It’s a familar theme, I know, but in the past week I’ve come across three angles of perspective on the question of “being a writer”.
First, a quote from Cesar Aira, who might as well have been quoting me, when he said “I’m only a writer when I’m writing”. I feel this. As I’ve said and written many times, I’m a biker when I’m cycling, but I’m not “a biker”. It’s not even about the distinction between professional and an amateur because Cesar Aira is a professional writer, but what he’s saying is that he’s a human being first and foremost. If you have to “be” something, be that!
Humans who write are the subject of Roberto Bolano’s curious book called “Nazi Literature in the Americas”. It’s a sort of catalog of fictional writers from the Western Hemisphere over the past century (and well into this one in some cases). These writers all have some sort of connection to right-wing politics, but after a time you can see that’s hardly the point. They might as well be Marxists, or Moderate Conservatives, or Christians, or belong to any sort of grouping, because the essential ingredients they all have in common are that they are human beings who write. They’re also pretty bad at it, for the most part, but who’s to say? Who’s to judge? Publishing and notoriety and reputation and success and all of that are often largely a matter of social networking (and always have been). In Bolano’s encyclopedia, these people associate with one another, leading to publication and renown or scandal within those little worlds. Also, the book is often very funny, reminiscent of Stanislaw Lem’s “A Perfect Vacuum”, in which he reviews non-existent books.
Lastly, the struggle to become a writer, to want to be a writer, to want to be seen as a writer, is touched on by a new story by Paul Samael called The King of Infinite Space, available for free from Feedbooks. It’s a lovely story that bends like Beckham (a not-too-inapt-analogy) and will feel familiar to anyone who’s sat down to work on a story only to have this foolish thing called reality innoportunely impinge on one’s state of mind.