Friday, September 13, 2019

The book that liberated nobody

Dear H,

I hate to use the word fascist, not just because it's unfair, but because it's uncool.  Like literally, diversity, equality, and bigot, it's a word that used to have a meaning, and even a useful meaning; but eighty years of use by tricksters, slanderers, and dimwits has run it into banality, and now when I hear it it signifies much less about the thing being spoken about and much more about the person who's speaking it.  Winston Churchill was called a fascist for wanting to fight the fascists.  George Orwell, in another one of his passages which ought to have been famous, said he'd heard Gandhi, Catholics, Boy Scouts, and pet dogs called fascists; and that the term meant anything you didn't like, and beyond this most usually a bully.  This was at the beginning of the word fascism, and it will probably be this way to the end.

Friday, September 6, 2019

On not being famous

Dear M-,

Anyone who's been writing for ten years and isn't famous has got to ask himself why.  There are lots of answers and most of them, excepting the most likely one, are easy.  You can say, for instance, that most people have no taste, or brains, or attention spans, or that they're too rigidly "moral" to appreciate fresh thinking, or too young and inexperienced to understand you, or that you're just not that good a writer.  Tons of easy excuses and one tough possibility.  Truth is there are too many writers and most of them are bad; and even if someone likes you there are too many other things they like, and unless you slap them upside the head three times a day, brilliantly or not, they're going to forget you.  The secret to a strong internet following isn't brilliance, but consistency.  And my writing is anything but consistent.  It has also at times, I admit, been horrible.