Sunday, April 22, 2012

If You Can Make It There: Making it Now and Then As A Writer in the Big Apple

Comparing details from their biographies with prices and facts from the present day, Brent Cox concocts an engaging piece for The Awl called “What It Cost Eight Women Writers To Make It In New York.”
In 1967, Patti Smith wrote in Just Kids, she was considering a move to New York City. "I had enough money for a one-way ticket. I planned to hit all the bookstores in the city. This seemed ideal work to me." Twenty-seven years before her, in 1940, Shirley Jackson and her soon-to-be husband Stanley Hyman graduated from Syracuse and moved to New York. According to this biography, "For quite some time they had known exactly what they were going to do: move to New York City, live as cheaply as possible, take menial jobs if necessary and wait for the Big Break. Not just wait—push for it."
The costs are high, the rewards often slim and, as Tama Janowitz warns, “As for advice, I only offer this: Mamas, don’t let your daughters grow up to be writers.” Even so, quite a lot of them do. In addition to Janowitz, Cox herds in facts and advice from Dorothy Parker, Zora Neale Hurston, Shirley Jackson, Gael Greene, Patti Smith, Susan Sontag and  Kate Christensen. Says Cox:
The list of authors discussed here isn't meant to be exhaustive, or even authoritative. There are many, many writers that could have been included in this survey, and any such omission is not intended as a slight (except to Ayn Rand, of course). Also different biographies are less forthcoming than others when it comes to specific dollar amounts, which was sometimes a factor in choosing subjects. Our intent here was simply to pick a writer or two from enough different eras to give a sense of what's been involved in moving to the Big Apple to make it (or otherwise) over the past century.
It’s an entertaining piece that I suspect won’t dissuade or persuade anyone. Even so, the journey is a lot of fun. It’s here.


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