Thursday, August 23, 2007

Brits & Yanks, Reading & Writing

From two separate articles in The Guardian:
More Britons dream about becoming an author than any other job, according to a new survey.
A quarter of U.S. adults say they read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll.
And on the paper's books blog, John Crace reacts to that first bit of news with some undiluted cynicism:
Most book manuscripts end up unwanted and unread on publishers' and agents' slush piles, and the majority of those that do make it into print sell fewer than 1,000 copies. ... It's not even as if writing is that glamorous. You sit alone for hours on end honing your deathless prose, go days without really talking to anyone and, if you're very lucky, within a year or so you will have a manuscript that almost no one will want to read. Your friends and family will come to dread requests for constructive feedback - which they know really means just saying, "This is far better than Amis or McEwan" - and if, by some small chance, you do land a book deal you will spend the week of publication wondering why your book isn't piled up at the front of Waterstones and why you haven't even picked up a single, measly review in the local paper. ... One of the pleasures - and nightmares - of writing is that most of us can do it. Anyone with basic literacy skills can get a meaningful sentence down on a page. And, taken on its own, any one person's sentence may look not much different than one knocked out by Margaret Forster, so you can begin to see why people start thinking of writing as their creative way out. It's only when you've got several paragraphs of sustained writing that you begin to see the difference. ... So, by all means, write, if you enjoy it. But, if you value your sanity - and that of any readers - keep it to yourself. Keep the dream; just don't give up the day job.
And in a long string of responses, one commenter tackles Crace head-on:
John Crace sounds like someone who has just managed to make a living out of writing, but is aware that he is not a writer, has realised that, in that middle bottle time of his life, and speaks out to all the wannabe writers that populate the blogs: "uh, if I was a young guy like you I wouldn't get into writing - that's a tough racket, you know."


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