Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Strokes Of The Pen: Faust, The Devil, And "Cultivating Literary Friendships"

From: The Manhattan Rare Book Company

"It’s hard to explain to writing students that there are pods of very friendly, arguably moral authors who treat each other as if the literary life is led on a firing range. They meet you alertly, brightly drawing from natty holsters their own signs of power, rank and aid, and then requesting that you do the same. They aren’t evil, really, and the impulse behind it is so close to camaraderie it almost smells right. We all need help, and we all want to help each other, which makes the nuances of the transaction murky. Some people never see the problem at all and others treat every request like you’re asking for a toe of which they are particularly fond. In the end, parsing the aspirational nature of literary friendship is as much of a longshot as sexing the yeti. [...]
     But I thought I’d give it a shot, and luckily I had help. Because I’m a collector of art and old books, I get email notifications of auctions, and the day I was to lecture my students, an old autographed letter appeared on the Ira & Larry Goldberg auction site. It illustrated the nature of 'transactional' so beautifully I read it aloud that night.
     It’s a one-page, single-spaced TLS (as they say) [Typed Letter Signed]
from William Faulkner. He is reacting to a request for a blurb in this, 1961, his final full year of life. To summarize the career until then: he’d struggled, his work had gone out of print, he’d almost drunk himself to death in Hollywood, where he was a failure. In 1946, washed up, spit out, he’d had his forgotten work reissued in The Portable Faulkner. This was the lightning and the thunder that changed his life. Seemingly overnight, he made an entire region of America a viable place to pan for talent and story, he won the Nobel Prize, he won the Pulitzer and the National Book Award too, and by January 1961, he’d spent about 15 years taking what comforts he could as a celebrated, revered, and golden writer.

From: AllStarPics
     The addressee is named Joan Williams. She is 30 years old, and she’s written the manuscript for a first novel called The Morning and the Evening. I mention this because Faulkner doesn’t begin it with 'Dear Miss Williams.' [...]"
— Glen David Gold, Los Angeles Review of Books

Buy all the books mentioned in this article here...

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