Let’s take a moment to be jealous of other countries, shall we? In Iceland, “one in ten [residents] will publish something in their lifetime.” Norway’s government “buys 1,000 copies of every book a Norwegian author publishes. It provides a $19,000 annual subsidy to every author.” In Argentina, “the city of Buenos Aires now gives pensions to published writers.”
As John Steinbeck's classic Travels With Charley nears the half-century mark, a writer has retraced the author's cross-country journey and come to the conclusion that the resulting book was full of inaccuracies and outright fabrications. The journalist Bill Steigerwald, whose article appears in the current issue of the libertarian quarterly Reason, says he didn't set out to trash the Nobel laureate. "As a libertarian, I kind of liked the old guy," Steigerwald tells the New York Times. "He liked guns; he liked property rights."
Literary fame is a knotty thing. It’s hard to predict exactly who will be known for centuries, and why. William Wordsworth, for example, owes at least part of his fame to the Lake District, which started to use him in their tourist campaigns not long after his death. In The New Yorker, Joshua Rothman takes a look at H.J. Jackson’s Those Who Write for Immortality. Related: Gina Fattore’s recent essay on fame and money.
"I thought there were would be more in this writing life, an easier path to walk. I write those words and know they are the unwise thoughts of my younger self and that I am still too stubborn to give up on my dreams. When Annie Dillard invited me outside for that smoke, she knew very well what it would mean to a young writer like me. She intuited my ambitions and it was her way of encouraging me." This essay is ostensibly about smoking cigarettes and playing catch with Annie Dillard, but it's also about the incredibly important role that an established writer can play in helping a struggling up-and-comer.
"Barbarian Days by William Finnegan. Made me realize my whole life has been pretty much a waste. I suspected this anyway; he explained why: because I’d not surfed." Geoff Dyer over at the New York Times on the best book he's read recently. Our own Janet Potter interviewed Dyer on the release of his most recent book, White Sands.