Aphorisms are unpolished, unedited thoughts, straight out of the mental oven — errors in my argument or things that don’t make sense are likely and your pointing them out would be more than welcome. 

The three circles discussed in this article. Note that these are mainly authors of the last century, and that I do not accept all of them: for instance, I believe Kurt Vonnegut should be far closer to heart than he currently is.

All true literature can be roughly divided into one of three areas, or specialties, or fields that it is very notable or masterful in, and these three areas thus form the triumvirate of writing: the three areas are moral or philosophical meaning / significance, emotion or feeling or humanity invoked by the work, or the verbal and stylistic talent of the writer. What I mean by these three is very simple, and is illustrated quite splendidly by the picture that accompanies this aphorism: authors can be grouped into Head, Mouth, and Heart, with obvious overlaps between the two. Now, in my opinion, the ultimate goal of all writers should not be to shirk any one of the three elements of the triumvirate, such as writers like Nabokov (who “detested” metaphor, symbolism, or lessons in writing) did, but to aim for a perfect balance between the three, as was achieved by the great James Joyce in the novel Ulysses before he descended into schizophrenia and sloppiness and tended towards the Mouth side of the triumvirate. Note also that my favorite author, David Foster Wallace, is fairly close to the center.

Why is it necessary for the truest and most beautiful works of literature to be positioned in the center of the three circles? Because without elements of all three circles, a work of writing is severely flawed: note, for instance, the position of Russian author and curmudgeon “philosopher” Ayn Rand at the farthest end of the Head circle: her works are dry, with clear-cut right-angled philosophical meaning, and lack both genuine emotion or any true beautiful style. Works by authors like the narcotics addict William S. Burroughs have a seat deep into the Mouth circle, for their works follow no clear structure and instead focus on generating shocking or obscene images and mastering the flow of the river of verbal beauty; these authors seek to perfect their writing style, while at the same time starving their books of any lasting meaning or emotion, and preventing them from benefiting the reader in any major sense. The Heart authors are the most difficult to pin down, elusive and abstract (and devoid of many names) as their circle is, but if we take the works of the poet Bukowski for example, one can see that these poems generate much emotion in their readers, usually without the aid of many large words or stylistic tricks, and yet they lack a certain sophistication or complexity that most great works of literature have; is that decodable nature of Joyce’s Ulysses that contributes to how enchanting critics / readers / scholars have found it for a while.

Now, where do I place myself, as a writer, on this circle? Ideally in the center, of course, but where am I now? The philosophical meaning of my works is present and decodable, though not exactly complex (and certainly not original thoughts on my part), and people generally admire me as a writer for my style, for how many words I know (though none of what I write is truly beautiful, such as things that Burroughs has written). I have always had trouble with invoking true emotion in my readers; perhaps the emotion is obscured by the Mouth. This places me in a relative position of close to Gertrude Stein, but in no way do I think I am her equal in writing; this is simply a relative placement, not taking into account any of the writers on the circles.

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