Seeing a writer of Brewer's talent -- a talent that was so vividly on display in the '50s and '60s --
sinking to such lows in his last few years of life, incoherent and bitter at
his desperate lot in life, drinking himself to death as he tried to make
enough just to subsist by churning out softcore porn...I just don't have any
interest in that visiting that pain. Brewer should have had a much better
end his life; a writer of his talent deserved better.
Sadly, that description may well describe a great many writers I know personally. A number of us are doing whatever we can to pay the rent and feed the brood while our heart's work gathers dust somewhere on the back shelves of B&N.
The current tectonic shifts in publishing make Joseph Shumpeter's description of capitalism as "creative destruction" seem even more oxymoronic than usual. Or apt, since more and more creative people are getting destroyed. Daniel Woodrell and I write back and forth about this from time to time--now there's a brilliant writer, astonishing gift, very well-regarded but read by far too few. I once described Don Winslow as a thirty-year overnight success and he smiled knowingly. John Shannon deserves a much larger following than his publishers have managed to attract. Meanwhile, I just got a fan note from a new reader, bless his soul, who ranted about the new Thomas Perry book and wondered how it got published, let alone reviewed twice in the NY Times. (I have no idea of the merit of Perry's book myself, and don't mean to disparage it.)
This is all, yes, a mystery, and not a pretty one for those who think they have a gift for storytelling and language. But it's not a new story, as these postings and many another tale of a neglected artist make clear. Sometimes death is the best career move available.
There is some hope that the Kindle and other readers will make back lists more economically viable, which is a good thing for neglected writers. But new work in such a format will face an overkill of online promotion from all quarters, creating so much white noise no one will know where to find what, I fear. I delete most PR emails I get; I'm sure I'm not alone. That's online marketing for many writers.
We'll see, said the blind man (my German grandmother's favorite saying).
And yes, I thought the soft porn excerpts quoted were sad -- though my screen seemed to throb merrily as the words scrolled across it. (Joke.)
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