Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

More on The Drowning Girl

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Even when it’s just a routine cleaning, even when my dentist is so non-scary that my girlfriend referred to it as a ‘dental spa,’ even when nothing at all is wrong, I don’t like going to the dentist.  Sorry, dentist.  I’m sure it’s hard, doing work that does real good in the world, and knowing that mostly, people don’t like you anyway.  I can appreciate that, to some extent.  People don’t like school, either, and even though I know I do real good in the world, almost no one is ever happy to see me.  I know what I was thinking, in college, when I decided to become an English teacher.  I wonder what young people are thinking who decide to become dentists?

Anyway, I was lucky, because as I was updating my iPod before my visit, I found a new episode of the Coode Street Podcast, in which Gary K Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan interviewed Caitlin Kiernan and Peter Straub about The Drowning Girl, which I just finished re-reading and am full of interest in.  All four of them were at Readercon, and I wasn’t, but that’s okay.  If I had really wanted to, I could have gone on the spur of the moment.

I thought it was a very interesting interview.  Kiernan didn’t really answer any of my questions about her novel – darn her, she wrote it ambiguously on purpose, and if she knows what’s really behind it all, she isn’t telling.  But it was still fun to hear what she had to say, and a few little pearls she dropped that gave me some new insight into the novel.

But what I was really interested in was, in the last half of the interview, Kiernan’s discussion of what it’s like to be a writer.  She was very honest about how hard it is, and how disheartening it can be, and how it affects a writer.

I recently gave some thought to writing, and even spent a few weeks giving it a try, and I remembered what I knew before- for me, writing is not nearly as much fun as reading.  Because I am such an avid reader, and because I can communicate in writing clearly and occasionally entertainingly, I sometimes feel pressured – by the expectations of others, or just by myself – to make a living writing.  But I’m much happier reading a good book than doing the hard work of writing seriously.  And I think that’s okay.  Thus the title of this blog.

I am grateful to the people who work hard for years to write a novel that I’ll read in a few hours.  Thanks to all of you, for dedicating your lives to making mine better.  Just like the teacher, or the dentist, you make the world better.  But where no one wants to see the dentist or me, everyone wants to see the writer.  People’s ideas about what it’s like to be a teacher (lazy, incompetent union thug, or starving, exhausted, impoverished, always-working public servant, depending on your politics) or a dentist (money-grubbing med-school failure or horrible sadist, depending on whether you saw Little Shop of Horrors) are mostly negative.  People’s ideas about what it’s like to be a writer are mostly, I think, absurdly idealized.

In conclusion: listen to the most recent Coode Street Podcast, if you’re curious about Caitlin Kiernan, and be nice to your dentist and your teachers.


Written by Contented Reader

July 17, 2012 at 8:15 am

Posted in Reviews


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