Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Yeah, Accident Governs What's Going On In My Mind All The Time

I recently joined UVM professor Huck Gutman's poetry listserv. I received the first message yesterday or the day before, and it begins with a comment about "how much of our emotional lives and our desires are governed by accident." And then Gutman explains that the e-mail we're about to read involves Elizabeth Bishop's Sandpiper because he was on a beach, saw a sandpiper, and thought of the poem.

I was just reading Why Readers Crave The Risk Factor, in which the author, Robert McCrum, contends that readers like writers who have personal backstories that "show a bit of leg, and...have an air of romance about them." This caught my interest because, quite accidentally, I'd been recently reading some of those author bios that describe their subjects' past work experience. It seems as if not being able to hold a job is something to brag about if you're a writer, and I've seen people give long lists of former occupations, such as short order cook, wait staff, taxi driver, dog walker, telemarketer, housecleaner, checkout clerk, animal trainer (which can mean anything), and apple picker.

I guess the point they're trying to make is that they have varied life experience to call upon in their writing. These work histories sometimes left me feeling a little inadequate because I have held very few jobs at all, forget about anything that would give me varied life experience. (Not very inadequate, though, because I'm very much a "What, me work?" type of person.)

Do any of these jobs involve a risk factor, though? Do they include the bit of leg McCrum says readers crave? I think not. I can't say I have much leg in my background, either, but at least I am no longer feeling badly about never having worked as a carnie at the fair.

And I can thank accident governing my emotional life for that.


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