By George Fetherling
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Extra info for The Writing Life: Journals, 1975-2005
Indb 19 2013-02-08 10:48:45 20 The Writing existence with the information was not amazing in the least. His success was made by other people’s shock at realising the poor fucking bastards were gaining on ’em. (Later, he did go on to prove himself a remarkable writer: but now the kitchen sink school is passé in Britain, and he is ignored or ridiculed. ) Now in Oates we have a similar situation. A working-class woman from Rochester, I believe, who astounded the elite with her presumption (and like Wilson, her hard work). In her case the effect has been achieved through a body of writing. To hear her talk, to hear the accent and the earnestness and studiousness with which she undertakes to answer simple questions, to ponder simple issues – this is the tipoff. To me, it’s also, variously, nostalgic and a bit disconcerting. (Like Wilson, she has triumphed over what promised to be her early reputation; she’s of course a far more important writer and artist to say the least, though Wilson has a decently curious mind. ) sunday, 15 october / toronto I am the reverse of the fifty-year-old businessman of fiction, the one who suddenly realises that he’s spent his days chasing material success at the expense of inner peace. I, conversely, have my intellectual, emotional and spiritual lives in what seem increasingly to be pretty good shape. What I want now is to be a success. Magazine writing is more and more like acting. Actors get one or two meaty roles and so acquire names – roles many others could fulfil just as good. From then on it’s a struggle to get parts that aren’t seen as backsliding into semi-professional status. One seems to develop in this post-starsystem atmosphere simply through changing into older, extra primary to the viewers. So it is with magazine writing. One gets the occasional assignment with a scrap of flesh on the bones. Between times it’s a lot of fixing, short pieces, impossible subjects and false diction. The difference is that this business, being ruled by a few editors and trendies rather than, ultimately, by a democratic audience, sends you up instead of revering you as an old-timer. tuesday, 17 october / toronto I write this in the elation of fatigue, hoping some sense will still be apparent when I look at the page again in the morning. I am finishing a marathon rewrite session at 3:30 a. m. It’s dead quiet. 25199_Fetherling. indb 20 2013-02-08 10:48:45 1978 21 Some bright social historians of the future are going to begin defining the constant tension within pop culture as a continuation of the neverquite-resolved divergence of the Mods and the Rockers, taking their metaphor from early 1960s London. This difference in cultural outlook is apparently timeless: one sees it in books about aesthetes between the wars; one sees it in punk rock now. The latter interests me a great deal (though not musically, structurally as in the New Wave groups). Rather, it’s the premise that’s so appealing. Middle-class people were brought up to believe that working-class kids vomited on stage and wore safety pins in their noses.