Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

We expect writers to have problems. Alcoholism, divorce, depression, these make sense to us as the price an artist pays for cultivating his or her talent. A story to explain the storyteller.

But there are other kinds of writers. Not a few take Flaubert's advice to live like a bourgeois. They achieve an orderly existence centered, perhaps more completely, on the work of writing.

Eudora Welty was the daughter of a prosperous insurance company executive. She went to Columbia University to study business, in case writing didn't work out. After launching her literary career, she moved home and lived very simply. Her inspiration, Danny Heitman explains, did not come in a bottle. Welty sought it in the world around her, listening and attending to it as carefully as she could.

Bernard Malamud also lived the quiet life, but, with a wife and children to support, he needed a day job. He found one as a college instructor, setting aside three days a week to work on his fiction. And it was work. As Mark Athitakis shows, Malamud might have called himself a re-writer, for all the drafts he marked up, typed out, and marked up again.

Language need not be literary to be interesting, of course, as Ammon Shea reminds us in his report on the Corpus of Historical American English. …

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