[Marxism] Writing to Win by Tim Parks | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jan 11 16:32:45 MST 2014

Why do we have this uncritical reverence for the published writer? Why 
does the simple fact of publication suddenly make a person, hitherto 
almost derided, now a proper object of our admiration, a repository of 
special and important knowledge about the human condition? And more 
interestingly, what effect does this shift from derision to reverence 
have on the author and his work, and on literary fiction in general?

Every year, I teach creative writing to just a couple of students. These 
are people in their mid-twenties in a British post-graduate course who 
come to me in Italy as part of an exchange program. The prospect of 
publication, the urgent need, as they see it, to publish as soon as 
possible, colors everything they do. Often they will drop an interesting 
line of exploration, something they have been working on, because they 
feel compelled to produce something that looks more “publishable,” which 
is to say, commercial. It will be hard for those who have never suffered 
this obsession to appreciate how all-conditioning and all-consuming it 
can be. These ambitious young people set deadlines for themselves. When 
the deadlines aren’t met their self-esteem plummets; a growing 
bitterness with the crassness of modern culture and the mercenary 
nature, as they perceive it, of publishers and editors barely disguises 
a crushing sense of personal failure.

But we’re all aware of the woes of the wannabe. Less publicized is how 
the same mentality still feeds the world of fiction on the other side of 
the divide. For the day comes when wannabes, or at least a small 
percentage of them, are published. The letter, or phone call, or email 
arrives. In an instant life is changed. All at once you’re being 
listened to with attention, you’re on stage at literary festivals, 
you’re under the spotlight at evening readings, being invited to be wise 
and solemn, to condemn this and applaud that, to speak of your next 
novel as a project of considerable significance, or indeed to 
pontificate on the future of the novel in general, or the future of 

full: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/jan/11/writing-to-win/

More information about the Marxism mailing list