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A Tough Row to Hoe…

August 11, 2011

A couple quick links this afternoon.

The first concerns Kathryn Stockett, author of bestselling book The Help.  In this recent essay she talks about how her book was rejected sixty times before she found it a home.  We’ve heard this story before (i.e. Harry Potter, etc.)  A few questions or thoughts for discussion on this one: If you really believe in your book, how far are you willing to go to see it published?  How long will you stick it out?  And in this day and age of increasing media consolidation and hair-raising questions about Agent accountability and conflicts of interest, when such stories abound of the intermediaries inabilities to recognize a gem when they find one, dare we continue to put our faith in those intermediaries?  Would any of these books – the ones where we hear about the astounding number of rejections a book received before going on to fabulous bestsellerdom – still be bestsellers if the authors had not stuck it out with traditional publishing and instead opted to self-publish?

The second link is to a discussion on NPR with Terry Pratchett, author of the popular Discworld series, on the subject of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis and assisted suicide.  I hesitate even to post this link.  I’ve never read anything by Pratchett, and I’m sure I’m all the poorer for it.  But it disturbed me to consider the idea of a famous, respected, and well-loved pillar of the Fantasy literature community thinking about the possibility of ending his own life, or even on the possibility of losing his own mind.  I must admit that one of my greatest fears of old age is of losing my mind – because largely the internal world is the only world I really have… where things make sense and good always wins.  If I haven’t got that to retreat to… well… the alternative is too deressing to contemplate, isn’t it?  No guiding questions on this one.  I just wanted to point it out.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 11, 2011 8:43 pm

    Read the Terry Pratchett link. Don’t like his work—I hear it’s pretty blasphemous—but he is made even creepier by the fact that he wants to have one of these “Dignified deaths.” Which is a concept that disturbs me…Especially when I hear stories of people actually doing it. Remember that one guy…I don’t remember what state…but he had one of these machines and he actually broadcasted its usage. Ach! It seems like such a misdirection of life.

    …I am opinionated, aren’t I? 🙂

    • August 12, 2011 9:55 am

      I thought you might comment on the Pratchett link. I won’t speak to the “blasphemy” accusation except to say (a) blasphemy is probably in the eye of the beholder and (b) I have too high a regard for the concept of “freedom of speech” to get sufficiently worried or bothered enough to ever describe something as “blasphemy”. On the subject at hand, however… well, it’s macabre and it seems to go against every instinct and belief I have… and yet, I don’t think I know enough about other people’s lives and realities to make any judgments of them and their decisions. In other words, I might not think it’s right, but I’m pretty sure I’m unqualified to debate the issue either way.

      • August 12, 2011 4:28 pm

        I see my reputation has preceded me —

        Depends on Whose Eye is doing the beholding…But that’s all I will say for now, he he 🙂

      • August 12, 2011 4:42 pm

        I know what you were implying by that. Let’s just say I’m not dogmatic about such things. I am, however, quite dogmatic about that “freedom of speech” thing I mentioned earlier. I may be a believer in a religious sense, but I’m also a believer in the rights of everyone else to believe whatever they wish – because I believe that’s an inalienable human right (yes that’s one or two “believes” too many, but what can you do). Ergo… I get uncomfortable when someone says something is “blasphemy”. It reminds me too much of the sorts of nasty things various extremists will say and do in the name of their religion that altogether condemnable. One day it’s words like “blasphemy”. The next it’s stones.

        So… I think can you disagree with what someone says or believes. I think there are ways to do that which are respectful. But using a heavy, loaded word like “blasphemy” raises my alarm bells. I didn’t want to have to address it… but… well… My blog is intended to be an open place where hopefully many different people of many different beliefs – or lack thereof – can discuss writing and other things. And so I’m uncomfortable when a rather belligerent term like that is used. I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable posting comments to my blog because they fear disagreeing with me or my beliefs or the beliefs of regular commenters, and I want to keep it open like that. Do you understand what I’m getting at?

      • August 12, 2011 9:15 pm

        Yuhp. Got it.

        Oh wait…I confused Terry Pratchett with Phillip Pullman & His Dark Materials. He he, my bad. 🙂 I don’t know much about Discworld, so I will save my conclusions about that for another day…

        My apologies on the misunderstanding…

      • August 15, 2011 9:17 am

        Well, now, I have heard that complaint about Pullman’s books. Still… my point stands. Pullman is, as I understand it, an atheist, and he lives in what is ostensibly a free and open society. Ergo, he’s entitled to his views. Those who disagree don’t have to agree… but living in a free and open society at least means being cordial about it.

  2. August 12, 2011 11:20 am

    I’ve read a lot of Terry’s work and he is a huge inspiration on me. The curse that he’s now faced with – off knowing that he’s going to lose his mind, that soon he won’t be able to write anymore – is a horrendous one that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

    He has however adopted a campaign of trying to raise awareness of alzheimers, finding a cure and also rethinking the options available to people who have it. In typical Pratchett fashion he boasted “I’m going to kick alzheimer’s in the face before I go” but there is a real melancholy and severeness about him now.

    The BBC have run a couple of documentaries with Terry – the first was about him handling the original diagnosis and finding out more about the disease. The second was shown only recently and was about him investigating assisted suicide and concluded with him travelling to a clinic in Switzerland and watching first hand as a British gentleman went through “the process” of ending his own life with his wife at his side. It was very powerful stuff – hard to watch but something worth understanding and debating. I strongly recommend you track it down (I think it was something like: Terry Pratchett – Choosing to Die).

    • August 12, 2011 11:25 am

      Yeah, he discusses that event in Switzerland in the linked interview. I have the same reaction as you to the idea of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It is, as I see it, quite probably the worst possible fate. I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea of assisted suicide – it’s just something that seems beyond me, and it’s a bit scary to even contemplate (both at a personal level and at the level of what potential unintended consequences it might have). But reading that interview made me realize that I definitely am not sufficiently informed on the topic to stake a real position on it and debate it intelligently.

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