Writers, claim your readers

May 4, 2009

1.
Four writers at PEN discuss fiction—and one of them clearly does not belong. Her back is ramrod straight, as is her uniform gaze. She defends herself without the slightest expression on her face or inflection in her thin voice, and yet this is somebody who claims to believe in the truth of her art. When she talks about fiction, she refers to herself. When she talks about the world, she is talking about herself. And then she brings it home: “I write with no Audience in mind, only for Myself.” Is there any need, then, to actually read her writing?

b.
So! That’s a person born with a silver spoon up their ass—the entitled snot! Me, I’ve had to learn to whittle a puny little stick all by myself, using my own bootstraps to ram it in. But who am I kidding? With somebody like R.R. around, I’ve got no chance in this world. I’m pulling the stick out.

bullet.
Dear R.R.: If you truly believe that it is solely to and for yourself that you write, I beg you to please reconsider this stance, which seems to have been made entirely from the shit pooling so complacently around your ankles, likely blanched of any color or odor so that your poor readers won’t know what they’ve stepped into until the slimy trail of footprints from kitchen to bedroom, from home to office, is slipped on, and only after a puzzling minute of retracing the steps would the readers remember in whose vicinity they’d been standing. Or else reconsider your role as published author.

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Of course I am not referring to the very public machinations involved in publishing, including query letters, acceptances, rejections, publicity, marketing, sales, PEN panels, lunch parties, launch parties, pity parties, penvy parties, but to the writer’s personal relationship with and responsibility to his or her readers. As a reader I want to be claimed. I don’t care if I never meet the writer who’s laid claim to me—meeting the writer is a bonus, an epilogue, a coda, a sunset, a shuddering trickle or tickle after the piss has been let loose—but as long as the words create a pact with me, I’m happily showered agolden.

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One Response to “Writers, claim your readers”


  1. […] business, etc.   I have completely missed PEN World Voices this year, to my regret, but wmc and Amitava have some […]


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