Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Humbling Thought,
But Also a True One

'Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.'
--the late poet T.S. Eliot. You can read his brief acceptance address upon being awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1948, and listen to the poet reading one of his most famous poems, The Waste Land. And then, we'd like to hear your thoughts on the man, his work, or that notion of his about all those failed writers. Should the spirit perhaps move you to also register a complaint about editors (those frustrated former scribblers), by all means, do share that as well. It's always open season around here.

20 Comments:

At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Donna said...

With the democratization of publishing, who gets to decide who is a failed writer anymore? I'd say only the writer himself.

Unless, of course, you're trying to make a living off it - in which case the failure may be in something entirely separate from the writing itself.

 
At 11:42 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Can't argue with that. But yes, when it comes to making a living from one's pen, it's anything but a democracy. More like a Darwinian jungle, which hasn't changed from his time to ours. Perhaps only gotten more Darwinian.

 
At 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had the most pleasant experience with three terrific editors that just happen to wear writer hats also. ;-)

Making money from writing is quite challenging, to say the least.

Neve Black

 
At 12:41 PM, Blogger LIVE TO EAT said...

A wonderful speech that is eloquently written and humbly presented. Quite inspiring, really.

Thank you, John.

 
At 1:30 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Neve, you've made the key distinction, or at least alluded to it. Editors who are also writers have a distinct advantage in many way, including a deeper understanding of the psyhic buttons to push in summoning the best work from a writer. Ideally, it should be a collaboration. Glad you've had good experiences in that way. And Michael, glad you found value in that speech. So what's cooking over at your house these days?

 
At 2:20 PM, Blogger LIVE TO EAT said...

The Italian in you will appreciate this. On the menu tonight is:

Grilled Italian sausages
Sauted rapini
Polenta with Fontina cheese
Chianti

I wish you attending!

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Oh my. And if that's an offer to have me over for dinner sometime, let me respond with a big "yes, I'd love to." Buffalo's not so far away from Cleveland, especially for a guy (that would be me) who has family in southern Ontario, and who drove through Buffalo on the way to see them basically at least once every year for most of his life. But the only Buffalo-area cuisine we ever got to sample were hot dogs from the famous Ted's drive-thru, which I see is still in business after 80-plus years. And by the way, what's rapini? I've never heard of that dish.


www.tedsonline.com

 
At 3:35 PM, Blogger LIVE TO EAT said...

Why, I'd be pleased to cook dinner for you, John. On one of your trips to visit family in southern Ontario, you can do just that.

I live very close to the Peace Bridge, so you needn't go out of your way in order to feast. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_NY

Ted's is still a favorite here in Buffalo.

Rapini is the bitter cousin of broccoli.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapini

I thought your readers would enjoy the links. I always enjoy yours.

 
At 3:39 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Very interesting, Michael. I learned something about Italian food today. And I will indeed take you up on that offer, and hope to reciprocate by cooking you my signature homemade, hand-rolled pasta sometime. I don't get around to pulling out that roller as much as I used to, but it would be a treat to do it for you sometime.
Ironically, one of my Canadian cousins is a customs officer on her side of the Peace Bridge, and lives nearby, so you're almost neighbors. What a small world, huh?

 
At 3:46 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

And by the way, at the risk of being ejected from the ranks of dagodom (my own new coinage), I'm pretty sure I've never so much as even tried polenta, though I've heard the older generation of my family talk about it forever. I trust it's delicious, in the hands of a good cook. I don't know about you, but whenever I think about that niche of the Italian food menu, I go all weak-kneed over risotto with mushrooms. God, this is making me hungry.

Hey, Art: you ever make risotto? I was pleasantly surprised to hear you pipe up when the discussion turned to Italian cookbooks a few weeks back, which, now that I think about it, is when you initially joined the conversation, Michael.

 
At 3:54 PM, Blogger LIVE TO EAT said...

Ok, John, it's a deal. I'd be honored. Homemade pasta - I'm in heaven!

I'll email you my personal information so you can plan for your trip.

 
At 4:00 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Looking forward to it. Maybe I'll even visit the late Tim Russert's family home, which I believe (but correct me if I'm wrong) is also on the west side of Buffalo, as you are.

 
At 10:14 AM, Blogger Kim said...

Risotto: even this Hungarian girl can cook that! Mine is a lemon onion one. I am hungry. (or Hungarian which ever title will get me fed!)

You probably know this, but, as a CSU grad, I should point out that Tim Russert received his degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Clevelanders never forget anything that makes them proud, and quickly forget anything that may shame them. Hope springs eternal in this hometown.

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Lemon onion risotto. Now that sounds new and interesting. Good for you for cooking across the ethnic boundaries. How ecumenical of you, Kim. And as fellow John Carroll grad, where he got his undergraduate degree, I do indeed know about his extensive Cleveland ties. He always said he left a big part of his heart in Cleveland, but of course somewhat less than his native Buffalo.

 
At 10:25 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

As usual, Old Possum takes the elitist position. Not to say precisely that he's wrong, but rather that he only sees part of the picture.

I rather view this as a precursor to the ultimate statement about the chaff and the wheat of writing coined by SF writer Theodore Sturgeon, and known these days as Sturgeon's Law:

"Ninety percent of science fiction—heck, of everything!—is crap."

From that viewpoint, Eliot is quite correct. Throw in his antagonism towards editors, paradoxical as it was given Pound's deep redaction of "The Wasteland," and you get the full measure of the comment.

 
At 10:34 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

An interesting perspective. And to your point about elitism: I laughed out loud when I listened to the online recording of him reading his own poem, because the accent was one of a native Brit, which he of course was not. He was an American born and bred, and only lived in England from middle age on, and so couldn't possibly have acquired the kind of Brit accent I heard in that recording, except by latching on to it. It may be a partial overstatement to call it a fake accent, but if not, it's awfully close to it.

 
At 1:39 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

I think what Eliot achieved is what nowadays is called a "mid-Atlantic accent," in other words, an accent halfway between.

Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan both have variants of a mid-Atlantic accent, for example, as did Alec Guinness.

 
At 2:52 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

And you hear it in just about every old Hollywood movie, particularly from the '30s, when Anglophilia still held sway in much of America, and Great Britain was the benchmark for sophistication. I'm not sure today's accents can really hold a candle to those, though.

 
At 1:39 PM, Blogger LIVE TO EAT said...

Well, John, you have more to do with shaping the dinner menu than you may think. I adore polenta and therefore make a wicked one. Rapini and good artisanal Italian sausage makes a meal fit for a king.

You, John, are considered royalty. I promise to elevate Italian comfort food to a level that will make you proud.

Now I'm getting hungry.

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Love that unexpected use of the word "artisinal," Michael. I think I'd better get my rear end to Buffalo sooner rather than later. As for your final thought, I'm always hungry, which presents challenges for my mid-section. But it's just in our Dago DNA, I suppose. Anyway, thanks for brightening up my day.

 

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