Sometimes Dustin Gets a Little Overworked and Goes a Little Crazy

A portion of an email to me, from Dustin, that was, until this point, completely prudent:

this week has been filled with running and I vastly prefer to walk,that or I need to get a metaphorical bike. Or a trolly. yes, that's better something that isn't powered by me. Al gore would be disappointed in my metaphorical steam engine, but metaphors only pollute the minds of the children, and they can't be any worse than power rangers. Do kids still watch power rangers? I hear they still do the macarena. Is that how you spell macarena? Is it a real Spanish word? I don't think it is. I think those chumps made it up. Nevermind, changed my mind on the potential damage of metaphorical pollutants. They suck.

Send help to the InDigest offices, please.



Some Sad News

St. Paul author Daniel Hardy died of a heart attack on Saturday (Read his obituary here).

Daniel had been working on a book about a man who he thought--and had pretty strong evidence to back it up--was the basis for Fitzgerald's Gatsby. According to the obituary Daniel had just finished the book, which is little consolation, but if you are involved with writing, you know that this fact offers at least some.

I had talked to Daniel about possibly excerpting part of this book in InDigest when talks with publishers got further along. According to the obituary, his wife, Mary, is going to try to publish the book posthumously. I hope she can. I was always severely interested in Daniel's updates on the progress of the book. I would see him in a local coffee shop or bookstore and he would excitedly--well, as excitedly as he got, he seemed a pretty laid back guy--tell me some far fetched story that he had learned through his research about his Gatsby's escapades.

It really does seem like a fascinating book. Maybe InDigest will still have the opportunity to publish an excerpt.

But that's for another time.

Now is a time to offer our condolences. To say our thoughts are with all of Dan's loved ones. To mourn the loss of a literary St. Paulite. And to celebrate his life's work and passion.


I think this highlights some thoughts from David's last post as well - writing is really fucking hard.

Talking frequently to Daniel about his ten plus years of work on his book made me remember how important writing is to society, and to individuals. He put a lot of passion and hard work - and a good chunk of his life - creating an in depth study on whether Cushman Rice could have been the real inspiration for the legendary Gatsby. Something that could have been a little literary and intellectual, but he made chatting on the subject something to look forward to, something that was unabashedly intriguing.

We wish Mary Hardy the best of luck continuing Daniel's work. It's a heavy task, but if the book is even half as fascinating as talking with Daniel about his research was it could only be a remarkable book.

It is surely no easy task to pick up his year's of labor at this point, so we offer our condolences for the loss of very funny, intelligent man that we had the good fortune to meet. Our thoughts are certainly with his family and friends.


Writers Are Babies

& I say that as a writer.

Over at the Virginia Quarterly Review blog a post that included reader comments that were, well, none too kind towards submissions they thought particularly awful, has been met with an outpouring of "You should be nicer to that helpless writer" comments & responses from readers of the blog.

Here's the deal: writing is hard. A lot of people don't understand that. Just look at all the books out from celebrities--models, actors, politicians, etc., ad nauseam--who think that they have an interesting story to tell. Or, better yet, look at the books jammed into the Memoir sections of your local (hopefully, independent) bookstores. Everyone thinks his story is interesting, that people should hear it, and, worst of all, that he--the would-be story teller--can write it. Let me say this again: This shit's hard. Writing is fucking hard. And on top of that, it's really not easy. And there's not a whole lot of understanding towards this fact in this day of self-publishing, vanity presses, and, ahem, blogging.

The simple fact is most writers don't go gallivanting into other professions spouting off about how easy those professions are and how they--the writers--can do them just fine while continuing to be writers. (There are exceptions: see Barack Obama, writer, then politician.) Yet that is exactly what many do to the profession of writing. They think they can just stroll in because they, or their life, are interesting. Living is interesting. Who was it that said, if you make it through childhood, you have enough material to write for the rest of your life. The question is--and apparently not too many people are asking themselves this--should you write down all that material? Are you capable of writing it?

We read a lot of submissions at InDigest--not as many as VQR or many others, but, for our little two-person staff, a lot. & both of us harbor thoughts of being writers. We see this world from both sides. Never (!) have I sent out a poem or a short story for possible publication with any sense of entitlement attached to it. If I do so it's because I believe it is something that someone else should read. I believe that. I don't expect someone else to. And it shouldn't matter. If that's why you're in this, then get out now. You're in for a world of hurt otherwise. I believe it was James Merrill interviewing John Berryman (I could be way off on this) who asked something along the lines of, "How do you know when a poem's good?" To which Berryman replied with, You don't. You never do. And it shouldn't matter. (Once I find the actual exchange, I'll post it, as I'm fairly confident I butchered it here.)

The fact that some first readers over at VQR tore into some submissions by writers who more than likely did not take the time it takes to make something readable, much less good, should be no cause for such a stir. Should they have posted the readers comments? Probably not. Better to keep that stuff in-house? Who knows. This whole business is subjective. There are countless author interviews in which the author admits--or even wears as a badge of honor--that a certain piece of writing (novel, poem, story) has been rejected five, ten, 20 times before finally being accepted for publication.

The fact that VQR chose to publish some of these comments does not pull the curtain back on some Wizard of Editor Cruelty. At least not to anyone who has even a minor working knowledge of writing and publishing. If you didn't know about this aspect, you probably need to do more homework & less writing. Are there ways to do this all more tactfully? Of course. But how many times in your job do you say something that may be less than tactful?

The only thing that this post by VQR did was show the ultimate sensitivity of writers. Think what musicians go through on a nightly basis when they are not a recognizable name. These comments come to them face-to-face, from drunks in tiny bars in places like Winona and Rapid City. Just be glad you're not them. Just be glad that it's only one person reading your crappy (to them) or brilliant (to you) writing. Just be happy they're only ripping it on some obscure (even if it's well-known, it's still literary) blog and not dumping a beer on your drummer and telling you you suck.

Of course then you could at least jump off stage and punch 'em in the face for talking all that shit.