Friday, July 18, 2008

Wonder Boys

Since I loved Michael Chabon's Nebula-winning novel, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, I bought and read his earlier The Wonder Boys. The writing here, too, is terrific. And the book concerns writers and their ways, opening with a workshop scene and ending with a writers-sitting-around-the-bar-talking-about-writing scene. Both familiar to me.

Another aspect of the book is not so familiar to me. Grady, the protagonist, is a wild and crazy guy. He gets into fights. He aids in fraud and theft. He drinks and dopes way too much and screws around on his wife. He is in constant trouble with everyone. Now, we all know writers like this (I name no names.) Some are talented, some not. Grady rang true to me -- except for one thing.

He is also a university professor. The English departments I'm familiar with sometimes have creative writers on staff; for writers supplementing their income, a tenured professorship can be a good way to earn a living, providing both a decent income and a flexible schedule. But the writers who are professors -- and Grady has been at his university eight or ten years -- do not behave like that. It's not the wild and crazy writers who choose that particular livelihood. So in that sense, I had a little trouble with Chabon's excellent book. It seems to perpetuate the myth that in order to be creative, you must also be a brawling, law-breaking, heavily boozing, woman-abusing son-of-a-bitch in the Hemingway tradition.

I don't buy it. And not just for female authors, either. It's a stereotype for male writers that ought to be retired -- if only because it's too easy.

3 comments:

Mike Flynn said...

the myth that in order to be creative, you must also be a brawling, law-breaking, heavily boozing, woman-abusing son-of-a-bitch in the Hemingway tradition... ought to be retired -- if only because it's too easy.

Hey. It isn't that easy! Oh, the boozing part, sure; but the brawling and law-breaking part is hard to get right, and most writers are fighting out of their weight in the former. As for the woman-abusing... I asked Margie if I could do that, and she said no.

gdtownshende said...

Wow. I must not have even a splinter of a creative bone in my body... except when I was a lot younger. Only... I, uh, wasn't much into abusing anyone. I would rather have broken something, but only if I was mad.

:sigh: I guess my creativity is now a dry lake bed.

Nancy Kress said...

Mike -- LOL!