Sunday, January 23, 2011
A shared ambition - across time
It sometimes seems to me like the world is chock full of people trying to get published, that one in ten people harbor a dream of being a novelist. With so many online resources for writers, including blogs and Twitter feeds like #litchat and #askagent, it's easy to be aware of large numbers of people who spend their days tapping away at the keyboard. It's inspiring but it can also be a little intimidating!
The popularity of literary dreams, of course, is not limited to the internet era. Nor is a widespread awareness of so many aspiring scribblers due only to our online connectivity. I've been reading Stella Tillyrand's Aristocrats, a historical novel very closely based on the lives and letters of the upper class Lennox sisters, living in the mid-18th century. In it she describes the refined social life of the oldest sister, Mrs. Fox: "Many of the Foxes' friends put themselves forward, in their own circle and sometimes on a more public stage, as wits and writers, and traded copies of their occasional verses."
I'm also reading Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners, in which she writes: "In the South there are more amateur authors than there are rivers and streams...In almost ever hamlet you'll find at least one lady writing epics in Negro dialect and probably two or three old gentlemen who have impossible historical novels on the way." That was 1957. This is clearly not a new phenomenon!
O'Connor is a good bit more dismissive than I feel. Even though most of us will not achieve the dream of publication, I think it's only for the good that we are out here writing away. As we strive to improve our writing we become, I think, more astute observers of humanity and, hopefully, more dedicated consumers of the arts. And the more of those we have as a society, the better!