Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

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Edith Wharton was *really* modern

Because I am large and contain multitudes, I'm reading at the same time (well, not literally, one book in one hand the other book in the other, because that's awkward and I'd never assimilate either book that way) the published screenplay to Beowulf, the film Rogar Avary and Neil Gaiman wrote that Robert Zemeckis directed, and the Edith Wharton collection Roman Fever and Other Stories. I'm really appreciating Wharton, for among other things her clean writing style and her damn cutting observations. I also saw her story "The Angel at the Grave," where her use of the word "Cimmerian" made me wonder, until I saw that she'd written the story in 1901, whether she was a fan of Robert E. Howard. (Maybe she was, later when Howard was actually writing. Heck, she outlived him...) She meant the Cimmerians of the regions approximately north of the Black Sea, but that was over 2,500 years ago and the evidence of exactly where the Cimmerians lived is no longer conclusive. Still, they work as a reference for "hella ancient," and Howard liked the word, too. (Come to think of it, maybe Howard was a Wharton fan...)

"The Angel at the Grave" is about a granddaughter of a major figure in literature and science who plans and tries to keep his intellectual memory alive at the expense of her own life. As one part of this, she spends years writing his biography -- and runs into a publisher who flat-out says Nope, we're not interested in publishing that. How does his reasoning sound?

He's a name still, of course. People don't exactly want to be caught not knowing who he is; but they don't want spend two dollars finding out, when they can look him up for nothing in any biographical dictionary.

Wharton likely wouldn't have been surprised that nowadays, a hundred-plus years after she wrote that, people are increasingly likely not to want to spend anything to find out or support stuff, even stuff they want to know.

Why yes, I just listened to this Cort and Fatboy episode about how hard it can be to make your living creatively and to get people to pay you for your output; are you surprised? It's on my mind.

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