And by romancing, I mean in the way a pimply, freshly-pubescent boy attempts to romance his first real girlfriend: clumsily; shamefully; inadequately, with absent confidence, shifting eyes and fumbling fingers.
And by geniuses, I mean geniuses; their brilliance stampedes from the pages and declares war — annihilation, even — on one’s cognition. Some brilliant minds have the capacity and talent to, with one sentence, shift an entire lifetime worth of paradigms and semi-formed truths; with one book, make wise men kneel eternally at the altar of their wisdom.
Some brilliant minds are made for that. Some brilliant minds are not.
David Baldacci may fall amongst the ranks of the latter.
In the recently released Why We Write, Baldacci — you know, that oft-maligned thrill-machine whose novels have sold over one hundred million copies — admits that he is not a writer of “literary fiction”. To many-a-purist, that means immediate exclusion from the pantheon of greatness. “I’m never going to write a book that wins a Pulitzer. I don’t think that’s what I do, or where my talents lie,” he says, seemingly unaffected by the reality that his creations, his “babies,” won’t be included on required reading list for college undergrads thirty years from now.
Pretty humble for a guy with his J.D. from UVA, eh? Or, perhaps more accurately, a guy with his J.D. from UVA and a dozen and a half international bestsellers to his name.
Now juxtapose that little nugget of humility with the sea of pretenders muddying the waters of digital media who would rather scale a spewing Vesuvius naked, bare footed, and lathered in kerosene before admitting, either publicly or privately, the slightest ineptitude in their own abilities.
Maybe it has nothing to do with humility and everything to do with honesty.
Or maybe David Baldacci simply does not give a shit what you or I think about how he writes. Nor should he.
“Writing for your readers,” he says, “is a euphemism for writing what you think people will buy. Don’t fall for it! Write for the person you know best: yourself.”
Will Baldacci’s name be spoken in the same breaths as Voltaire, Shakespeare, and Faulkner in a hundred years? Nope. Is Baldacci somehow a less talented craftsman because of his choice to write (wildly popular) commercial fiction? Nope. Does that choice classify Baldacci as a sellout and, if so, does it really matter? The man has found a niche and sticks to it, thus earning a luxury of comfort foreign to most.
And before you come calling for my head, this isn’t me casting stones from my throne inside a glistening house of glass. I spent the better part of 2012 functioning as a pretender in a cape of confidence, shielding my insecurities under a pair of aviator shades, a bottle of self tanner, and the adorable face of a pug puppy.
I wanted to write timeless literature that sung to the spirits of a dozen generations.
I ended up with rotten pork that tried to squeal louder than the other children and swine in a playpen of filth.
The realization? I am terrible at writing vampires. And smut. And zombies. And romance. Or, in other words, I am terrible at writing things that will make me a multimillionaire in the next five years.
I wasn’t writing those stories and characters for myself, and I won’t be writing them for you.
What I will do, however, is what I have been for the past few months: kissing Nabokov’s neck, caressing Austen’s lips, massaging Dostoevsky’s thighs and steadying my shaky hand so I can unsnap Hemingway’s bra with a single pinch.
I leave you with that disturbing image, Spitheads. Until next time…