Work is Good
One of my favorite popular writers, Dominick Dunne, passed away yesterday at the age of 83.
Vanity Fair got tossed in the waste bin at the end of the month, but Dunne columns got clipped and saved.
An archive of Dunne’s Vanity Fair articles can be found here. You’ll find articles about Claus von Bulow, the Menendez trial, Imelda Marcos, and many more.
A tribute to Dunne by Tina Brown is here.
He told me he was off the next day on a tragic mission—to attend the trial of his 22-year-old daughter’s murderer. His beloved Dominique, a rising actress, had been brutally strangled by her boyfriend John Sweeney, the chef at the swanky Ma Maison restaurant in West Hollywood. Not knowing at the time that Dominick was always an avid documentarian of his own life in scrap books and journals, I asked him if he would keep a journal of the trial and show me what he had written at the end. The result was the ironically titled “Justice,” his riveting, impassioned account in Vanity Fair of what he always believed was a judicial outrage, Sweeney’s conviction for manslaughter that led to him getting out of jail in under three years. It was the first of innumerable great pieces as he went on to become one of Vanity Fair’s star writers.
Now, the daily natter.
My blog posts aren’t deathless prose. They aren’t meant to be, any more than I expect every letter I dash off to be as glorious as the correspondence of Abelard and Heloise.
I have immense respect for the power of great writing, and the care that goes into it.
Just because someone is not a professional writer, that does not mean they don’t have the right to a voice. And as a professional, I can’t possibly afford to put as much care and attention into a blog post as I do into something I get paid for. I would starve to death, unable to do anything for an entire day except write, rewrite, proof, and re-proof.
Professional writers have dopey opinions with which I don’t agree in the least, disguising poor reasoning with $2 words. The ability to write beautifully does not make their arguments valid. It does not make their opinion more valuable than yours or mine. The ability to write beautifully does not endow you with any more common sense, wisdom, or honesty than the fruit seller on the corner.
There are many professional writers who do not write particularly well, no matter how much they get paid for it.
They fulfill the terms of their agreements with clients. And they sell. There is nothing in this equation that makes them inherently better at writing than anyone else.
There is nothing inherent in writing for your own pleasure that makes you any better than a professional writer, either. Money does not make you good at anything. Lack of money does not make you good at anything. It does not even mean your motives are pure. It just means you have no money.
Many of my favorite writers are stylists, like Tanith Lee. I do not write nearly as well as Tanith Lee, or Jane Austin, or anyone else I admire.
Being less than the very best at anything does not remove from you, me, or anyone else the right to enjoy what we create, or to say what we need to say.
While we may never achieve universal praise for what we create, that does not mean we do not have the right to create it.
Being a great artist has absolutely nothing to do with being a good human being. Being a good human being does not come with any other reward than the knowledge that you do the right thing whenever you can. A great artist may be a total schlub, but his work will be enshrined in museums.
In the end, he was still a schlub.
And one from the Twilight Zone: I’ve been approached by two publishers in the last month about collecting these posts, and/or expanding the content into a book.
I was offered a Work for Hire contract.
At some point, I will probably collect these musings. Perhaps some publisher will read these posts, pay attention to the content, and realize I am the wrong person to offer a WFH agreement for use of original material.
In the meantime, my tip jar appreciates you.
And so do my ebay offerings. I will be selling art until the end of next month, and then it all goes back off the market for awhile. Current offerings: A Distant Soil, manga art, Sandman, Book of Lost Souls, more. UPDATED: The cover art to the unpublished Book of Lost Souls #7 is now on hold for a purchaser.