Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sympathy Corrective

This Guardian article was forwarded around my department the other day, out of morbid interest in this writer's habits with page proofs ("tinkering with and slashing at them" . . . "have looked at previous sets of proofs four times already and fully expect to do so at least once more" . . .) but I think it is a fine object lesson in an aspect of good writing, or at least writing about oneself. A good writer, in describing creative distress, illness, and difficulty in life, should be able to take their own experience and relate it to the similar experiences that we all share, however subtly, thus providing a story that resonates with their readers. (That resonance can be uplifting or bitter or whatever; shared humanity tends the whole pungent garden of emotions, right?) AL Kennedy here, in contrast, blithely ignores the common experience of humanity around her and flatly grouses about having erroneous page proofs and an earache. It's hard not to feel sympathy for someone with an ear infection, but exceptions can be forced. Shame about the headache, too; maybe her editor has some spare Advil in their desk to send along with that sixth set of page proofs.

Or maybe this all seems more generous to other horrible curmudgeons; I don't know. Or maybe it's supposed to be an ironic Gervaisian burlesque.


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