Good yarn on how writers ought to think about their readers, by Philip Roth, in the November issue of Vanity Fair:
I have a Romanian friend named Norman Manea, who's a writer, and Norman has been a friend of mine since he left Ceausescu's Romania. He lived there through the worst of the dictatorship, and they hassled him at every turn, and he couldn't get published.
So he went to see a friend who was an elderly writer he respected, and he began to complain about the fact that he had no readers. And his friend said to him, "How many readers does a writer need? Four. That's all you need is four readers. You, unfortunately, have two!"
It makes me wish I had my hands on something Larry Ragan once wrote, about the miraculous happiness he allowed himself to enjoy one evening when a stranger walked up to him at some community event and told him he'd read and enjoyed an obscure magazine Larry had edited.
They say that no one knows the influence he or she has in the world.
That's especially true of writers.
We shouldn't rue this fact.
We should quietly, humbly and hopefully, enjoy it.
This post was just exactly what I needed on the Monday morning back in the office after a week’s vacation.
Thanks for getting my week off to a great start with this good reminder about the writer’s reality, David!!
Allison Wood says
This makes me feel MUCH better about the 4 followers my blog has. 🙂
Doug Garr says
David: A couple of months ago, a Slate writer quoted a piece I’d written on telecommuting for the now-defunct Omni magazine. The line that caught his interest in going through back issues was about someone who “went to work in his pajamas.” I’d completely forgotten about it, and it made my day — especially in these trying times for writers everywhere. Nice to finally meet you at the Speechwriter’s Roundtable, too.
David Murray says
Doug, it was indeed fine meeting you in NYC. That is all.
Cindy starks says
David — I love this piece, but wonder where the guy came up with the number 4. why not 5 or 6? these are the things an idle mind kicks around. Sigh…
Sue Horner says
Like Allison, I feel much better about my own 4 followers! And like Larry Ragan, I also feel a miraculous happiness when told someone has read and enjoyed something I wrote.
So why have I been lurking here, reading and enjoying your posts and not commenting? Er…
David Murray says
And now miraculous happiness is mine!
Writing Boots: If a writer types in the forest, does it make a sound?