The Individual is Irrelevant to Art

From The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art by Joyce Carol Oates:


"JCO" is not a person, nor even a personality, but a process that has resulted in a sequence of texts. Some of the texts are retained in my (our) memory, but some have bleached out, like pages of print left too long in the sun. Many of the texts have been translated into foreign languages, which is to say into texts at another remove from the primary - sometimes even the author's name, on the dust jacket of one of those texts, is unrecognizable by the author. I, on the contrary, am fated to be "real" - "physical" - "corporeal" - to "exist in Time." I continue to age year by year, if not hour by hour, while "JCO," the other, remains no fixed age - in spiritual essence, perhaps, forever poised between the fever of idealism and the chill of cynicism, a precocious eighteen years old. Yet, can a process be said to have an age? - an impulse, a strategy, an obsessive tracery, like planetary orbits to which planets, "real" planets, must conform?

No one wants to believe this obvious truth: the "artist" can inhabit any individual, for the individual is irrelevant to "art." (And what is "art"? - a firestorm rushing through Time, arising from no visible source and conforming to no principles of logic or causality.)