I would like to say I stopped aspiring years ago. It can be bad for your health, psychologically as well as physically. It is something one often does in the dark, alone, beneath the covers, or in the shower. But, obviously, its not true. I still do.
Failed aspirations are at least frustrating, and often the hard futility of dreams turned to dust can produce a bitterness which colors your responses to other matters of life and death and spoils the small enjoyments which are cumulatively the better part of a life.
It occurs to me that it was dumb luck that I chose other outlets for my aspirations in addition to my writing. Bookselling has been a joy. And better than that, taking a part in the raising of three kids has been more important to my happiness than anything else I could have imagined on paper.
Still. I have wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old. That is for over fifty years. That’s a lot of aspiring. So why would I like to say I stopped what has come so easily and in fact given me far more enjoyment than frustration?
The matter is summed up quite well by an article in the Wall Street Journal for January 3rd, 2009. “Blockbuster or Bust.”
Now it is simple for the “summer soldier and sunshine patriot” among us to be critical of American foreign policy, or ask why the same politicians who created the financial debacle we all must endure are now in charge of correcting it, but when the crisis gets closer to home, we shy from our common sense. We can all be maroons when faced with choices which conflict with our misconceptions of short term self-interest.
When I was forced to close my bookshop a few years ago, I wrote a piece called “The Crepuscule” which caused a small buzz at the time because I was then receiving a great deal of press in the usual tradition of “isn’t it sad that the old bookstores are failing” type article you can see about once a year in your local newspaper—at least until that medium too is gone. My thesis then was that the failure of bookshops was a common effort by the citizenry, and not to be blamed on a single villain. I have re-posted the Crepuscule on this website—if you are interested.
But with my own novel, HOUND, scheduled to be published in the fall, an article like “Blockbuster or Bust’ raises my graying hackles.
I needn’t bore you at this instant with most of the irrational drivel put forward on January 3rd, but some of it offers a fine opportunity to close in battle. I will post a second piece with greater detail on that article shortly. But such explorations in the tall grass won’t matter to most people. Moral dilemmas often do. And that is where aspiring comes into play.
We all want to succeed in our dreams. I suppose that I should excuse the author of that article for loosing her sense of reason and contradicting herself repeatedly within such a short space. She simply wants to be published again herself.
As she correctly notes, the Wall Street Journal is published by a media giant heavily invested in the “blockbuster” mentality. And she has her own aspirations. Her career is at stake. Maybe her next rent payment. Perhaps even that novel she has been working on for years. How could she turn on the hand that she thinks will feed her?
It is the same reason, of course, that bureaucrats do not blow the whistle on Government waste and soldiers shoot guns at people they have no reason to fear. Every contradiction in that one article represents the kind of stupidity that alternatively pollutes the rivers we drink from and then promotes the idea of political solutions to the weather.
Oh, I hear the gnashing of teeth! Even here in little Abington. Why does he throw in the kitchen sink? Why does he mix such analogies? Well, because the sink is full of dirty laundry. And I like mixed metaphors as well.
The gist of that misbegotten article is this: that publishers must publish blockbusters or else they will fail. Yet that’s the template they have been using for two generations. How’s that working out for them?
I will not quote the foolishness here, nor make more of the moral, aesthetic, or business values of the editor of the Wall Street Journal who allowed it to be published. Read it for yourself. If you do not choke on the bones, you ought not be reading anything on this web site. It’s not meant for you.
I think my life would have been far more copasetic if I had long ago given up the dreams which stir me.
The maroons are in charge of the asylum, but still, I aspire to something more.
Link: Anita Elberse, “Blockbuster or Bust,” Wall Street Journal January 3, 2009.