A-holes: What kind of writer are you?

A-holes: What kind of writer are you?

I’ve been away for a long time, my beloved friends. A new day job and the weird, twilight frenzy of revising my novel (if you go into the dictionary and look up the word “palimpsest,” I’m sure it says “for an example, see Nick’s book”) — it has been impossible for me to keep up, and I’m sorry for that.  I miss my friends here on WP and beyond.

Even if I haven’t felt capable of posting an original thought on Call of the Siren, I have been capable of reading other people’s thoughts … like Seamus Perry’s piece in the TLS,Angry, Difficult D.H. Lawrence.”  Lawrence was not the kind of writer you would want to get close to; Richard Aldington, Perry writes, said Lawrence had a “wounding capacity for not adapting himself to others.”

Perry’s piece gives us one kind of writer; I’m also reminded of Evelyn Waugh’s cold attitude to his children if they played too loudly and disturbed Daddy; I’m also reminded of a former professor friend meeting the author of The Once and Future King, T.H. White, and finding him to be the complete opposite of the generous, compassionate, bemused narrator that my friend cherished in that book (the photo accompanying this post shows White during a lecture at Boston College).  This leads to a simple conclusion.

Writers can be real a-holes.

So can plenty of other people, of course, and my own prolonged experience of trying to get my gothic novel right … I almost said “ordeal” instead of “experience” … has been good.  I’ve learned a lot.  It’s given me a chance to think about what it means to be a writer from the writer’s chair, not from the point of view of the admirer/critic/reader/outsider.

When my “litel bok” finally leaves its maker behind, I think he (meaning: me) will be far more patient and sympathetic than he was before; far more supportive of others; far more self-deprecating, too … because this whole process has taught me more about how little I know than about anything else.  I can’t imagine what geniuses like Lawrence must feel from their Olympian heights; the air up there must be so thin that it’s difficult to breathe.

Maybe that, finally, is what turns/turned so many of them into a-holes.  I’m glad it hasn’t come easy to me.

Onward, my beloved friends.

4 responses

  1. You know, NIck, some of what I’ve learned about you from following you on various media is that 1. You’re happily married; 2. You’re a pretty nice guy all together. I’m also happily married and have a family I love and pay attention to. Yes, my guys are all grown, but I still have them all in my life. I adore my husband who supports even the cranky me. And I have responsibilities to the nonprofit on which I’m still, after all these years, the VP and in charge of grants and head of a young committee of grants writers, shepherding them along. All of which takes time away from my curmudgeon-self who just wants to be alone to struggle with words and ideas. I really hate being cold in the winter but cherish the down and quiet time to just be the cranky writer. No yard work, no housework, no calls from outside the house. D.H. Lawrence, White, and most other genius writers didn’t have happy homes. They brooded. You’re not a brooder, I expect, but I do think you’re a fine writer. And I expect, in the final analysis, all of the brooders wrote to understand themselves better. So you’re already ahead of the game. Just play. That’s all that’s really important. Although I “finished” the memoir a year ago, it still doesn’t have an agent let alone a publisher, and when I go back to look at it from time to time, I find, once again, places where I can deepen the ideas or characters. So plug away my friend. As always, if you want a kindly critical reader, send me something. J.

  2. “Just play” — I love it. I am so glad I posted on the blog again Janet just to read your reflections. I hope other folks see your comments because I know these are beneficial for more than just me. You’re right … the people I named didn’t have happy homes and that makes sense that they’re writing was an effort to make sense of who they were.

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