Monday, January 24, 2005

The Green-Eyed Monster at 40

Last Sunday, full of caffeine, I was all ready to blog. Like a maniac! I was going to write a brilliant reply to the NYT Book Review's "Under 40" influences piece, which would outline writer jealousy (from a 40-year-old whose literary influences are of interest to nobody), and why it's often fruitless to ask a writer about his or her literary influences -- after all, the fights I endured with seventh-grade bullies have influenced my writing as much as Dickens.

But instead I had to check out the latest fortunes of the Cubs, another reason to hate Bush, what's up with Jerry "The King" Lawler, and put more music on my iPod. Suddenly it was a week later and really no point in telling the world why I'm not jealous of Jonathan Safran Foer, not that the world was dying to hear of it.

The one deep comment I have is that bad writers have influenced me as much as good ones. I've learned how not to write from their crappy prose. Also, bad writers are great inspirations. If your average hack can be successful, it follows an unrecognized genius like myself will be as well.

And it is true that the jealousy thing never dies. But the older I get, the harder it is for me to be jealous. Wife actually read with one of the writers interviewed for the Times piece, who was a gracious, genuinely nice person. Just a kid, if I want to think about it in those terms, impossible to dislike. (Wife and other reader were asked who their literary influences are, and I can't remember what they said; Wife mentioned a Canadian writer, at which point I tuned out.)

There's the aging writer stereotype, who, embittered by failure, becomes drunk with resentment against young 'uns who are making millions and are hailed as real geniuses, who aregeniuses, who rightly have all the fame and fortune he should have. That is me on bad days, even numbered Mondays, and when I read about huge book deals for novices (celebrities). Less and less, though, and I wonder if makes me a better writer or that I just don't give a shit anymore.