Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Uncertainty of Certitude

When I was a kid, what I wanted to be when I grew up was smart. I wanted to be smart real bad. Real smart. I wanted that more than anything in the world, more than being a policeman or a fireman or the president.

However, as it did with many other kids on their way to drinking age, life decided it had different plans for me.

And that's okay. Every loss is balanced by a corresponding gain; and life balanced my lack of smarts with a little respectable humility and a silly sense of humor. Humbly admitting to not being all that bright myself, I find I am able to laugh at the brittle antics of eggheaded people.

I noticed this yesterday morning when I stumbled across a conversation on Facebook. (I know, I know, I should let that place be and develop a social life in the real world; but it's hard to get out of the house sometimes.) On Facebook, someone I know had made a reference to the death of Gore Vidal. His comment was immediately met with a chorus of babble from a rabble of super smart people who, to a man, insisted that Vidal was overrated and would be consigned to the surplus bin a hundred years or so from now.

I find that funny. These people would almost certainly deny the viability of Nostradamus' prophecies, yet they were quite content to pronounce their own prognostications concerning the dubious literary tastes of a future society based on—what? Who knows.

None of their names were familiar to me from having come across them in the card catalogs at my nearest public library. So I could not assume they were writers themselves. How could they be so sure of the dismal future lying in wait for those books and essays, articles, plays, and other things left behind by Gore Vidal?

I wonder what real writers are really like.

I'll bet they're a lot like the kind of working stiffs you and I know (and probably are) who get up too early every morning to "lif' dat bale" and earn a little jack to keep body and soul together.

I wonder if a real writer spends a lot of time considering his place in the library stacks a century from now. I'd be willing to lay a bet that Shakespeare never did. Why would he? The smart people of today tell us he wasn't even the one who wrote Shakespeare anyway. Some nobleman did. But then that nobleman didn't give a damn about posterity either because he never left a semblance of a signed confession that he was indeed "the one whodunit." And if he had cared, he would have.

Do you think Charles Dickens cared? I have a feeling he was more concerned about the coins allotted to his word count than the fact that I would one day read Great Expectations and think to myself, "Wow..."

Nah, being none too bright, I rather think a writer writes because he can. If he's lucky, he might make some money stringing words together. If he's gifted, his words will sing a new song.

As for me, I'm content to sit with the dense set, the ordinary guys and gals who, when they come across somebody like a Gore Vidal, will move aside to make a seat for him at the bar, stand him a drink, and show him the kind of easygoing respect they would show to any person responsible for a job well done.

I think he would appreciate that.

Yeah, even a guy like Gore Vidal.


  1. Some writers write because they have to, I think. They write so the voices in their heads can be discharged, the din quieted. And yes, i'd agree they don't think much about posterity. Mostly they're trying to get through the day. I always remember a writer of some note saying to an overly critical reader, "Madam, I guarantee you, no writer ever set out to write a bad book." By which he meant respect the dedication and time and pure sweat equity required to create even a work you might not enjoy.

    I'm back from my trip and happy to be here.


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