“Authors’ complaints about publishers have been voiced on many different tunes, but their concert generally amounts to endless variations on the same theme: money. Either they moan piteously, like Henry James writing to his publisher: ‘The delicious ring of the sovereign is conspicuous in our intercourse by its absence.’ Or they thunder with foaming fury and throw colourful abuse like L.-F. Céline: ‘If you were not robbing me, you would not be conforming to my views of human nature.’ And, as his publisher had refused to increase an advance on royalties and advised ‘more patience,’ he retorted: ‘Patience is a virtue for donkeys and cuckolds! If only you could kindly wipe your arse with my contract and let me free to leave your filthy brothel!’ Yet screams merely betray powerlessness. Georges Simenon, wanting to rescind an agreement that had proved disadvantageous to him, resorted to different tactics: he achieved his aim by putting to good use his intuitive knowledge of the human heart. The novelist assessed how much it would be worth for him to redeem his original contract; then filled a briefcase with banknotes and won his negotiation simply by emptying the briefcase over the publisher’s desk”. Simon Leys
WORDS OF WISDOM
I am fed up picking my own brains
From now on I intend
To pick other peoples’
Writers, I mean
Well, the good ones anyway.
Write sober, edit drunk, said Hemingway
Or was it the other way round?
Only a blockhead writes for anything but money
That, I believe, was Samuel Johnson.
Hey Sam, in case you didn’t know
The world is overflowing with blockheads nowadays.
And then there was that other asshole in NY
Who said that the best way to get a good book published
Was to write one.
Oh yeah, shitface?
Well, swivel on this
The only dead writer is a good one.
‘Only a fool writes for anything but money’. So said Samuel Johnson way back in the late 18th C.
I would venture to say that not a lot of writers have taken his advice, for there are a lot of fools writing today! Millions I would imagine. Mind you old Sam had a lot to say for most of his life. He never stopped spouting if the truth be told. Here are some more gems; The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it. How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes? I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read. A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek.
Of course he had a distinct advantage over today’s scribblers; he had his own ‘gofor’, James Boswell, who followed him round jotting down every utterance, all of which were subsequently publisheed in Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson. As a young man Boswell had moved from Scotland to London and met Johnson for the first time in 1763. The pair became friends almost immediately. Johnson eventually nicknamed him “Bozzy”.The first conversation between Johnson and Boswell is quoted in Life of Samuel Johnson as follows:
[Boswell:] “Mr. Johnson, I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it.”
[Johnson:] “That, Sir, I find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help”
Over the years, they met frequently, Boswell diligently keeping notes of their conversations in his journals, which were not published until 1791, when Johnson was already dead and Boswell himself nearing the end of his life. Life of Samuel Johnson has often been described as the greatest biography ever written.
Final quote by Johnson: ‘Paradise Lost’ is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is’