Tag Archives: Hanya Yanagihara

Loneliness of the photographer

. . . [I]f love belongs to the poet, and fear to the novelist, then loneliness belongs to the photographer. To be a photographer is to willingly enter the world of the lonely, because it is an artistic exercise in invisibility. In the course of its relatively brief history, photography (and, by extension, those who take photographs) has been accused repeatedly of constituting an act of predation, as if the street is a savannah and the person with a camera a large cat, silent and hungry, ready to sprint after its next meal. In reality, though, the person with the camera is not hiding but receding. She is willfully removing herself from the slipstream of life; she is making herself into a constant witness, someone who lives to see the lives of others, not to be seen herself. Writing is often assumed to be the loneliest profession, but solitude should not be confused for loneliness: one is a condition we choose, the other is a condition that is forced upon us. A writer creates a world, and she is the ruler of it; the photographer moves through the world, our world, hoping for anonymity, hoping she is able to humble herself enough to see and record what the rest of us—in our noisy perambulations, in our requests to be heard—are too present to our own selves to ever see. To practice this art requires first a commitment to self-erasure.

Hanya Yanagihara, Loneliness Belongs To The Photographer, JULY 10, 2016, The New Yorker

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The necessity of imperfection, making mistakes

The novelist, Hanya Yanagihara reflects on bravery 

‘I began thinking of what “brave” meant when someone, a reader, told me my book was brave. I thanked him, because although I wasn’t sure what inspired the compliment, I knew it was indeed one. Later, I thought about what he might mean: was it because the book was unexpected (but that’s not bravery, at least not in my interpretation of the word)? When we say a novel is brave, what do we mean?

I sometimes wonder if what we’re really trying to praise is not the subject matter or the politics or even the aesthetics of the book, but the author’s ability, or even just willingness, to be impolite, to be messy, to be extravagant on the page. A novel can be perfect in its structure, in its logic, in its composure, but the most memorable novels, the most electrifying, are the ones that understand the necessity of imperfection, of ragged edges, of being distasteful, of making mistakes, of being demanding of the reader.


And yet, as readers, don’t we read fiction exactly to be upset? A novel, in its truest form, is a questioning of what it means to be human, of what a life is. But what makes it different from, say, a work of philosophical inquiry is, among other things, the way it uses (or misuses, or differently uses) language and, second, the particular sense of discomfiture it can provide. Not that a novel needs to disturb or dismay or unsettle in order to mesmerise or provoke, but it does, or should, force us to reconsider, to rethink. The fiction writer’s bravery, then, is her dedication to never second-guessing the reader, even at the risk of her own book’s likability; the reader’s bravery is allowing himself to trust the writer, to surrender himself to the world she has created.’

Hanya Yanagihara: ‘Don’t we read fiction exactly to be upset?’ The Guardian, Friday 4 March 2016 (from here) 


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The relationship between love and fear

“I have never been one of those people—I know you aren’t, either—who feels that the love one has for a child is somehow a superior love, one more meaningful, more significant, and grander than any other. I didn’t feel that before Jacob, and I didn’t feel that after. But it is a singular love, because it is a love whose foundation is not physical attraction, or pleasure, or intellect, but fear. You have never known fear until you have a child, and maybe that is what tricks us into thinking that it is more magnificent, because the fear itself is more magnificent. Every day, your first thought is not “I love him” but “How is he?” The world, overnight, rearranges itself into an obstacle course of terrors. I would hold him in my arms and wait to cross the street and would think how absurd it was that my child, that any child, could expect to survive this life. It seemed as improbable as the survival of one of those late-spring butterflies—you know, those little white ones—I sometimes saw wobbling through the air, always just millimeters away from smacking itself against a windshield.”  Hanya Yanagihara,  A Little Life 


and then this on the death of a child..


“…when your child dies, you feel everything you’d expect to feel, feelings so well-documented by so many others that I won’t even bother to list them here, except to say that everything that’s written about mourning is all the same, and it’s all the same for a reason – because there is no read deviation from the text. Sometimes you feel more of one thing and less of another, and sometimes you feel them out of order, and sometimes you feel them for a longer time or a shorter time. But the sensations are always the same.

But here’s what no one says – when it’s your child, a part of you, a very tiny but nonetheless unignorable part of you, also feels relief. Because finally, the moment you have been expecting, been dreading, been preparing yourself for since the day you became a parent, has come.

Ah, you tell yourself, it’s arrived. Here it is.

And after that, you have nothing to fear again.”

Hanya Yanagihara,  A Little Life 


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