Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Morning Reading: Steve Almond: "Remember who you are."

In The Rumpus, Steve Almond considers the New Yorker's recent Fiction Issue, in which they printed eight stories, along with their list of 20 Writers Under 40. Almond's essay is titled, "The New Yorker's One Over Forty."

He is a funny, smart guy that Steve Almond. I like that. A lot.

...I must now sadly interrupt this lovefest to confess one more thing: I found the 20 Under 40 issue totally depressing.

I could fabricate all kinds of supposedly legitimate reasons for this. I could say, “It’s a stunt that feeds the culture of literary celebrity.” Or, “It’s appalling that the New Yorker would privilege young writers in this way.”

But my reasons – like yours – are narcissistic and almost touchingly petty. I feel wounded...

...Your job as a fiction writer is to focus on your characters, and to ignore – to the extent you can – the rest of the bullshit. Your other option is to surrender to grievance, the very emotion state our Republican friends have used to infantilize this country.

Such feelings, how ever seductive, will do nothing to make your work any better. They are merely an old song you can’t shake.

It is perfectly natural – perhaps inevitable – to dream of being “discovered” and rocketed to the top of the Bestseller list. As Americans, we’ve been trained to dream in this way.

But the real life of a writer resides in showing up at the keyboard every day, with the necessary patience and mercy, and making the best decisions you can on behalf of your people. It’s a slow process. It often feels hopeless, more like an affliction than an art form.

Most of us will have to find our readers one by one, in other words, and against considerable resistance. If anything qualifies us as heroic, it’s that private perpetual struggle.

Put down the magazine, soldier. Forget about the other guy. Remember who you are.

To read the rest, click here.


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