Saturday I was sitting at Paul’s at Sawgrass Mills – Hania and our house guest had gone off shopping – reading an email from an editor expressing his desire to publish the essay I had sent him. The joy of modern communication, I thought: At any moment, even on a Saturday afternoon, your world can be made bright.
Sunday night we sat with our houseguests at Thai Spice. As they studied the menu, I checked my emails. There was one from another editor at the same magazine; the first editor had mentioned that he would give my essay to a colleague for some ‘slight’ trimming. This editor said that he had narrowed the focus of my essay, and because of that it would require a new ending.
I slipped my phone back into my pocket and silently cursed the immediacy of modern communication.
My six-week travel writing course in Miami – which begins tonight – coincides nicely with the new issue of Granta in which 13 writers are asked if travel writing is dead.
It’s something I’ve been asking myself, but in a different way, wondering if there is still any interest among the public in travel writing. Reading is on the decline generally, and when it comes to getting to know the world there are now many more enticing (though not necessarily superior) ways to do it – HD, interactive apps, virtual reality, etc. The two most popular travel books of recent years – Eat, Pray, Love and Wild – were at heart memoirs.
Pico Iyer gets at this dwindling not of a genre but of an audience for it (which, ultimately I guess, is the same thing) when he laments the abundance of pedestrian blogs and the increasing absence of bold, thoughtful, rigorous portraitures of places. “But that doesn’t mean that travel writing is dead;” he concludes, “only that we sometimes are.”
My disappointment over that book reading - the one that produced very few sales despite being well-attended and enthusiastically received - followed me home and carried over into the next day. It wasn't until I came in here and started to work that my mood improved.
"The cure for anything," Isak Dinesen wrote, "is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea."
But for a writer, as she surely knew, it's writing.
The problem with editorial silence replacing rejections is that the latter, even when impersonal, were still an affirmation, an acknowledgement that you were a writer who had written something. Whereas a non-answer would seem to confirm your non-existence.