Ah, but I am a passionate writer. There is no reward if there is no risk.
And nothing if one does not believe in the work.
It isn’t all right if a woman says such things. It is lauded if gentlemen like my mentor and friend Harlan Ellison flame pathetic individuals. I have an old Galaxy Magazine from the early 70s in which Harlan wrote one of his 5-page missives destroying a critic who dared criticize his work. In that very issue is one of the saddest, most incompetent stories I’ve ever read — by the very same “critic” Harlan flamed. A Harlan classic.
Bad reviews are one thing. Taste is taste, and one may not please all readers.
Dishonest, untrue ones — quite another.
The common wisdom is that one must not respond to negative reviews. Well, I have been seldom wise and hardly ever, in accordance with the “common wisdom.” Assumptions are the enemy of all rational thought.
It’s not that this review made me angry. It made me laugh. It’s that the reviewer seems to have sped through, looking for ways to flame the work in question. She appears to have hardly been able to contain herself from noting the work was “unedited” (untrue) and “self-published” (also untrue).
Well, here’s the provenance this scholar, critic and writer apparently missed.
Because I do believe in this story. First, the story was written inspired by academic study I was undertaking while a graduate student in literature at Chapman University. This study included a seminar in the work of Oscar Wilde, during which I was privileged to read Oscar’s original typescripts, faxed from the UK by his grandson Merlin Holland. It also incorporated a desire to defend Edgar Allan Poe from the second-rank status he’d been accorded in some literature texts edited by Francis X.J. Kennedy (a well-known poet and pedogogical authority), and my study of Shakespeare’s works, having received the ability to visit the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA, as a visiting scholar.
As is usual for me, I thought about heaven and hell. I thought about the egos of writers. And most certainly I shall be found in the “Cave of the Writers,” disputing with all the rest. Let us hope I shall not, like Hemingway, be trapped forever in the permanent critique group.
I thought about love. How it both damns and redeems.
“Dream you other wise.”
That’s what the story is about. We may write our own lives if we have but the courage to do so.
So I write my own life as a woman born out of time, but in no time, for time is not real, only place.
I don’t just respect Shakespeare, I know he is the master of us all. Born he was to be as he was, and his words made him so. And “Shakespeare in Hell” is about how Shakespeare dreamed himself out of hell. And so may we all dream, have we but the courage and fortitude.
And these also I have, madam. This isn’t just the company I founded, it’s about taking writers out of slavery to freedom. It’s about setting the heart and mind free for all those who speak better in the written word than with the mouth.
So set you down this. Whatever you think you are, and what I am, you misjudged. You misapprehended. For 30 years, live you this life. Take you the word and the discipline and the passion and the heart. Write you something of merit and of meat. Think you of the spirit and the heart and the blood these great writers had. I do not pretend myself to that; I know what I said was true, all the same.
And then, perhaps, you may meet me where I stand. Where I live, where I am.
Some of us were born writers; others, perhaps are made.
Harlan Ellison would have told you off differently, as he is a different, passionate, profligate man. I am profligate with my word, with my time, with my heart — to those who need it.
Do you want to go? Because I will go. Come on. Take it off. Let’s go. Lights out. You take me on. You write a sonnet, villanelle, ballad. 5 minutes, sonnet. Ten minutes, villanelle or ballad. Let’s see who the “self-published writer” who needs an editor is. Let us see who has the most to say. Let us see – who has the word. Let us do it now. Let’s settle it.
More poor fool who thinks they can take this 30 years and a life of pain on. Like that. Just like fucking that. Please, do be my guest. You took the risk of taking on a streetfighter. So let’s go.
PS: yes, Harlan inspired me. Of course he did. “My bright star, ever pointing upward.”
PPS: from a reader and friend, noted the reviewer is a lawyer – “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” (Henry VI Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2)