How Writing Became a Career

Yet another vital NYRB Blog post from Tim Parks.

Still, none of this prepared us for the advent of creative writing as a “career.” In the last thirty or forty years, the writer has become someone who works on a well-defined career track, like any other middle class professional, not, however, to become a craftsman serving the community, but to project an image of himself (partly through his writings, but also in dozens of other ways) as an artist who embodies the direction in which culture is headed. In short, the next big new thing. A Rushdie. A Pamuk.

It’s rather as if the spontaneous Romanticism of the nineteenth-century poets had become a job description; we know what a romantic is (his politics, his behavior patterns), we know that is the way to literary greatness, so let’s do it. Coetzee’s novel Youth captures with fine wryness the trials of a methodical young man seeking to make a career out of becoming the kind of writer he is not.

Let’s consider a few of the changes that led us to this state of affairs.

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