“The Ecstasy of Influence,” Jonathan Lethem, from The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, etc.. Read it here.
Here, Lethem discusses not just the shifty concept of plagiarism in fiction, but the anxiety of appropriating pop culture, copyright, Disney, the power of a gift economy, the idea of a “commons of cultural materials,” art of all forms. A must-read for any contemporary creator, especially if you’ve ever nicked a line from a favorite book.
“Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master. That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself. Finding one’s voice isn’t just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos. Any artist knows these truths, no matter how deeply he or she submerges that knowing.”