Reading Notebook #31: A Writer’s Appetite for Fame

From “Writing and Winning” by Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker (October 18, 2010). Click here to read the full piece.

Since the first strum on the oldest lyre, literature has been about competition and the possibility of recognition. Pindar, the father of lyric poetry, took as his chief subject the winning of games, and the spirit of the end-zone dance has been with us ever since. Horace satirized everything except his own appetite for fame. Milton mourned Lycidas not because he stood beyond all prizes but because he died before the prizes would be won. The subtlest souls still show up in Stockholm to make the speech. Fame, honor, the laurel, and the bays, this more even than getting back at the girls, or the boys, who left you for another—the writer’s other great motivation—is the poetic passion.

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Posted in Reading, Writing Advice.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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