Sunday, October 14, 2007

Famous Friends

NYT today published a three-page article about novelist Tom Perrotta. At Syracuse, in the graduate program in fiction writing, he was a classmate (class of '88). The two fellowships had gone to the Golden Boy and the Hemingway Boy, and the rest of us taught two sections of Freshman Comp, 25 students each. I complained to Tom that I had little time to write. He advised me to do as he did and "blow off teaching."

Well, I just couldn't let my freshmen down -- and there was the fork in the road.

The six men in our class went on to publish: four became fiction writers, one a poet. I'm glad for the successes of Tom and George Saunders, a deserving Golden Boy, beloved by The New Yorker, now teaching at Syracuse. They were never my close friends, and Tom I never saw again, and George only once, but I have had the honor of being considered their peer.

The three women were all depressed. One went to St. Louis where SHE had the fellowship (in poetry. Her fiction wasn't worth a bean. Back then there was no such thing as creative nonfiction).

I see now that for a young writer to keep writing, someone has to give you, grant you, a boost -- a scholarship, fellowship, some prizes, a mentor, a wealthy spouse, a lucky break. Or you have to boost yourself by boldly breaking down whatever holds you back.

In honor of Tom's success, and Doris Lessing's -- blow off an obligation today!

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