It used to be said of EM Forster that his reputation grew with every book he didn't write. Today, the idea of actively NOT writing a novel, if you're a published writer, seems perverse and baffling. Yet perhaps literary culture should pay more respect to those who have only one song to sing and who, having sung it, should be allowed to hum quietly to themselves at the back of the choir.
He goes on to cite one-book wonders like Harper Lee, then makes a hilarious suggestion:
Is the Forster strategy an option for these writers? Probably not. Unlike EMF, they don't have private means, and have families to support. Anyway, writing is what they do. You could as plausibly persuade a dog not to bark. Only writer's block (a terrible fate) would deter them.
So perhaps, to give some status and encouragement to the noble art of not publishing, some imaginative literary philanthropist (Granta's Sigrid Rausing perhaps?) should endow a new prize for the most creative literary silence of the year. We could call it the Harper Lee Prize, and take the opportunity to ask the author of To Kill A Mockingbird to present the inaugural trophy.
My other chuckle was courtesy of James Scott Bell, who reveals at The Charis Connection that his favorite writing space is his local Starbucks:
Some Starbucks play their music too loud and that can be a distraction, especially when the track includes The Doors, perhaps the most overrated rock band in history. At another Starbucks I once tried to throw my table through the window as "MOJO RISIN'!" kept screeching across my brain. I recovered, though, and killed a character in my book instead. (This is called "inspiration," by the way.)
My Starbucks is a little like Cheers, where everybody knows your name. The baristas know me, I know them. They ask about my writing, make sure I get one of the occasional samples they pass out and will even change the music CD if it gets out of hand.
The company, the Borg, decides what CD mixes will be given to the stores, and on occasion there's a song that defies all rules of tonality. There was one a few months ago that sounded like a hog being slaughtered. I made mention of this to the staff and order was quickly restored. I only wounded a character that time.
Last month I became an empty nester, and goodness, it's quiet around here. I like quiet in the mornings, but in the afternoons, I'm used to hearing doors slam, girlfriends giggle, and tires squeal in the driveway. And even though I believe rap and hip-hop music ought to be illegal, right now I'd almost like to hear some pounding away just so I could have the pleasure of yelling, "Turn that junk down! I'm trying to listen to my new Foo Fighters CD!"
Maybe I ought to lug my computer over to Starbucks so I can complain about the music they play.