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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

on (not) being Mozart

I am a writer, so I should be able to write something in this space.

As I look back at this blog to posts two or three years ago, I myself am struck by how forthright and open I was about my working methods and my writing day. I know that for some years I harbored an idea of running a site that would let spectators in on the workings of the writer's mind while "in action" (if I might stretch the meaning of that phrase). Wouldn't it be cool to see how writers come up with stuff?

I think back to the play and movie Amadeus, in which the successful but second-rate court composer Salieri, burning with creative envy for the brilliant Mozart, contrives to "help" Mozart finish his last great piece. Mozart, lying sick in bed, dictates the score to Salieri, who scratches frantically at the chart-paper to keep up, trying to guess what's coming next. He is skilled enough to be able to write the music, but not gifted enough to be able to create it.

Salieri, I realize now, is an incarnation of Satan or Lucifer as he was eventually conceived by around New Testament times. This character, made famous more recently by John Milton in Paradise Lost, refused, out of pride, to bow down before Adam, God's crowning creation. He had been created sooner, and should not have to concede priority. He would rather be thrown out of heaven than bend his knee.

Satan's sin is held to be pride, but from his point of view he's a victim of injustice--God's injustice. Since it was axiomatic by that time that God was a just God, Satan had an irreconcilable problem. In a certain sense, you could say that Satan was the character with integrity, and as I type these words I find them very interesting indeed.

Salieri complains bitterly to God about His unfairness: that He had bestowed the gift of genius on a silly irreverent rascal like Mozart, while endowing Salieri, who truly loved both music and God, with only a mediocre talent. Why? It was senseless. It was unfair. So, like Lucifer, Salieri turns his back on God and decides to destroy His precious masterpiece, Mozart, just as Satan decided to tempt Adam away from his innocent thralldom to God.

Am I likening myself to Mozart? Or how about Salieri? I may not have Mozart's gifts, but I identify more with him. I was born on 24 January 1959; he was born on 27 January 1756--both in what some astrologers call the Week of the Genius (the first week of Aquarius). Of course, at my age I've already vastly outlived Mozart, who died at 35. I'm still barely getting started! More especially, I tend not to envy other people's abilities. If someone has done something excellent, I want to find out the secret, for I always secretly think I can do it, if I can just find out how. Hence my relentless study.

From another point of view, Salieri's real problem was that he could not accept the way things are--or the way he was. In any endeavor, someone is always going to be the greatest, and the overwhelming likelihood is that that person is not you. If you can't deal with that, then you really do suffer from the sin of pride, and the world--or God--will surely break you sooner or later.

Well. There, I've come up with a post after all.


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