The recent discussion about our ambitions to write the great American novel got me to thinking about the next step. It is possible that every writer, once they finish their latest novel, thinks it is "the great American, or the Great Australian, or the Great Polish, or the Great Ethiopian novel." We may all be aiming for greatness, and for a place in world literature. If anything, I would wonder at those who are not hoping for that.
But what if we actually do earn a place for our works among our contemporaries. Do you worry that changing fashions, mores and values will wipe out your book from the databanks of history?
Aya, when I'm dead and gone ... I'm dead and gone. I seriously doubt that how my works are perceived will enter into the next life with me that I move onto.
What next life are you expecting to move on to? I always thought that "dead and gone" meant no next life at all.
If you ever want to depress yourself, go into the library and find that gianormous book with titles of every book published in every year of history, starting back in like the 1500s.
Hundreds and hundreds of titles and authors. How many do we remember? Maybe a dozen. Most of us aren't truly writing for the ages, only the age.
I know. One of my favorite books from my childhood has been unshelved in most libraries and is out of print. That's what prompted me to write this. Here I am following in her footsteps, and yet she has been de-frocked, and the shrine where I worship has been smashed to pieces.
Next question, should we fight for the books we believe are great?
It may be that the greatest service we can do for a book we love is to promulgate it. But also to read and re-read it and let it influence who we become. And then we will influence others, and the work will continue to breathe even after it's forgotten.
Your replay resonates with me. I agree completely.
Jane, yes, I agree.
Forget about after you're dead. If your one book is remembered, and widely available, in ten years time, you are in the very limited company of the semi-immortals. If the same in 5 years time, you are in the company of Titans. If you keep producing books, that is another matter. You are a book production line, working at what is sometimes altruistically called a career. Most remembered books are from an author remembered for a body of work.
As to fighting for books, we should remember a book is not always bound in paper, nor is there a fight. Promote the stories. Be a beacon for the art and craft. Watch the words.
The best writers are often remembered for a single book: think Wuthering Heights. Even those authors who had a long career riddled with many publications.often leave behind only one that is worth remembering: think The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Ten years or five are nothing in the history of mankind and its literature. The winners are those who, even if they were not read in their lifetime, are read by generations to come.
A book is not its binding or the medium in which it is transmitted, but it is the text. It is the sequence of words. Get them to remember that exact sequence and the book lives. If they forget, it dies. Remembering something about a book is not the same as preserving the book.
No. I have to admit I don't. I have enough problems worrying about whether or not it will be successful while I'm alive. I try not to worry about what will or will not happen after I'm gone. As Forrest Gump so aptly put it, "One less thing."
Well, I worry about it so much that I am trying to make amends to that neglected author who got me to thinking about this.
Here is something I wrote about her:
I think books are like our descendants; they have a certain impact on certain people which then becomes part of the mosaic of life forever, even if we become long forgotten.