Monday Oct 03

RobertClarkYoung3 A cross word cannot kill a writer. A blog post cannot kill a writer. A news story cannot kill a writer.

Repressive regimes have learned even more than this. They’ve tried torturing and imprisoning writers. But writers are crazy. In prison, they’ll write books in their own blood on toilet paper and have them smuggled out for publication. Torture and imprisonment cannot kill a writer.

The Tsarist dictatorship almost got it right with Dostoevsky. They put a firing squad in front of him. But at the final moment, the orders were changed, and no bullets were fired into Dostoevsky. A firing squad that fails to shoot cannot kill a writer.

Repressive regimes have learned from this as well. They’ve learned that the only way to stop a writer is to actually fire the bullets into the writer’s body. But even this is not enough, because bullets that leave a writer only maimed will not destroy that writer. The writer will come back at you with a stick between her teeth for typing.

If you have a problem with a writer and are determined to stop that writer, the only way to prevail is to put a bullet in his head. This too, unfortunately, has been learned.

Given these facts, and given that there is only one way to stop us, all of us writers can say Je suis Charlie.

The writers whom I present six times a year can all say it. The writers I’m presenting this month can all say it.

As Matthew Nadelson shows us in “Waiting for the Kingdom,” religious fanatics, no matter what hypocrisies they might perpetrate in front of a child, cannot destroy that child if he chooses to become a writer. They can only inspire him to expose them, no matter how many years have passed.

As Kate Hansen shows us in “Moving Day,” early dislocations cannot destroy a writer. They can only make a writer. And they have made a lot of wonderful writers, of whom Kate Hansen is certainly one.

And I think that when it comes to absolute truths, the entire world could learn something from Denise Duhamel and Julie Marie Wade, the coauthors of “Two Characters.” As they tell us, “Journalists claim to want the facts, ‘and only the facts,’ but philosophers remind them of Nietzsche’s view: ‘There are no facts, only interpretations.’ So, what about the writers? They are interested in truth, that strange amalgam of fact and interpretation. A writer will always wonder which details are relevant, and she will always assume, simultaneously, that all the details are.”

So that is the true way to fight a journalist. Just tell him that he’s interpreted his precious facts in a certain personal way, and let it go at that.

I might add, not at all as an aside, that this long piece by Duhamel and Wade might just be the most brilliant essay I’ve ever had the honor of presenting here. Its brilliance defies any summary on my part, so read it you must.

I offered publication to a fifth writer this month, who turned it down due to the low pay we offer, which is pretty close to the industry average. But low pay cannot destroy a writer. The industry average cannot destroy a writer. And finally, even for those most problematically fortunate, success cannot destroy a writer. We writers are—almost—invincible.