Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Morning Reading: Dani Shapiro

In last Sunday's Los Angeles Times, I was pleased to discover Dani Shapiro's reference to a favorite essay of mine: Ted Solotaroff's "Writing in the Cold: the First Ten Years." Shapiro, like me, was a grad student in the late 1980's - and she and her friends, like me and mine, passed around Solotaroff's essay.

An excerpt from her essay, "A Writing Career Becomes Harder to Scale:"

Solotaroff wondered where all the talented young writers he had known or published when he was first editing New American Review had gone. Only a few had flourished. Some, he speculated, had ended up teaching, publishing occasionally in small journals. But most had just . . . given up. "It doesn't appear to be a matter of talent itself," he wrote. "Some of the most natural writers, the ones who seemed to shake their prose or poetry out of their sleeves, are among the disappeared. As far as I can tell, the decisive factor is what I call endurability: that is, the ability to deal effectively with uncertainty, rejection, and disappointment, from within as well as from without."

That was then. It's colder now, some twenty years later. Shapiro suggests that the problem is that the "emphasis is on publishing, not on creating. On being a writer, not on writing itself."

She finds solace in Solotaroff however:

How, under these conditions, can a writer take the risks required to create something original and resonant and true?

Perhaps there is a clue to be found near the end of Solotaroff's essay: "Writing itself, if not misunderstood and abused, becomes a way of empowering the writing self. It converts anger and disappointment into deliberate and durable aggression, the writer's main source of energy. It converts sorrow and self-pity into empathy, the writer's main means of relating to otherness. Similarly, his wounded innocence turns into irony, his silliness into wit, his guilt into judgment, his oddness into originality, his perverseness into his stinger."

To read the rest, click here.

**Please note: Dani Shapiro will be reading on Thursday February 25 at the Scape Gallery in Corona del Mar. Details on the sidebar.**

1 comment:

Robbi said...

Thanks Reb. That was a useful piece.

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