So Herman Melville’s reputation, during his life, died on the sword of Moby-Dick, and Melville, former bestseller, finished out his days in obscure poverty. What’s the first title we think of when the name Herman Melville comes up? More than likely, it’s Moby-Dick.
Who the hell is Angus Wilson?
In 2003, I overheard a student writer ask Alistair MacLeod about literary agents. MacLeod’s scowl made his eyes smaller. —Where were they when I needed them?
Charlotte Bronte yearned to write freed of the shackles of gender expectation, and to write something that would last — yet she also presumed to act as an embarrassed apologist for her sister, Emily, when writing a preface for Wuthering Heights. (That the Brontes got into print at all is a whole other story.)
I am not convinced that sitting down to write something High-Minded and Literary, that marketing a book as High-Minded and Literary, means much in the present moment.
George Orwell shows some honesty in his essay ‘Why I Write’ when he admits, with some cheeky joy, I think, that he wants to be remembered after he’s dead.
Then again, I think Laurence Olivier is a terrible actor, an insecure little boy too afraid to take emotional risks, to connect, content to hide behind his tiresome back of tricks: accent, false nose, makeup, costume.
When does it last? When is it real?
DJ Taylor at The Guardian does a better job with this question than I can.