Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Money for books.

On the seashores of endless worlds, children play...sometimes the ocean throws up some sweet juxtapositions, driftwood, jetsam, medical waste, plastic pails, used underwear, feces, pieces of wood decking. I love the shore, to breathe deep and suck it in. I love the shore on damp gray days like today when the foghorns blow in New York harbor and the big buildings disappear.

Quist used to tell me that I should never read the newspapers and magazines without taking my effin medication. "You take it too seriously, poot." John Updike's last poems -- written just before he died -- appear in this week's New Yorker. Here are a few lines from one of them titled "A Lightened Life":

"...--and taxes, state
and federal, mailed. They were much more this year,
thanks to the last novel's mild success,
wry fruit of terror-fear and author's tours."

He's referring to his 2007 novel Terrorist, which sold more copies than the typical late Updike fiction, hence netting him a higher tax bill. He may have had his big reputation, but earning decent money was never easy. A serious writer is always courtin rejection, especially if he doesn't do the same thing over and over. But Updike made a living at it, all his life, churning out novels, short stories, criticism, light verse. The wags in the press claimed that writing was "as natural as breathing" for him, and the words only stopped coming when the breath died out.

I put down the New Yorker and picked up the Times. In it, they reported that Scribner paid Audrey Niffenegger a cool five million bucks for her sophomore novel. She wrote The Time Traveler's Wife a few years ago. Now she's back with some kind of ghost story called Her Fearful Symmetry. Quaint nod to Willie Blake. Good to know that Viacom can still cough up the big dough. I wonder who'll do her taxes next year.

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