Friday, May 29, 2009

Me and Samuel

I've been reading reviews of Beckett's letters; a common theme is the amusement at what, to the reviewer, looks like Beckett's obviously ludicrous attempt to find another way to make a living.

I've just come across a link to a piece in the NYT on DFW's commencement speech at Kenyon College. Not only does no one invite me to give me a commencement speech, schools I have actually attended are strangely unkeen to have me come and teach for them - even when staff at the school are enthusiastic about my work.

Early last year I wrote to X at a school I had attended for a year. X had contacted me about a year earlier speaking of his enthusiasm for TLS; we had corresponded; I was not sure I had the energy to haul coal from the cellar for another Prussian winter, so wondered whether the school might have accommodation and some kind of teaching I could do. The school had closed one of its campuses but still owned the site; I thought there might be a place there I could live.

X apparently made inquiries, but thought I must like Berlin so much better, and also thought I would surely be better off teaching creative writing in a college or something. I replied:

Dear X

It's terribly kind of you to look into this.
It's hard to know what to say to your questions. If a publisher bought one of these books I would probably prefer to stay where I am (thought I wouldn't back out at the last minute if I had agreed to go). But I have no idea how long that might take. I had an image in my mind of the empty campus, covered in snow; it seemed as though it might be possible to combine solitude with teaching.

I don't think the notionally higher-powered places you mention would be better. A job that did not involve working with words would probably be better for writing - something with animals, or plants, or food. Or bicycles. That's harder to set up than teaching because it falls foul of a lot of cultural stereotypes.

I've just taken delivery of all the things I put in storage 8 years ago, so pretty worn out; realised I'd been shockingly delinquent in not replying sooner. Picture me surrounded by boxes and a battered piano.


Answer came there none.

I read somewhere that Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in 6 weeks while working as a night security guard. That's a job I would love to have, but I just don't have the connections.

1 comment:

nsiqueiros said...

Jamie O'Neill wrote At Swim, Two Boys while working as a porter at a hospital.

I have to say, I got a lot of reading done while I worked in a butcher shop for three years. Now I work in a library. It doesn't seem to be detracting from my reading and writing. (My homework, however, does.) I did pick a job in the library where there is no interaction with customers; I worked in a call center before this. I managed to get writing done while working at the call center but never enough time to finish anything. I've had over 40,000 conversations with strangers. Time for the peace and quiet of the library. I've just started learning cataloging. More alone time to do my own thing and think my own thoughts.

Colleges and universities do have campus security. They even hire students to do the job, not sure if you could get hired on some kind of regular contract. Maybe try graveyard shift with hospital security?