Tuesday March 16th, 2010

Get a Job

The new issue of the lovely Lapham’s Quarterly is out, and the subject is Arts & Letters. Included on the web site is a letter from Norman Maclean to an editor at Knopf that ends with this:

I can now only weakly say this: if the situation ever arose when Alfred A. Knopf was the only publishing house remaining in the world and I was the sole remaining author, that would mark the end of the world of books.

The site also features a chart detailing the day jobs of writers like Kafka and Trollope. Which brought to mind the conclusion of this recently read blog post:

Let’s be frank. Freeing authors of fiction from the bonds of real-world drudgery has had some negative consequences. It’s allowed too many to take themselves more seriously than they deserve. It’s provided opportunities for gross self-indulgence and solipsism. It’s sharpened authorial susceptibility to flattery that weakens the writer’s ability to see and hear the world everyone else still inhabits. And it’s encouraged the cultivation of personal eccentricities that might have added charm and savor to their work if nurtured in open air and clean soil, but which turn the hot house of writerly isolation into a little shop of horrors. Maybe it’s better to remove entirely the temptation to write for a living. Maybe it’s better to write for pleasure, or out of compulsion. If dear old Updike, for example, had been required to teach forty hours a week at a school for underprivileged boys, he might only have written half as many books as he did. But, after all, there were some we could have done without.