Appendix I (to the preceding post)

17 10 2008

An Encouraging Table

(adapted from David Galenson’s creativity study as cited in Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article)

Age 23: T. S. Eliot’s “Prufrock”

Age 41: Robert Lowell’s “Skunk Hour”

Age 48: Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

Age 40: William Carlos Williams’s “Red Wheelbarrow”

Age 29: Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish”

Age 30: Ezra Pound’s “The River Merchant’s Wife”

Age 30: Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy”

Age 28: Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”

Age 42: Wallace Stevens’s “The Snow Man”

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One response

23 10 2008
Dave

The Numbers Game is a trap artists must ignore or crumble beneath. It’s a game in which only posterity wins.

The Gladwell piece was a bit thin, though I liked the story of Ben Fountain becoming an overnight sensation in his late 40s, after a couple decades of hard labor. The key there is that he just as easily could have gone on in relative obscurity, like many artists.

To that point, your “Moby Dick” example is perhaps more instructive than you think, but not necessarily more encouraging. The book got awful reviews when it was released and was shunned by readers for decades, and Melville eventually gave up on fiction as his livelihood. Only in the 1920s, long after Melville’s death, was his work dusted off, his reputation salvaged and his whale tale accepted as one of the great American novels.

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