Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Success in obscurity

“There’s success in obscurity,” claims a recent article in The Guardian Weekly  (Nov 5 - Dec 5 2013). Lionel Shriver, apparently, has been writing of the woes of the commercially successfully author and growing nostalgic for the days when “the books were still fun to write, even if nobody read them.” The article muses on writers whose early success set them up for later failure (Ralph Ellison, Scott Fitzgerald), writers whose egos get seriously out of control (Martin Amis – Gert gave a loud cheer when she read this), and on writers who might be said to have benefited from obscurity (Kafka) or whose work got better even as their sales declined (James, Melville).

Is this consolation, as The Guardian says, for the many writers as yet unpublished? Probably not. Even those of us who genuinely did start writing for the fun of it get contaminated by the desire to have our work publicly recognized. And what is that desire all about? It’s surely not any expectation of great fame and riches. Maybe it’s just what fond parents want - for everyone to like their children as much as they do themselves.

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