Monday, November 07, 2005

The Literati Darling Who Doesn’t Have a Dime…

Jennifer Weiner’s blog entry confirms something that I’ve suspected for a while now.

Readers are truly the only people who matter once your book is published.

Literary plaudits count for nothing if people aren’t buying your books.

Jennifer writes about the plight of
Mary Gaitskill, a highly acclaimed author, who as we speak is currently one of the finalists for the National Book Award. To put it quite bluntly, she’s broke. A fact which seems to have surprised Jennifer herself, as apparently, Gaitskill was the very reason why she started writing (so she says, I’m sure there were much better reasons really).

Jennifer quotes from the NYT article:

On weekends Gaitskill shares a rented house in Rhinebeck, New York with her husband. During the week “she lives in a student dormitory at Syracuse University, where she teaches creative writing, an arrangement that is both cost-effective and loud. "But what can you really do?" Ms. Gaitskill said. "You can't tell an 18-year-old to keep it down and turn off Britney Spears or whatever it is that they listen to.”

Wow, can you imagine Nora Roberts living in a one up-one down, eating two day old pizza, gurgling on Heineken, and bopping out to Justin Timberlake? No, neither can I.

Jennifer adds:

"But Gaitskill was one of the writers who made me believe that I could be a writer, too, and her characters, while creepy, live and breathe on the page. If she’s in debt and living in a doom room trying to write over the noise of Britney Spears, there’s something wrong with the modern-day patronage system that I always figured was working pretty well."

I guess it only works if enough people buy your books.

So for those romance authors who are able to actually earn a living off writing, yet insist on bemoaning their lack of respect from outside the genre, this is what I have to say to you:


If I had to choose between being a Nora Roberts, and being a Marilynne Robinson (Pulitzer prize author of ‘Gilead’), I sure know who I’d choose.

In conclusion, in my ever-so-humble opinion, the readers who vote with their hard-earned cash, are the only people you authors need to concern yourself with, everything else is just there for shits and giggles.