Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Authors As Fans of Other Authors


I’m a fan of C. J. Cherryh, when it comes to famous authors.

When it comes to authors I know, it’s Jane Watson

I’ve learned how to write by reading other authors.

In my previous post, The “Self”-Education of Writers . . ., I said:

“Many are the writers whose education—beyond that which is learned from living fully and authentically—comes from reading other writers—their creative fiction, not books about how to write.”

And, in the post, How To Read Like A Writer, I quoted Francine Prose, saying:

“Concerning writers reading to learn how to write—’…the connection has to do with whatever mysterious promptings make you want to write. It’s like watching someone dance and then secretly, in your own room, trying out a few steps.’

“’You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading.’

“’The only time my passion for reading steered me in the wrong direction was when I let it persuade me to go to graduate school….I left graduate school and became a writer.’”

So, it may be rather obvious that authors become fans of other authors and there is evidence in a post over at Flavorwire called, 10 Illuminating Fan Letters From Famous Authors, To Famous Authors.

Here are just a few snippets:

From Norman Mailer to William Styron, 1953:

“I have only one humble criticism. I wonder if you realize how good you are. That tendency in you to invert your story and manner your prose just slightly, struck me—forgive the presumption—as coming possibly from a certain covert doubt of your strengths as a writer, and you’re too good to doubt yourself.”

From Ray Bradbury to Robert Heinlein, 1976:

“…I REMEMBER, WARMLY, YOUR MANY KINDNESSES TO ME WHEN I WAS 19–20–21 YEARS OLD.”
Yes, apparently, Bradbury wrote that in all Caps :-)

From Charles Dickens to George Eliot, 1858:

“I have been so strongly affected by the two first tales in the book you have had the kindness to send me through Messrs. Blackwood, that I hope you will excuse my writing to you to express my admiration of their extraordinary merit.”

From Virginia Woolf to Olaf Stapledon, 1937:

“…sometimes it seems to me that you are grasping ideas that I have tried to express, much more fumblingly, in fiction.”

From James Joyce to Henrik Ibsen, 1901:

“I can hardly tell you how moved I was by your message. I am a young, a very young man, and perhaps the telling of such tricks of the nerves will make you smile. But I am sure if you go back along your own life to the time when you were an undergraduate at the University as I am, and if you think what it would have meant to you to have earned a word from one who held so high a place in your esteem as you hold in mine, you will understand my feeling.”

an anti-fan letter from William S. Burroughs to Truman Capote, 1970:

“You have betrayed and sold out the talent that was granted you by this department. That talent is now officially withdrawn. Enjoy your dirty money. You will never have anything else. You will never write another sentence above the level of In Cold Blood. As a writer you are finished. Over and out. Are you tracking me? Know who I am? You know me, Truman. You have known me for a long time. This is my last visit.”

If you go to Flavorwire to read the complete letters, be sure to note the [via] link after each letter, to be led to more information
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2 responses to “Authors As Fans of Other Authors

  1. Jane Watson March 22, 2013 at 6:39 am

    Thank you for the kind mention! Actually I love the fact that Dickens addresses George Eliot as ‘Dear Sir’, even though he suspects she is a woman, and praises the way she writes about women! ;-)

    And the way William S. Burroughs begins his ‘anti-fan letter’ to Truman Capote:

    “My Dear Mr. Truman Capote
    This is not a fan letter in the usual sense — unless you refer to ceiling fans in Panama…”

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai March 22, 2013 at 10:05 am

      Us “crazy” writers, eh? — Give us a chance to be creative and we run with it :-)

      Like

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