I finally found the perfect expression of the difference between serious writers and those scriveners who write purely for money. So maybe now I can stop sounding like a grumpy old elitist and let everyone do their own thing. I started reading John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist, last night and found his unashamedly elitist statement of what I’d call value.
I write (meaning this book) for those who desire, not publication at any cost, but publication one can be proud of–serious, honest fiction, the kind of novel that readers will find they enjoy reading more than once, the kind of fiction likely to survive.
A little later on:
This book is for the beginning novelist who has already figured out that it is far more satisfying to write well than simply to write well enough to get published.
I’m also reading Dying for Ireland: The Prison Memoirs of Roger Casement. It’s a fictionalization of the last years of an extraordinary man who was hung for treason as a participant in the Irish Easter uprising, one of the many martyrs of British imperialism. It’s a well-written book that makes me want to read more about Casement. Incidentally, I looked up the book on Amazon to learn more about the author and found that the subtitle has been changed to The Last Years of Roger Casement.
It might be coincidental that I have on my Amazon wish list a book about the horrors that took place in the Congo under the reign of King Leopold of Belgium, horrors that Casement tried to expose. King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. As usual, I’m eager to read it, but I’ve already bought five books this month, and have dozens waiting to be read, so it will have to wait.
The most recent purchase, just this morning, is The Public Burning, by Robert Coover, a wild political satire from the 70s. After reading the review in The Daily Beast, I just had to have it.
The book diet that I planned to go on last month probably didn’t last more than a week or so. Total damage: ten books from Amazon, and goodness only knows how many from the Salvation Army.