Lipton’s Journal/December 31, 1954/125

From Project Mailer

I am getting whole bodies of inchoate thoughts about Time, Time which is the conceptual chain of society, just as Space is the domain of the soul and the saint, and Force the arm of the psychopath. But it seems to me, as the transcription of the Lipton notes from last night will show here and there, that past of the crisis of the novel is that it uses society’s concept of Time which means that the novel cannot liberate itself from Society and truly set out on what is its noble aim—to be the searcher for the meaning of human nature. When we condense Time, when we select—which is the word taught in all writing courses, we are using the trick by which society conceals the nature of man, we condense, we say of a man that he is a bad man, and fifty years of his life are put into a word. The movements of his soul with and against society are taken from us.

Perhaps the secret to writing a great novel is to deliver oneself from Time, as I first dimly glimpsed it in my eight part novel—in other words we go beyond the limits of time by devoting a thousand pages let us say to all that goes on in a man in a day, an hour, or ideally, given sufficient genius, in an instant. That was what Joyce was working toward, and Proust, and in lesser degree Mann and Gide—and that is why we sense their greatness.[1] But now to the notes of last night.


  1. Four of the great novelists into whose company Mailer in his thirties hoped to join. Dostoyevsky, Stendhal, Tolstoy, Kafka, Faulkner and Hemingway were also part of his desired peer group. See Advertisements for Myself, 477.