The Artist . . . Must Drive To the Heart of Every Answer and Expose the Question the Answer Hides

James Baldwin? Salim Muwakkil? Leonard Shlain? Jeff Baysa? Edgar H. Sorrells-Adewale? Tom Barone? Alva Noë? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The commonly accepted answers to questions are sometimes flawed. Deeper and more truthful discoveries are concealed by shallow and misleading explanations. A germane assertion about the objective of art has been attributed to the prominent author and social critic James Baldwin:

The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been occluded by the answers.

Often the word “hidden” appears in the statement instead of “occluded”. I have been unable to find a solid citation for either statement. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: The 1962 collection “Creative America” included a piece by James Baldwin titled “The Creative Process”. Baldwin discussed the mindset and intentions of an artist within a society. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Society must accept some things as real; but he must always know that the visible reality hides a deeper one, and that all our action and all our achievement rests on things unseen. A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven. One cannot possibly build a school, teach a child, or drive a car without taking some things for granted. The artist cannot and must not take anything for granted, but must drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides.

QI conjectures that the statement under analysis evolved from the final sentence highlighted above. It is possible that Baldwin penned more than one version of this thought, but QI has not yet discovered a closer match to the target statement.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Artist . . . Must Drive To the Heart of Every Answer and Expose the Question the Answer Hides

Notes:

  1. 1962 Copyright, Creative America by John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry S, Truman et al, Chapter: The Creative Process by James Baldwin, Start Page 17, Quote Page 18 and 19, Published for the National Cultural Center by The Ridge Press, New York. (Verified with scans)

Fires Can’t Be Made with Dead Embers, Nor Can Enthusiasm Be Stirred by Spiritless Men

James Baldwin? James Mark Baldwin? Stanley Baldwin? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a quotation that begins with an assertion that fires cannot be made with dead embers. The quotation has often been credited to U.S. writer James Baldwin, but I haven’t been able to find a solid citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the “Elmira Star-Gazette” of New York in May 1942. The text was two sentences long, and it occurred within a box with a narrow black border. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Fires can’t be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men. Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labor into pleasant tasks.
—Baldwin.

The single-name attribution was ambiguous, and over the years the quotation has been ascribed to at least three different people: U.S. philosopher James Mark Baldwin, British politician Stanley Baldwin, and U.S. author James Baldwin. The current evidence is too weak to definitively identify the creator. One may hope that future research will help solve this mystery.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Fires Can’t Be Made with Dead Embers, Nor Can Enthusiasm Be Stirred by Spiritless Men

Notes:

  1. 1942 May 2, Elmira Star-Gazette, Enthusiasm (Filler item), Quote Page 8, Co Elmira, New York. (Newspapers_com)

One Writes Out of One Thing Only—One’s Own Experience

James Baldwin? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to the prominent author and social critic James Baldwin the craft of writing depends fundamentally on channeling experience. He employed the metaphorical phrase “the last drop, sweet or bitter”. Would you please help me to find a citation for his statement?

Quote Investigator: In 1955 James Baldwin published “Notes of a Native Son” which began with a section titled “Autobiographical Notes” containing the following passage. Emphasis added: 1

One writes out of one thing only—one’s own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give. This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art.

Below are additional selected citations.

Continue reading One Writes Out of One Thing Only—One’s Own Experience

Notes:

  1. 1964 (1955 Copyright), Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin, Chapter: Autobiographical Notes, Quote Page 4 and 5, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with scans)