Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blogging for the Pulitzer

I really don't think they give out Pulitzer Prizes for blogging. If they do, something tells me I likely won't be on the short list to get one. I think more that five people have to read your stuff before you are considered for a Pulitzer Prize.

Besides, I'm thinking that actually being successful as a writer wouldn't be all I've built it up to be. Getting one book published, for instance, would just put a lot of pressure on me to get another one published. And I'm starting to develop this theory that most writers only have one great story in them. Then they spend the rest of their career trying to crank out another one.

Don't wave Stephen King in my face, either. He has written maybe one great book, The Stand. Everything else he has published is pretty much the same story rewritten with a slightly different plot but the same characters.

And being a successful writer doesn't seem to be good for you emotional health anyway. I read today where author David Foster Wallace hung himself. I have to admit I'd never heard of him, but his obituary said he wrote a 1000-page novel called Infinite Jest that had earned him a "genius grant" from some foundation and a gig at Pomona College teaching Creative Writing. I'd hazard a guess that reading one too many freshman short stories contributed to his suicide. Plus I'm also guessing he didn't know what to do once he'd achieved genius writer status. How do you top being a genius? No matter what you write from then on is held up to that "genius status" and you are pretty much screwed.

Not that I'm speaking from experience. My writing is usually categorized in the "interesting" category, which is like telling people with an ugly baby that it "sure has lots of hair" (my son, by the way is pretty darn cute and has lots of hair).

Let's face it, being considered a great writer pretty much amounts to a death sentence. Hemingway blew his head off with a shotgun, Hunter S. Thompson used a .44 magnum, Spalding Gray drowned himself, so did Virginia Woolf, Yukio Mishima committed Hari Kari, Sylvia Plath stuck her head in the oven, and John Kennedy Toole sucked on his car's exhaust pipe (in all fairness this was before his novel Confederacy of the Dunces was published and actually won a Pulitzer). Wikipedia actually has a complete section on Writers who have committed suicide.

Maybe being an interesting writer is okay. I'll probably live longer.

4 comments:

R. said...

Define successful/great? There are Sci-fi authors who manage to produce one entertaining book after another. Since I read Sci-fi for entertainment I think they're great.

How about Tolkien? He didn't commit suicide yet he managed to produce four pretty good books that have withstood the test of time.

Let's not forget Agatha Christie (who according to Garrison Keillor's disembodied voice was born on this day in 1890.) She didn't commit suicide although she did manage to off that annoying Belgian git Poirot.

So write your opus already. Sheesh.

Tim ID said...

R, R, R, R, R...
Great defines itself. Great doesn't immediately translate to entertaining or financially successful. Hell, I can't stand Hemingway. But I'll give him is due. His memory endures.

Heinlein, and Bradbury are probably the only sci fi writers I consider great. Maybe Clarke.

Tolkien essentially wrote one story and milked it for several books the same way they did the movies based on his books. And who says he didn't commit suicide by dying of old age?

Agathie Christie was a hack. Cranking out a lot of words doesn't equate with greatness. Look at how many blog posts I've written.

And who says I'm not writing my opus?

R. said...

Okay... Um, finish your opus already then?

I forgot to mention Vonnegut - who is a horrible author technically. Somehow the books still manage be part of High School literature classes across the country. Suprisingly, he didn't commit suicide either.

If I recall correctly - according to Tolkien his itch to scratch was to write an epic history. It just happened to take a few books to do it.

Tim ID said...

R.
I'd put Vonnegut in the great category. And I'll have to add Asimov and Herbert (the Dune books were genius).

And I'll concede that just because you are a great writer doesn't immediately make you a suicide candidate. I think you have to factor in the other things like substance abuse, borderline personalities and other whackadoodle tendencies that both inspire and haunt creative people.

I'd add wiping a cat's ass as a consequence as well.