Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jim Crace; Henry Gregor Felsen; Suicidal animals?

From Dave Zeltersman:

Ed, I never heard of Jim Crace, but I found his outlook on writing and publishing honest and refreshing. I think there's a good amount of wisdom here.

He is, he says, already at work on his next novel. Will it follow the direction of All That Follows, or return to more familiar territory? The latter, he confirms, and then adds – very casually – that it will be his last book. "Writing careers are short," he expands. "For every 100 writers, 99 never get published. Of those who do, only one in every hundred gets a career out of it, so I count myself as immensely privileged. I will have written 12 novels when I finish this next book and it's enough. I'm going to stop. Too often bitterness is the end product of a writing career. I keep seeing writers who have grown bitter. And I know that I am just as likely to turn bitter as anyone else. So it's self-preservation."

Most writers would say that they are driven to write and know no other way to fill their time or make sense of the world. Crace is amused by their presumption. "My belief is that I will be quite happy not writing," JD Salinger once said, 'You've got no idea the peace of writing and not publishing,' but I am going to go one better and find the peace of not writing and not publishing. I'm looking forward to it."

for the complete article go here:

----------------Henry Gregor Felsen fans

Dear Ed,
I am Henry's daughter, and today I spent the afternoon googling him. I was
excited to find the comments on your blog about how he influenced you. I am
getting ready to republish Hot Rod for the 60th anniversary. I am still
contacted by his fans, and they have encouraged me to do this. Would you mind if
I quoted you on my web page? I'm just getting it started, and would like to put
some comments from other people. I haven't set up much on it yet, but I've told
the story of Hot Rod from my point of view. I was born two weeks after he
finished it!

I'm glad I found your blog, and enjoyed reading many of your posts, as well as
my dad's!

Thank you,
Holly Felsen Welch

-----------------------Do animals commit suicide?
(from Mind Hacks)

Do animals commit suicide?:

Time magazine has a short article on the history of ideas about whether animals can commit suicide. It starts somewhat awkwardly by discussing the recent Oscar winning documentary on dolphins but is in fact based on an academic paper on 'animal suicide'.

Changes in how humans have interpreted animal suicide reflect shifting values about animals and our own self-destruction, the paper argues. The Romans saw animal suicide as both natural and noble; an animal they commonly reported as suicidal was one they respected, the horse. Then for centuries, discussion of animal suicide seems to have stopped. Christian thinkers like St. Thomas Aquinas deemed suicide sinful for humans and impossible for animals. "Everything naturally loves itself," wrote Aquinas in the 13th century. "The result being that everything naturally keeps itself in being."

In 19th century Britain, however, after Darwin demonstrated how humans evolved from animals, humane societies formed, vegetarianism and pets became popular, and reports of animal suicide resurfaced. The usual suspect this time was the dog. In 1845 the Illustrated London News reported on a Newfoundland who had repeatedly tried to drown himself: "The animal appeared to get exhausted, and by dint of keeping his head determinedly under water for a few minutes, succeeded at last in obtaining his object, for when taken out this time he was indeed dead."
Of course, the article doesn't answer the question of whether animals can end it all, but is a fascinating look at how the idea that they can has gone in and out of fashion.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mind Hacks reader Avicenna for pointing out that the full text of the academic article 'The nature of suicide: science and the self-destructive animal' is available online.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Crace is a really great writer. I am sorry to hear he's putting it aside.

Fred Blosser said...

When I was in junior high (just before the asteroid crash wiped out the dinosaurs), HOT ROD was a mainstay of the Scholastic Book Service catalog for 13-year-old boys. The counterpart for 13-year-old girls was Sally Benson's (Mrs. William P. McGivern) JUNIOR MISS.

Max Allan Collins said...

I loved Felson's books. First of all, he wrote for teenagers in an adult fashion -- incredibly rare at the time. Second, he was a professional bigtime writer from Iowa. An early and key inspiration.