To a Writer, a Body of Work Is a Taunt By

Years ago, I was on a panel with Russell Banks, and we were talking about “Affliction.” Russell was pleased with the novel’s reception, but he also said he’d hoped he was creating a worthwhile body of work. This was not said with a dismissive attitude toward the appreciative things people were saying about “Affliction.” Rather, it seemed that Russell was stepping back, surveying all he’d done to that point, and keeping a careful eye on the whole even as readers were concentrating on one recent part.

Readers and writers do not think of a body of work in the same way. To a reader, a body of work is a static totality by which a writer may be assessed. To a writer, it is something of a taunt. Writers think of a body of work as a movie tough guy whom we have popped in the jaw. We rear back and deliver our best haymaker, and the body of work shakes it off and says, That all you got?

For this and other reasons, writers generally do not like to read their work once it is published. We find mistakes. We find things that make us cringe. And the whole process kills whatever momentum we may be feeling. The body of work becomes a body of evidence in a case built against us. We find a writer we barely recognize, and who seems to want to pick a fight. See all our books lined up on the shelf. They are a museum, a graveyard. They are a chorus line, arranged side by side like the Rockettes. All that’s missing is the kicks.

Despre Claudiu Degeratu
Expert in securitate nationala, internationala, NATO, UE, aparare si studii strategice

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