I’ve just had a coffee and a maple and bacon muffin; now I’m around the corner, in Waterstones. I spot a novella so thin and ethereally scant there’s barely fifty pages between the covers.
How can this be, I wonder?
It’s nigh on impossible to get a novella published these days, and one without a plot to speak of is pushing the odds. Pulling off the impossible is a statement that the author exudes tremendous prestige within literary and publishing circles.
The pinnacle of the literary legend is probably the Salinger model. Doing a Salinger means transforming into an enigma, confounding the world, and disappearing off the map to never answer the question about your own magnificence.
Salinger reputedly wrote in an old Jeep car seat wearing overalls, keeping to himself apart from occasional jaunt down to the local shops for food and drink.
For rock stars and pop musicians with a more constricted marketable lifespan, the trick is knowing when to cut one’s losses. Some favour leisure, drugs and alcohol, or go in the other direction with Pilatus and Zen meditation. The established route is doing a Bono, becoming a business investor. Fancy investing in a chain of Korean restaurants or buying property.
Clement Greenburg was the ultimate art critic. When the Open University interviewed him, he was drinking whisky and chain smoking, mumbling weird replies to straightforward questions about Jackson Pollock.
When was the first time you met Pollock?
Acceptable answers here include: before he was famous; while he was doing his monochrome series, and so on.
But Greenburg refers to a bizarre account of Pollock wearing a hat and wryly observing that he never saw Pollock wearing a hat at any other time.
Brilliant. Just brilliant. And so revealing.
His way of closing the interview? An off-the-cuff comment about Pollock being like everyone else… full of crap. The Greenburg model: becoming a legendary eccentric and intellectual who has the soul of an artist.
After Duchamp shocked the art establishment he bowed out, like the consummate gentleman he was, to play chess.
You know you’ve made it when you confound the rules, when you don’t have enough time in the day to spend your money, and when you give up your day job to play a favourite board game.