A Theory of the Artist

by Sam Lipsyte


Say it’s three small children on a beach. Say they share a blanket on the sand, all of them coloring in coloring books. The first child tenses, fidgets, shades only within the lines of the given form, a conch shell, a lighthouse. The second child, repulsed by external demands, pushes his crayon past the lines, appends the shapes, finds forms within forms, births a certain wildness heretofore unseen. The third child does not color at all. She has become distracted by the softness of her crayon, its hint of liquescence in the heat of the sun. She rolls it in her fingers, attempts to discern its properties. Three children. The question is which one of them is the artist? Is it the one who heeds the given, who tries to forge a brightness in limitude? Or is it the one who voyages beyond? Or perhaps it is the last child, who does nothing but contemplate the very instrument she wields. The answer, of course, is none of the above. There was a child who was the artist but she is dead, drowned in the sea only days ago. These children here are fiends, defilers of peace, rapers of souls. For now, they continue to color, or not to color, to look out into the endless waste of atoms. They see nothing but themselves. The sea crashes on. The sun makes a noise. The tide-brought corpse of the drowned girl may be wreathed with a kind of kale. She had not much promise.


Copyright © 2003 Sam Lipsyte.

Sam Lipsyte is the author of Venus Drive, a collection of stories, and The Subject Steve, a novel. He lives in New York.


 

 

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