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A good writer cannot be replaced

Wednesday 8/2/23

Read Clifford D. Simak's Way Station from 1963, a kind of blending of science fiction and nature writing. Good idea, but inchoate. The novel lacks direction, and then it just kind of ends, such that you skim backwards to see if you missed a chunk.

Also listening to an audiobook version of M.R. James stories, as read by Jonathan Keeble. I'm knocked out by his abilities as a reader. The different voices he does. It really is impressive. I'm just absorbing these stories, listening to them again and again. Going to sleep with them on.

Reading a middling account, too, of the Celtics' 1990-91 season, but it's written in this old boys network kind of way. Has chummy references to Bob Ryan, for instance.

This is one of those books--and this is how most nonfiction books are--where whatever value there is is in the quotes, because the writer has nothing going on in their game, as it were. It's a bad kind of reading in which the author is superfluous. They're not even writing, just presenting the quotes and factoids. Anyone could be doing this book who rounded up the quotes and factoids.

Then, people come to expect this with nonfiction books, and they rail against writing when someone actually dares to do some writing. Peter Guralnick writes this way, if you want to call it that. Factoids and quotes. Which is why I see no value in what he does. He does round ups. Rounds ups aren't writing. I want depth. Ideas. Voice. To be moved. Compelled. To feel. To think. I want writing. If you are not moving the fuck out of me--and that can take all forms--I have no interest and maintain there is no point. Or a very limited point. And if anyone else can go out there and do what that writer does, that's not writing to me either. A good writer cannot be replaced by anyone or anything.

I'm frustrated how long it's taking me to do everything and get things finished, but that's part of the problem of how it goes when you have to do so many things simultaneously.

I can't just work on one thing thinking, "This will fix the problem." Realistically, I know right now that nothing I do will make any difference. As I've said, I could write a story that also cures cancer. It's not going to matter. Right now.

So while living with that knowledge I'm also trying to do everything at once. Which is obviously an awful state of affairs.

I say such and such is taking me so long, but I also know that that thing I did in one day would take someone else years to do. But I am not these other writers and I am not trying to do what they do.

Publishing people are many things, but they are almost always frauds and they have no more interest in writing and/or literature than someone who doesn't read at all (and generally less, because that latter person is more inclined to care if they somehow came across and read something that they could love).

They could see the greatest work ever written, and they'd hold it against the person who wrote it, because in order to write it, that person would have to be completely unlike them. But when one of their own posts on Facebook that she's at MacDowell--and of course adds that it's "magical"--and has no ability whatsoever, they just about sprain their finger hitting that like button.

That's the stuff to these people. It's not good writing. It's this nonsense. You know what's magical? Writing something that no one else could write that can make a difference in someone's life and lives forever. These people have no idea what that even means.

If you were any good at writing you wouldn't be at some writer's colony. You'd never go. You'd never consider going. You'd be off writing something amazing, and you'd laugh at people like this, because it's impossible to have less of a clue than they do. It's always the same kind of person doing the posting, and always the kind of people doing that liking. And they're always as fake, talentless, and insubstantial as it gets. Of course, they're then just given things. Book deals, awards, Guggenheims, etc. For that is how this works. Charity for privileged broken people without any abilities who are as clannish and closed in upon themselves as can be.

It's that time of the year when members of this group who write next to nothing, publish even less--because even with cronies in place to hook you up, you still need to actually type a little--post photos of themselves from beaches in the Hamptons. One might wonder where the money comes from. Many of these people are independently wealthy. They come from money. That's supposed to be one of secrets of this culture, but it's not all that hidden if you think about it, or look into what most of these people do, or don't do, as it were. Then one thinks, what the hell are you doing all day?

As fall approaches, I find myself wanting to reread Sloane's To Walk the Night for what must be like the fiftieth time. There is a press that does a version of the 33 1/3 series, but for a book. It's a book that means a lot to an author, and then they write a book about that book. I pitched To Walk the Night. I did my homework. I knew a lot about how things came to be there--why they came to be, I should say. I knew a lot about the editor and the person who headed up this particular series at this press. All of that will be documented in these pages. They can be a great place to be, these pages. But they can also be not so great. The common denominator, though, is truth. This record stands for truth. Other things, too. But it never strays from truth.

I think I may also reread E.M. Delafield's Diary of a Provincial Lady soon, which was the first novel in her Provincial Lady series. It's a very enjoyable, different book. I probably read it for the first time twenty years ago. Came out in 1930. It's what it says it is--a diary of an English woman and her household in Devon. She's imaginative. The humor can be sly, and it's always smart. I like books that feel like companions. To Walk the Night is that way because of the narrator Bark and (most of) the relationships in the story. A Christmas Carol has that companionable quality. In nonfiction, there are Thoreau's journals.


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