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Writers & Money/Writing & Money

Been thinking about writers and their money issues lately (for years, actually).

Also been thinking about writing and the monetary value readers and the general public assign to it.

Came across an interview with the Uruguyan writer Cristina Peri Rossi, who had this to say about writers/writing/money (as well as the publishing machine and writing in an inauthentic voice):

“I am disillusioned with the degree to which we writers have accepted this transformation of the literary world. The degree to which we have accepted that the goal is to have our own flat, vacations in Hawaii, a brand new car, and appear on television. The referents have changed: it’s like there’s been a general desertion. Now, what the young 30-year-old wants is to write a commercial novel, but the worse thing is that the 60-year-olds want the same thing, too! Everyone wants to make money off literature. I, for example, have had another profession my entire life. I’ve translated, done lots of journalism. Unfortunately, I couldn’t teach here in Barcelona but occasionally. If my degree could have been validated, I would earn my living differently. And then my literature would have no ties to money, right? Because on the other hand, of course, I feel completely incapable of writing a commercial novel.”

I haven’t processed this yet, really. There’s a lot here:

  • there’s nothing wrong (is there?) if someone wants to write a commercial novel, though she doesn’t and I don’t.
  • Why *shouldn’t* writers expect that they could make a living off a single profession: writing?
  • That first line: what we writers are accepting as the givens of our craft/trade.

It’ll keep me thinking for a bit.

Mientras tanto, if you’re  not familiar with Rossi, I recommend her short story, “The museum of useless efforts,” which you can read in full (in English) here. I read it (in Spanish) in my PhD program (more on that later) and recall being taken by it. If you read it, let me know what you think.

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2 responses »

  1. It’ll keep us all thinking for a while.

    Really don’t know of any starving artists who won’t want to be recognized for their craft no matter how modest.

    Even with art, I wonder what makes someone’s painting $100 yesterday and then $50,000 today – for the very same painting.

    Really interesting convo. I smell article.

    Reply
  2. Yeah, Lola. I agree.

    I think the point Rossi is making is that money corrupts art. This may or may not be true – I think it’s true when you’re thinking of the motivation – if the motivation is money and not the desire to say something and to be heard, well, maybe it’s not so great.

    I remember talking to a guy who was really against Salvador Dali for having been a commercially viable artist. It gave me pause because I had never considered Dali a sell-out and I still don’t. To me it seems a sign of the dumbing down of the media in general that artists aren’t appreciated in the general sphere of entertainment.

    But I digress. Really interesting points, Julie!

    Reply

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