Don’t Quit The Day Job

As a sometime recipient of the above advice (which I have taken by the way – writing, as I am regularly reminded by the bank deposits of royalties from the publishers, will keep me in wine but rarely allow me to get drunk), I was intrigued by an article in The New York Times Book Review’s annual Money Edition, spotted by Michele Cusack.

Rivka Galchen discusses the fact that many authors never “worked” a day in their lives – indeed, often they relied on the support of their spouses, both financial and in other forms including typing duties, proof reading and all the other tedious tasks with which they couldn’t be bothered. Stand up: Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Mann and, in the interests of avoiding gender bias, Virginia Woolf.

Others, including of course, Anthony Trollope, managed to fit in their writing around their day job. Trollope finally quit the Post Office only a few years before he was scheduled to retire (thereby foregoing the pension which he felt he did not need – which pains me as a former adviser to companies on their pension plans – he certainly shot holes through my “pensions helps recruit and retain staff” argument).

Mohsin Hamid discusses how financial woes can be grist to the writer’s mill. None knew this better than Trollope – his descriptions of the financial woes of his younger male characters (whether they be hobbledehoys or not) reflect his own families struggles. As W H Auden observed, “Trollope best understands the role of money. Compared with him, even Balzac is too romantic.”


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