Steve and I have two calendars on the kitchen table — those big, brick calendars that you pull off a page a day? — that we look at together every morning with breakfast.
One is a New Yorker cartoon calendar, which delivers its usual mix of shouted laughter and blank stares. The other is Quotes from Wild Women, which, sadly, is not living up to its hype. Today, for instance, it delivered up a quote from Annie Dillard, which I don’t remember — something about wanting a dark room to write in so the outer scenery doesn’t come between you and your inner version (paraphrasing broadly here).
…and I said to Steve, “Yanno, the only thing I know about Annie Dillard is that her writing advice is considered Holy by a certain subset of writers I know, but I haven’t the faintest idea what she’s written.”
Steve, being the sort of guy he is, immediately went to Amazon and found a list of Ms. Dillard’s works. Several of which seem to the same book, which has been “amended” after its initial publication.
My first reaction, upon hearing this was, “My ghod, how can she AFFORD to just keep tinking with the same books?”
…and so my bias is revealed.
Ms. Dillard is, as you probably knew, but I only today discovered, an emeritus professor. She had, I assume, tenure, and didn’t have to worry about writing new books; about earning out; about keeping her audience. I mean, I’m sure she worried about it, but not in the same way that I worry about losing audience, market appeal, royalties and contracts. Because, here? No tenure. Writing is my job. Yes, I have a day-job, but it doesn’t support me (day-jobs used to support one; it was the temptation of day-jobs; the tension. If you had a job that paid all your bills, and kept you in relative comfort, where was the drive to make your art — aside the art itself? Now day-jobs support the stockholders, who sow not, nor do they spin. But that’s another rant.); income from writing is what keeps this household. If I had to choose one income stream to dry up and blow away, it would be the day-job (speaking from a purely economic perspective, and absent its many other flaws); the writing more nearly supporting us.
Though — I dunno. Maybe I should sit back here, in my room with a very nice view, and cats, too — re-vision, rewrite and re-release Agent of Change? What would I do, exactly, to “amend” it?
Well. . .rewrite a whole lot of sentences. I know more about sentences now than I did when we wrote Agent.
On the other hand. . .Agent of Change has a helluva lot of energy, you notice? Wouldn’t want to lose that, and who knows if the gaumy sentences are part of what fuels that jazzy, off-center drive?
Nah, best not to mess with what’s written.
Besides, we have three new books under contract.