In the movie The Wife, a jaded middle-aged female novelist takes aside a talented young writer at a Smith College reading and says to her: “Don’t do it.” The aspiring student writer stands her ground, insisting that “a writer needs to write.” The older woman sighs. “A writer needs to be read,” she says.
I understand both sentiments. A writer does need to write. But, oh, how often it feels pointless, when publishing is so hard, when all-too-soon even the published book feels as impactful as a rock settling to the bottom of the sea!
I continue to write, and will probably do so well into my dotage (if I’m not already there). Still, I continue wondering whether it is worth the effort. I doubt many people, or any people, will read this very blog. I keep cranking things out every month, but rarely see signs that anyone notices.
So the recent announcement of yet another website about books and writers left me with mixed emotions. This latest site comes via the eminent publication The Atlantic, and thus has a much greater chance of being read than anything I publish here.
A Treasure Trove of Writers
The Atlantic has long been famous for finding and publishing remarkable writers of the past two centuries. These include Robert Frost, William Faulkner, Edith Wharton, Eudora Welty, Sylvia Plath, Dylan Thomas, Virginia Woolf, , James Baldwin, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, John Updike, Philip Roth, and Mary Karr–the list goes on and on. Many writers, including Mark Twain, Henry James, Ernest Hemingway, and, one of my own personal favorites, Louise Erdrich, credit The Atlantic for publishing their first short stories. To this day, publishing a story in The Atlantic remains a milestone for aspiring writers.
The Atlantic Joins the Internet Era
Now the Atlantic has launched a special section on its website “devoted to authors and their works.” The section will feature all kinds of writing–fiction, nonfiction, poetry, literary criticism, and all things book-related.
The first Books section features intriguing and diverse offerings, including:
- Rosa Inocencio Smith on how The Great Gatsby is “a surprisingly apt primer” on the current U.S. president
- The Powerful Practice of Writing by Hand, an interview with Laura van den Berg on her newest novel, The Third Hotel
- Rowan Hisayo Buchanan on the graphic novelist Tillie Walden’s “science-fiction universe of queer love, crumbling ruins, and magical forests”
- James Parker on how to write about royalty
- Sophie Gilbert on a potent new retelling of the Iliad that imagines the Trojan War from the perspective of a female slave
- Gary Shteyngart dissecting The Chekhov Sentence That Contains Almost All of Life
- A piece remembering the late Marie Severin, “the trailblazing comic-book artist who drew some of pop culture’s most iconic characters”
- A review of William T. Vollman’s Carbon Ideologies, dubbed The Most Honest Book About Climate Change Yet
- A review of pianist and writer Alfred Brendel’s essays about Beethoven, Schubert, and other composers
That is just a taste of the intriguing offerings. My personal jealousy and frustration aside, the website is clearly good news for readers and writers alike. And, given the brand-name and tender loving care this section is likely to receive, it may even be read.