Thursday, March 8, 2012

Writers and Books

Journalist Malcom Gladwell's latest book is a collection of essays, WHAT THE DOG SAW. The title refers to an essay on the "Dog Whisperer," Cesar Millan, but of more interest to writers may be the article "Late Bloomers: Why Do We Equate Genius With Precocity?" Gladwell argues, to put it succinctly, that we shouldn't, because there are actually two types of gifted people and their brains are wired differently.

The early bloomers do their best work... well, early. A painting done by Picasso in his twenties is now valued, on average, at four times as much as a painting done in his sixties. Orson Wells made his most valued film (CITIZEN KANE) at age twenty-five. Wordsworth famously wrote wonderful poetry when young, not-so-wonderful (all right, a lot of it is terrible, as I well remember from my days as a graduate student) when older.

In the other camp are the late bloomers, who struggle for years to attain mastery of their art. They seem to need to experiment, sometimes for decades, before they figure out what they want to express and how best to express it. Late bloomers include Cezanne, writer Ben Fountain (winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN award for BRIEF ENCOUNTERS WITH CHE GUEVARA), and Alfred Hitchcock, who made most of his most notable movies between ages fifty-four and sixty-two.

This should be very encouraging to those writers who stat late and struggle long. It doesn't mean you are not talented. It just means your talent needs a lot of time to mature -- an oak tree rather than a fast-growing poplar. If, of course, you don't give up.

On a more personal note, 2012 promises to be a good year for me. I have five books coming out! Three got backed up in the publishing pipeline -- more on these as they appear -- and two are reprint collections. The first, pictured below, is from the growing small press Arc Manor and is not quite a full-length book, not quite a chapbook. It includes six of my older stories on genetic engineering, the first one a winner of both a Nebula and a Sturgeon:
"The Flowers of Aulit Prison"
"First Rites"
"Margin of Error"
"Dancing on Air"
"And No Such Things Grow Here"
Available in both print and ebook.

1 comment:

KevinW said...

I think the perception of youth=genius is due to the unexpectedness of precocity. I know a 16-year-old jazz musician who seems to be possessed of something beyond mere talent (amazing player, individual conception, award-winning composer), but if this kid were 45 the talent level would seem age-appropriate. A 16-year-old this good is...uncanny...scary...