distinction is certainly apposite, although it will usually be found, with the British, that the intimation of future trends, as you put it, is less than objective, falling woefully short of optimism, as can also be borne out by such an illusory novel as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, with its nightmare projection of an envisaged artificial society of the future.
BRENDAN: Would you describe Huxley as generally a lesser artist?
NEAL: No, for apart
from the above-mentioned work the only novel I can think of which entails an
illusory projection of characters into a futuristic setting is Ape and Essence,
which focuses on the aftermath of a nuclear war, as affecting