Almost every author I know is friendly, generous and helpful ... but that's in part because I try to give as much as I get to the relationship, and not act like a scraping sycophant or a terminal favor-mongerer.
But everybody, I'm sure, knows at least one jerk. Somebody who's forgotten what it was like to be a struggling author and now has no time or interest in their old friends. Somebody whose desire to protect their time, energy and privacy leads them to be brusque or dismissive. Somebody whose ego and sense of entitlement leads them to demand more for attention and investment for themselves at the expense of others.
What brought this to mind was the man on the current cover of Time magazine, Jonathan Franzen. He's America's most celebrated literary author at the moment ... and, by many accounts (including his own
), one of the biggest assholes in the publishing business.
From a New York Times review of his 2006 memoir, "The Discomfort Zone": Mr. Franzen turns his unforgiving eye on himself and succeeds in giving
us an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass: petulant,
pompous, obsessive, selfish and overwhelmingly self-absorbed. ... While some readers will want to give Mr. Franzen points for being so
revealing about himself, there is something oddly preening about his
self-inventory of sins, as though he actually reveled in being so
disagreeable.He describes reasoning that “not having kids freed me altogether” from having to worry about things like global warming: “Not having kids was my last, best line of defense against the likes of Al Gore.” And he describes the judgmental outlook that he and his wife shared
for many years: “Deploring other people — their lack of perfection — had
always been our sport.”
Do you know authors like this? Or has your experience within our fraternity been overwhelmingly positive?