Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Defects Of Others

First here's Anne Lamont in her book of advice, Bird by Bird (via Ben Casnocha):
A person's faults are largely what make him or her likable. I like for narrators [of novels] to be like the people I choose for friends, which is to say that they have a lot of the same flaws as I. Preoccupation with self is good, as is a tendency toward procrasination, self-delusion, darkness, jealousy, groveling, greediness, addictiveness. They shouldn't be too perfect; perfect means shallow and unreal and fatally uninteresting.
Then here's Santiago Ramon y Cajal in the foreword to a later edition of his Advice for a Young Investigator (Swanson translation):
However, we decided not to undertake a detailed editing of this modest little product of youth. Whether good or bad, every book has a spiritual personality. The public knows this and demands that the author respect it; they do not want it replaced under the guise of improvement. And this could very easily happen today, when, on the threshold of old age, we appear (and occasionally are) somehow defective. It is precisely this feature that attracts the reader's attention and gains his sympathy--just as with men, we admire and respect books for their good qualities; but we can only love them for certain faults that they display.
It seems legit that in both friends and books (and is not a book a sort of friend?) we tend to prefer those with some defects, some sort of burden. Why might this be? Possibly it's because just anyone could like perfection, but it takes one's uniqueness to accept and even appreciate defects.