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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reading Novels About Writers

Guilty pleasures for writers are reading novels about writers. Straight Man, Wonder Boys, Factotum, Rocket Man. You just want to read about someone going through the same doubts you are and in this world where no one else seems to be doing what you are doing, it is like having a friend for as long as the novel lasts. Wonder  Boys by Chablon is a great ride about a writer at a University. This is the standard setting for a lot of these novels. The four I mentioned are split down the middle.

But it doesn't matter. Writing is about struggle and this makes for a natural novel. The natural antagonist is the world at large bent on keeping the writer from doing his work. The writer is of course always busy screwing up his life and living in perpetual chaos. In Straight Man this leads to hilarious consequences as the writer professor basically sets off chain reactions that end up losing him his job and almost his marraige. Curiously this is the basic theme on many of these writer novels: salvation coming from an upending of the current life and leading to something better. Hopefully.

Factotum of course is Bukowski's many different writer jobs. And it is hilarious. A much more gutty view of the writers life of course, but you recognize the sensibility of the writer versus the world motif with the world mostly winning. And then of course there is Rocket Man. A writer who is stuck and cannot get on with his fourth novel because of the pressures of family and home. So there it is. I think writers reach for these novels many times to get a laugh, get perspective, and maybe just not be so alone in the loneliest profession in the world.

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