15 September 2009

The man who makes personal contacts with his fellows
runs the risk of being laughed at if he is ridiculous; of being contradicted if what he says happens to be untrue or to displease his hearers; of being knocked down if he is offensive; and of being simply disregarded, ignored, and disbelieved if he happens to lack the impressive personality which commands attention and inspires respect.

The writer, on the contrary, runs no such risks. He is promoted from mere humanity and has attained the apotheosis of the printed word, which still preserves something of the talismanic and supernatural quality which letters and symbols, hieroglyphs and formulas have possessed from the remotest beginnings of civilization.

Concealing his merely human physique and personality, the author presents himself to the world disguised in the magic and pontifical robes of pure verbiage. To the eyes of the multitude he offers not his own insignificant form but a vast and majestic dummy of paper ...

-- Aldous Huxley, Vanity Fair (1928) [abridged here by ET], from "Complete Essays, Vol. II: 1926-1929," ed. Robert S. Baker and James Sexton (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000).

No comments: