This is without a doubt my favorite moment from Safety Last (and I just broke down and bought the Blu-Ray version, which is so sharp and clear I think we see things we weren't even supposed to. In fact I bought a Blu-Ray player just so I could play it.)
Anything I could write now would not help The Cause, which is I don't know what at this point. Any advice I have been given is so bad and offputting that I want to just put my head under the pillow.
I still enjoy Harold and always will. He is an addiction, but quite a pleasant one, with no serious side effects. Unlike a great many poets, I am not likely to fall prey to the seductions of Happy Hour. And to be honest, I think I wrote a pretty good novel, not "about" Harold but "around" him. Where it goes is anyone's guess, but I'll always have Paris.
It's just too bad the news is always so dire around publishing. It shouldn't be, because the truth is people are always going to crave a good story. It gets their minds off their lives, and once in a long time there's an insight, a connecting point that stays with the reader, maybe even tells them something important.
I write because I have to write. It's what I do. Have always done. We're a team. In some ways it's the only thing that makes me feel like myself, makes me feel better when the world closes in. Which it does, sometimes.
This novel was such a labor of love, a highly unlikely thing, like having a baby at age 50. Similarly, I had mixed emotions about writing another book after what I thought of as the failure of my first two. What, try to get pregnant again? Are you out of your mind?
But there it was.
This is the point at which things begin to get complicated. I wasn't born to hustle, and actually loathe the very thought. I can't get into complicated schemes like endorsing someone's work just so they will endorse mine. Don't they cancel each other out? At the same time, I love taking part in readings and other writers' events, and enjoy doing interviews and talking to people about my book. So what's the problem?
It's like I have a son, and I think he's potentially a very talented son, but I can see he's not going to do well. Something will happen to him. I know that's a gloomy attitude and I know I could be wrong. I also know he has much to contribute, and I hope he has a chance to do so.
In closing, ahem, let me quote an article by Russell Smith from the Globe and Mail. I suppose I should have been all huffy and insulted by this piece, but I thought it was one of the best and most honest things I'd read about publishing in a very long time:
There are big winners and there are losers – the middle ground is eroding. Publishers are publishing less, not more. Everybody awaits the fall’s big literary-prize nominations with a make-us-or-break-us terror. Every second-tier author spends an hour every day in the dismal abjection of self-promotion – on Facebook, to an audience of 50 fellow authors who couldn’t care less who just got a nice review in the Raccoonville Sentinel. This practice sells absolutely no books; increases one’s “profile” by not one centimetre; and serves only to increase one’s humiliation at not being in the first tier, where one doesn’t have to do that.
So again, what is to be done? What does any artist do in the age of the blockbuster? Nothing, absolutely nothing, except keep on doing what you like to do. Global economic changes are not your problem (and are nothing you can change with a despairing tweet). Think instead, as you always have, about whether or not you like semicolons and how to describe the black winter sky. There is something romantic about being underground, no?
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