Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Registered Upon Our Brazen Tombs

This morning, Neil Gaiman pointed me to Stephen Fry on fame. Just one more turn in the mysterious wheels of the Universe, because the essay turns out to be *absolutely* germaine to the tale I'm currently telling. Yes, still with that damn. Dip. Pen.

It's long, rambling, and infinitely entertaining. Every paragraph was a little gem, and there's even some advice in there for writers:

Dan Whatsit and his preposterously awful Leonardo book are actually relevant to our theme. I usually last longer with any best-selling novel, however pathetic, than I did with his. But in his case I knew from the very first word that this was a writer of absolutely zero interest, insight, wit, understanding or ability. A blunderer of monumental incompetence. The first word, can you credit it, is ‘renowned’. ‘Renowned symbologist Henry Titfeather ….’ or something equally drivelling, that’s how this dreadful book opens. How do you begin to explain to someone that you just don’t start a fictional story by telling your readers that your character is ‘renowned’? You show it, you don’t tell it.

Lord Reith, founder of the BBC, legendarily fired off an angry memo to his staff after a broadcast in which someone or other was described as “the famous lawyer”. The memo went like this: ‘The word FAMOUS. If a person is famous it is superfluous to point out the fact, if they are not then it is a lie. The word is not to be used within the BBC.’ Way to tell them, Scottish guy.


One could do worse than to keep this point in mind...

4 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Interesting. He certainly has a lot of opinions on fame and makes some good poins. The essay is pretty rambling, though. I've really never given fame much thought. I'd like to be rich but not famous.

Lisa said...

I confess to skimming most of the "blessay" due to its length, but agree he makes some good points. To the point you excerpted, I've noticed since I've been doing a lot of critiquing that stating the obvious when we've already made our point seems to be a common tendency for lots of writers. I've made a big mental note to self to watch for that. It's that one sentence too many in a paragraph --

On fame, I have a particular interest in literary fame because our culture seems to want to make everyone famous and recognizable. I used to think that a big benefit to being a great novelist was that one could be a household name, but wander the streets without being recognized. Since we apparently are not a big reading culture, that still probably holds true for most writers, unless you happen to be Stephen King. I think being "movie-star" famous would be horrible, personally but I'm sort of reclusive and consider it an intrusion when a telemarketer calls my house :)

avery said...

And I thought I was verbose. Sorry, man, I Homered out after the fourth paragraph.

I don't give fame much thought, though. It's all temporal. Yeah, maybe one can be lucky enough to be like Plato and dig in for a nice, long haul in the collective memory of humanity, but, in the end, the universe will suck back in on itself and all will be forgotten. So, there's not much point in scrambling for immortality.

cs harris said...

Yes, interesting article on many points. Obviously not one of Danny Boy's fans! My favorite quote was "Eat shit, a trillion flies can’t be wrong."