Saturday, December 21, 2002

A Mutual Misunderstanding: From the usually annoying Michael Kinsley in, we have the definitive quote about writing.
Agreeing to be a judge of the National Book Awards, nonfiction division, was especially hypocritical because two things I have long claimed to oppose in principle are books and awards. Nonfiction books are especially regrettable. There is too much nonfiction going on in the world already without writers adding to it.

Many years ago, I conducted an experiment of placing a note in copies of several briskly selling books in a local Washington bookstore. The notes had my phone number and offered $5 to anyone who saw them and called me up. No one called. Though hardly scientific, this tended to confirm my suspicion that people like buying books more than they like reading them. And of course, in the famous formulation (credited to Gloria Steinem, among others), writers don't like writing - they like having written. They like having written under the impression that this means they will be read. The whole book thing is thus based on mutual misunderstanding.
No wonder it feels so futile.