Tuesday, March 20, 2012

the glory and glamour....

"In a literary career, the glory comes at the beginning.  The rest of one's life is an intensive school of anonymity and oblivion."  

~ Paulo Mendes Campos, quoted in Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector by Benjamin Moser

If there was any glory, perhaps it came at the beginning of my literary career.  I have mostly enjoyed the school of anonymity and oblivion though.  It's not without its benefits.

Yesterday I received one of those badly timed rejections. And of the sort that makes you feel as though you've lost a rather dear friend.  I've been writing and sending my work out for about 25 years, so by now I have tasted the many flavours of rejection.  More flavours than Baskin-Robbins. Oh so many more.

The prevailing wisdom suggests that writers are not really supposed to talk about rejection, unfavourable reviews, and dicey reception of their work, however glamourous and enviable these situations seem to be.  Fine.  I can go along with that, for the most part.

But what I can say is that I can see why writers stop writing.  Or at least stop publishing.  I have long been intrigued, and yes, even inspired, certainly consoled, by the story of Phyllis Webb and her brilliant escape/disappearing act, and have recommended the Stephen Collis book on her to many friends.  {Phyllis Webb and the Common Good}

"It must remain an interesting mystery, rather than a problem disinterestedly solved - the reasons Webb left poetry for painting.  In part it was a departure from the public sphere into the private - from the professional status of "established" poet to the amateur status of "a hobbyist."  This was an escape from fixed identity to the fluid futurity of the open road - a deft move in the face of death to rend creative potential out of the still untapped."


  1. I'm taken to Ben Okri for the second time today:
    "The highest things are beyond words.

    That is probably why all art aspires to the condition of wordlessness. When literature works on you, it does so in silence, in your dreams, in your wordless moments. Good words enter you and become moods, become the quiet fabric of your being. Like music, like painting, literature too wants to transcend its primary condition and become something higher. Art wants to move into silence, into the emotional and spiritual conditions of the world. Statues become melodies, melodies become yearnings, yearnings become actions." {Birds of Heaven}
    And, Shawna - how absolutely lovely (in the full sense of the word) this concept is!

  2. The many flavours. So true.

    Interesting. I must order that book.

  3. just what i wanted to hear - thanks Ellyn!

    and thanks Brenda, too. you'd like the book on Webb, also the one on Lispector. it's really excellent.

  4. Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil - but there is no way around them.
    - Isaac Asimov

  5. oh, indeed. thank you Anon/Isaac...


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