Earbrass, LTD: Writers in search of reassignment?*


“First, try to be something, anything, else.” That’s the famous first line of Lorrie Moore’s “How to Become a Writer,” and it’s funny because it’s true. Many writers do consider another path initially.

Roberto Bolaño wanted to be a spy, Kate Christensen a rock star, Joan Didion an actress. Chris Adrian went to medical school, and the seminary. Herman Melville was a sailor and Larry Brown a fireman. Faulkner did guv’ment work.

Jonathan Lethem once worked as a bookseller; if he weren’t a writer, he says he’d probably choose to be a film historian or curator.

I often think about what I’d do for money if I didn’t have my current day job. What I’d do apart from writing the things I want to write, I mean. I’ll always do that; I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I’ve always written. But I also have to eat.

Top of the list is is Grasso & Neutron, the private eye firm Dana and I keep saying we’re going to start up. (Laugh while you can, monkey boy. We know what you did last night.)

Apparently this is a common writers’ fantasy. Also, espionage. (See, e.g., Edward Gorey’s Mr. Earbrass, above, and the writer as detective.)

I’d probably be reasonably happy doing genealogical research, which is sort of the same thing as detective work, except everyone you’re spying on is dead. I have a feeling there’s not a big demand for this kind of service in a recession, though.

Thomson’s This Party’s Got to Stop


“My mother spoke to me once after she was dead.” That’s the first sentence of Rupert Thomson’s forthcoming memoir, This Party’s Got to Stop, which I started reading last night and am loving and rationing. (I’m in lockdown at my sister’s place, getting some writing done; also, I’ve waited a long time for this book and don’t want to tear through it too quickly.)

The full first chapter is online at Granta, and Rupert reads a later section above. Unless you’re new to this site, you probably know that he’s one of my favorite writers — and, now, a friend.

Making your brain (and fingers) keep going

A friend who just finished writing a(n excellent) book in a short period of time says you have to ignore your brain when it tells you it’s done for the day. You may think you can’t keep going, but if you push on, what comes out will be even better. The next day, do the same. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Also, no socializing. Apart from whatever job pays the bills, do nothing but sleep, eat, procrastinate, and write.

See also Peter Straub’s Twitter bio: “my profession obliges me to enjoy solitary confinement.”