I originally blogged this on my previous blog (now gone) back on January 11, 2011. This follows up on yesterday’s post about the writer’s life. I think it is a shame the way that writers (and actors and many creative professions) have to face the feast or famine reality attached to pursuing a creative life. I have often wondered why super rich actors or producers don’t bargain for a better pay ratio for everyone working on their movies. (Same thing with football players related to stadium workers.) Anyway, we have met the creators of the have and have nots in America, and it is us.
A Story About Toothpaste
A writer said the following about his days with no money. “I had no money – I mean none… I had run out of toothpaste, and I was wondering what to do when I went to the mailbox and there was a free sample.” The writer was Cormac McCarthy, and the interview was after his tenth novel was published. That novel, his post-apocalyptic The Road, won him the Pulitzer Prize. His point was to say there was something magical about choosing a writer’s life.
An article from The Sunday Times in 2008 said this about his writing. “McCarthy’s books were, and are, implacably grim and violent. They are also stylistically challenging, often plotless, lacking traditional punctuation and arcane in their vocabulary. And McCarthy did nothing to publicise them or himself. As ‘the most celebrated recluse in American literature since JD Salinger’, he refuses to go on book tours, won’t teach or lecture….”
I’d like to believe in the magic of choosing a writer’s life, but mostly the belief in magic is borne out of surviving without much money compared to others. In America especially, there is a malicious indifference toward writers and creative people. Perhaps that is why so much literature coming out of America is dark, horrific and apocalyptic. It’d be nice if that were different, but it’s not. Writers are in many ways ‘gatekeepers of the craziness’ in the world. Reveal too much, and you are castigated and cast out. Reveal too little or not make it easily digestible, and you face the malicious indifference.
I’m not saying Cormac McCarthy is a great writer or a hero of mine. I’m just noting something about how America treats its writers.