Only poverty or wealth for American writers?

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Jeff Potter

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Jan 31, 2003, 10:24:57 AM1/31/03
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Is there anything to be done about this?

Is there any way for a writer to make a garbageman's wages?

I keep seeing references to writing stars that say writing is either
poverty or crazy wealth. (Vonnegut and Michener, just two.)

Jim Harrison repeats the refrain, saying that he couldn't live on the
proceeds of all his famous novels which are all still in print.
Actually, now that he's in his 60's, he says that if he managed his
affairs OK that he could do it, but not even 10 years ago.

Somewhere in the new "Conversations" he says "You can't make a living
writing literature in this country."

That's something to be ashamed of. Also, to be terribly alarmed by. I
mean, literature is the best way a culture knows itself and its options.

---That's the classic definition. Nothing has replaced it. Instead we're

being quickly subverted. Power far more easily exploits today with our
dead literature, due largely to this inability to feed the writer.

OK, for a writer to not DIE today in the US, he must either TEACH (not
write) or go to Hollywood (not write). Both of these kill the writer in
other ways. They keep his body alive but kill his soul, first, then kill

the culture, second.

Books that are written with a screenplay option in mind are TERRIBLE
literature. They are HALVED from the start. It can't be done. It doesn't

work. It dies.

It's hilarious to see these books. Car chases and old-fart-bimbo sex
scenes pop up out of nowhere. Hilarious!

Well, we have some suggestions for changing all this at:
http://LiteraryRevolution.com .

--

Jeff Potter j...@outyourbackdoorNOSPAM.com
http://OutYourBackdoor.com -- a friendly ezine of modern folkways and
culture revival...offering a line of alternative books and a world of
bikes, boats, skis...plus shops for great sleeper books, videos and
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...plus nationwide "Off the Beaten Path" travel forums for local fun,
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David E. Latane

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Jan 31, 2003, 11:46:09 AM1/31/03
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On Fri, 31 Jan 2003, Jeff Potter wrote:

> Is there anything to be done about this?

No

>
> Is there any way for a writer to make a garbageman's wages?

Get a job as a garbageman. If like William Carlos Williams, you want to
make a pediatrician's wage, become a doctor, if you want to make a
professor's wage spend years getting a PhD . . . . oops.

>
> I keep seeing references to writing stars that say writing is either
> poverty or crazy wealth. (Vonnegut and Michener, just two.)
>

What do those old farts know?

> Jim Harrison repeats the refrain, saying that he couldn't live on the
> proceeds of all his famous novels which are all still in print.
> Actually, now that he's in his 60's, he says that if he managed his
> affairs OK that he could do it, but not even 10 years ago.
>

Who's Jim Harrison?

> Somewhere in the new "Conversations" he says "You can't make a living
> writing literature in this country."
>
> That's something to be ashamed of. Also, to be terribly alarmed by. I
> mean, literature is the best way a culture knows itself and its options.
>
> ---That's the classic definition. Nothing has replaced it. Instead we're

No, the classic definition is mediocribus esse poetas / non homines, non
di, non concessere columnae. . . .

>
> being quickly subverted. Power far more easily exploits today with our
> dead literature, due largely to this inability to feed the writer.

eh?

>
> OK, for a writer to not DIE today in the US, he must either TEACH (not
> write)

So how does $75,000 per annum for a creative writing prof who spends six
hours a week in the classroom seven months out of the year keep him from
writing?

or go to Hollywood (not write). Both of these kill the writer in
> other ways. They keep his body alive but kill his soul, first, then kill
>
> the culture, second.
>
> Books that are written with a screenplay option in mind are TERRIBLE
> literature. They are HALVED from the start. It can't be done. It doesn't
>
> work. It dies.
>

Did it ever occur to you that "Literature" and "Writer" are not synonymous
with "Novel" and "Novelist"?

D. Latane


Jeff Potter

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Jan 31, 2003, 2:33:50 PM1/31/03
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PS: My apology for all the lame repeat posts. My darn poster was balking,
faking, etc.

Jeff Potter

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Jan 31, 2003, 2:33:07 PM1/31/03
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"David E. Latane" wrote:

> On Fri, 31 Jan 2003, Jeff Potter wrote:
>
> > Is there anything to be done about this?
>
> No

Despite the snarky tone below, I'll answer.

So, there are no other possible models? The Germans for a long time have been
supporting small biz with stipends. Hmmm.... Or how about a simple expose? Do
you think the American public KNOWS that the flamekeepers of its culture
can't make a living?

> [ ]


> > being quickly subverted. Power far more easily exploits today with our
> > dead literature, due largely to this inability to feed the writer.
>
> eh?

Because real writers can't eat our literature is dead and power runs rampant.
Writing has a vital role to fill in society, as per my previous description
of the role of literature.

> > OK, for a writer to not DIE today in the US, he must either TEACH (not
> > write)
>
> So how does $75,000 per annum for a creative writing prof who spends six
> hours a week in the classroom seven months out of the year keep him from
> writing?

Messes with his head, I guess. None of them have been able to pull it off.
They tend to stop writing, write badly, get distracted by the game of
student-puppeteering. Oh, and they wouldn't give a writer even ONE CENT if he
was actually going to write something relevant with it. Instead they make
sure the really well trained dog jumps thru the hoop without being asked and
don't hire real writers in the first place. They vet, man! You don't think
so? What's the price of admission? Step one: leave your balls at the door. My
God, think what a real writer would do with the money. We get Yes-men,
instead. They write academic tracts to please the dean. Here's a cracker for
you, good boy!

> > Books that are written with a screenplay option in mind are TERRIBLE
> > literature. They are HALVED from the start. It can't be done. It doesn't
> > work. It dies.
>
> Did it ever occur to you that "Literature" and "Writer" are not synonymous
> with "Novel" and "Novelist"?

We're working on the poverty + writer issue here. Poetry has better income
potential? Hey, I'm all for it. Fix whichever one you like first. I suppose
songwriting pays best the past few decades compared to real novelizing or
real poetizing.

smw

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Jan 31, 2003, 3:49:46 PM1/31/03
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Jeff Potter wrote:

> "David E. Latane" wrote:
\


>>So how does $75,000 per annum for a creative writing prof who spends six
>>hours a week in the classroom seven months out of the year keep him from
>>writing?

>>
>
> Messes with his head, I guess.


Nah, the real answer is that it's not the six hours in the classroom
that keep him from writing, but the 57 hours spent doing committee work.

None of them have been able to pull it off.
> They tend to stop writing, write badly, get distracted by the game of
> student-puppeteering. Oh, and they wouldn't give a writer even ONE CENT if he
> was actually going to write something relevant with it. Instead they make
> sure the really well trained dog jumps thru the hoop without being asked and
> don't hire real writers in the first place. They vet, man! You don't think
> so? What's the price of admission? Step one: leave your balls at the door. My
> God, think what a real writer would do with the money. We get Yes-men,
> instead. They write academic tracts to please the dean. Here's a cracker for
> you, good boy!


You're going in circles. The moment you hired and paid writers to be
writers, they'd fall prey to the same institutional pitfalls as your
strawtarget writing professor. Assumed that your (quite appealing)
fantasy of the paid writer still involves some selection criteria, how's
the logic of the committee not going to apply?

Marko Amnell

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Jan 31, 2003, 3:47:43 PM1/31/03
to
smw wrote:

> Jeff Potter wrote:
>
>>>>So how does $75,000 per annum for a creative writing prof who
>>>>spends six hours a week in the classroom seven months out of
>>>>the year keep him from writing?
>
>> Messes with his head, I guess.
>
> Nah, the real answer is that it's not the six hours in the classroom
> that keep him from writing, but the 57 hours spent doing committee work.
>
>> None of them have been able to pull it off.
>> They tend to stop writing, write badly, get distracted by the
>> game of student-puppeteering. Oh, and they wouldn't give a
>> writer even ONE CENT if he was actually going to write something
>> relevant with it. Instead they make sure the really well trained
>> dog jumps thru the hoop without being asked and don't hire real
>> writers in the first place. They vet, man! You don't think so?
>> What's the price of admission? Step one: leave your balls at
>> the door. My God, think what a real writer would do with the
>> money. We get Yes-men, instead. They write academic tracts to
>> please the dean. Here's a cracker for you, good boy!
>
> You're going in circles. The moment you hired and paid writers to be
> writers, they'd fall prey to the same institutional pitfalls as your
> strawtarget writing professor.

Which is pretty much what happens in Finland, Switzerland, and
many other small European countries that hand out lots of government
money to young writers. It's all done to try to ensure the survival
of the national literature, but what government subsidizing of
writers produces is mediocrity, not quality. It's not the best
writers who get the hand outs, but those that are inside the charmed
circle of the committees that hand out the money. Finnish literature
today is dominated by boring socialist hyper-realist novels about
alcoholism, troubled youth, etc etc. But the quality of the Finnish
language on the printed page has been steadily declining since
the 1940s.

Government money does not produce a literary renaissance. A literary
renaissance either happens or does not happen in a particular
generation of writers in a particular country and depends on many
other more important factors than money. When does a culture produce
good writers? It's like asking why Elizabethan England produced
Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, etc? It was a moment in the history
of the country and the English language that allowed and inspired
good writing. The English language was just in the process of becoming
standardized, and the country was going through many other social
and political changes, which are difficult to analyze in detail,
but collectively inspired writers. But a rising income level for
writers was not the main factor.

tejas

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Jan 31, 2003, 5:10:12 PM1/31/03
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"Jeff Potter" <j...@outyourbackdoor.NOSPAMcom> wrote in message
news:3E3A9547...@outyourbackdoor.NOSPAMcom...

> Is there anything to be done about this?
>
> Is there any way for a writer to make a garbageman's wages?

Be a garbageman and write. Easy....


--
Ted Samsel

tbsa...@infi.net
http://home.infi.net/~tbsamsel


David E. Latane

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Jan 31, 2003, 5:11:33 PM1/31/03
to

On Fri, 31 Jan 2003, smw wrote:

>
>
> Jeff Potter wrote:
>
> > "David E. Latane" wrote:
> \
>
>
> >>So how does $75,000 per annum for a creative writing prof who spends six
> >>hours a week in the classroom seven months out of the year keep him from
> >>writing?
>
>
>
> >>
> >
> > Messes with his head, I guess.
>
>
> Nah, the real answer is that it's not the six hours in the classroom
> that keep him from writing, but the 57 hours spent doing committee work.

The 18th-c & Victorianists do all that.

D. Latane


David E. Latane

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Jan 31, 2003, 5:24:36 PM1/31/03
to

On Fri, 31 Jan 2003, Jeff Potter wrote:

> > So how does $75,000 per annum for a creative writing prof who spends six
> > hours a week in the classroom seven months out of the year keep him from
> > writing?
>
> Messes with his head, I guess. None of them have been able to pull it off.

But why would they want to pull off their heads? (Pronoun reference, -2)

What's you definition of a writer? I personally think Jacques Derrida is
one of the realist writers on the planet, and he's been an academic his
whole life. I just heard Raymond Federman (who's colleagues at Buffalo
included Robert Creeley) read--both of them qualify in my book. I could
name fifty others without stopping--including some your novel-centric view
of literature might even recognize.

It's true that most professors of creative writing do not produce works
that most people like me want to read.

> They tend to stop writing, write badly, get distracted by the game of
> student-puppeteering. Oh, and they wouldn't give a writer even ONE CENT if he
> was actually going to write something relevant with it. Instead they make
> sure the really well trained dog jumps thru the hoop without being asked and
> don't hire real writers in the first place. They vet, man! You don't think
> so? What's the price of admission? Step one: leave your balls at the door. My
> God, think what a real writer would do with the money. We get Yes-men,
> instead. They write academic tracts to please the dean. Here's a cracker for
> you, good boy!

It's true that most academics like me don't want to go around cleaning up
the incredible messes, forgotten classes, sexual harrassment lawsuits,
botched committee work, etc. for ego-manical prats who think they are a
"real writer with balls" (presumably ball-point pens--if you were making a
sexual reference I suggest you allude to the penis) so we do encourage the
hiring of decent human beings in the CRW slots.

>
> > > Books that are written with a screenplay option in mind are TERRIBLE
> > > literature. They are HALVED from the start. It can't be done. It doesn't
> > > work. It dies.
> >
> > Did it ever occur to you that "Literature" and "Writer" are not synonymous
> > with "Novel" and "Novelist"?
>
> We're working on the poverty + writer issue here. Poetry has better income
> potential? Hey, I'm all for it. Fix whichever one you like first. I suppose
> songwriting pays best the past few decades compared to real novelizing or
> real poetizing.

There's nothing wrong with poverty in my book.

D. Latane

ObBook, _The New Testament_

smw

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Jan 31, 2003, 6:41:29 PM1/31/03
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David E. Latane wrote:


Nonsense. Clearly, it's the junior Comparatists.

tejas

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Jan 31, 2003, 6:06:55 PM1/31/03
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"David E. Latane" <dla...@mail1.vcu.edu> wrote in message
news:Pine.SGI.4.33.0301311...@neptune.vcu.edu...

My old man said, "Money can't buy poverty.."

ObLeadbelly: POOR HOWARD

Wasp

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Feb 1, 2003, 4:47:01 AM2/1/03
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"Jeff"

JP> Is there anything to be done about this?

It's a common problem of writers all over the world, I suppose. At least, it
goes like this in Russia.

JP> Books that are written with a screenplay option in mind are TERRIBLE
JP> literature. They are HALVED from the start. It can't be done. It
JP> doesn't work. It dies.

JP> It's hilarious to see these books. Car chases and old-fart-bimbo sex
JP> scenes pop up out of nowhere. Hilarious!

One of the reasons why such literature (if it only may be called like this)
exists is that people twist it down and aren't going to give it up.

--
Wasp

Trinity

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Feb 2, 2003, 1:50:41 AM2/2/03
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"Jeff Potter" <j...@outyourbackdoor.NOSPAMcom> wrote in message
news:3E3A9547...@outyourbackdoor.NOSPAMcom...

This is not only-American-writers problem - to be honest. For centuries the
writers either were famous and rich or not. It has nothing to do with
nation. And to tell the truth - often it has nothing to do with talent.


Jeff Potter

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Feb 3, 2003, 1:18:32 PM2/3/03
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I hear ya about the problem of gov't money.

To start toward a fix I think the best thing we can do is to first admit the
reality of the situation. Expose the workings of publishing. Cast light on
the role of literature in society. Do this for the public and it might start
some kind of ball rolling. The solution may not be funding but it would
surely start with bringing publicity to bear on the situation. (Which is a
lot of what the ULA has been doing. See http://LiteraryRevolution.com.) I
guess times like the WPA created crap but they also resulted in some cool
stuff. At the same time, we had Henry Miller simply put his plight to the
public in a famous letter to the editor asking readers to send him, what,
thermoses and neckties? Something like that. He just wrote to the world that
he was starving. I don't know if that helped him, but it seems like casting
light on it is an essential start.

As for being a garbageman and writing, well, that's a good one and history is
full of the best artists who did some variation on this, as opposed to being
in the academy. But of course they did their best work the moment they were
freed by some means or another. It usually wasn't too secure, but they
finally got some way to walk away from the toll-booth operator job or
whatever it was and really busted out with their worldclass stuff.

I suppose there's no way to systemize a correction, but simply exposing the
situation might allow for individual solutions.

It seems like it's even more secretive and corrupt than the music biz, and
far less well known to be so.

Maybe tossing them all out on their ear (from grants and sinecures) would
force our society to pay more attention to the situation. That way our social
health could be more easily detected. "Oh look, another one in the gutter.
Hmm, maybe we ARE watching too much TV these days, honey."

I liked Crad Kilodney's four-year experiment in Toronto of selling his books
on the street. Of course he immediately became homeless. It gave his work a
certain edge, let's say. He had great placards: "Canadian Literature, Cheap.
$4." He was often highly rated and has a cult following, but darn it wasn't
enough to keep him out of the shrubbery. (http://www.jagular.com/crad/)

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