Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Thoughts Exactly

New York Times guest columnist Timothy Egan:

The unlicensed pipe fitter known as Joe the Plumber is out with a book this month, just as the last seconds on his 15 minutes are slipping away. I have a question for Joe: Do you want me to fix your leaky toilet?

I didn’t think so. And I don’t want you writing books. Not when too many good novelists remain unpublished. Not when too many extraordinary histories remain unread. Not when too many riveting memoirs are kicked back at authors after 10 years of toil. Not when voices in Iran, North Korea or China struggle to get past a censor’s gate. . . .

Most of the writers I know work every day, in obscurity and close to poverty, trying to say one thing well and true. Day in, day out, they labor to find their voice, to learn their trade, to understand nuance and pace. And then, facing a sea of rejections, they hear about something like Barbara Bush’s dog getting a book deal.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Joe" has written a book? Excellent! Not having seen his book, one can not say if it will or will not find merit in the marketplace. That will be determined by those who buy the book.

Should "Joe" return to fixing leaky pipes and leave writing to others? No. There are plenty of people writing books and even fixing pipes who would be better off doing something else with their lives. "Joe" should be applauded for having the initiative and courage to seize an opportunity.

When it comes to writing, "Joe" and others like him should be encouraged. It does not matter if one particular person or group of persons want "Joe" writing. They are not the ones who decide if "Joe" should write. We are. "Joe" has convinced a publisher that his is a book that will interest book buyers. And ultimately book buyers will decide what will be the outcome of "Joe's" venture into writing.

This is of course not fair. It is not "fair" that there unpublished novelist and unpublished memories. It is not fair that totalitarian regimes censor writers. It is not fair that writers struggle with obscurity, poverty and rejection. In a similar manner it is not fair that by virtue of ties of family or friends, heritage admissions to prestigious universities and well placed connection some individual enjoy opportunities and outcomes not equally available to all persons. But success in writing is not about fairness. Success in writing is about writing. Making money at it is another matter. If book buyers purchase a book written by a dog, take heart. There are people who purchase books written by community activist.

5:43 AM  

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