Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dramatic lives

I glanced through a book, at the library today, charting the lives of some famous literary figures. Talk about tortured souls. Blimey. Mental illness, starvation, meningitis, TB, imprisonment, suicide, treason, drowning and heavy drinking abounded. And that was just Virginia Woolf. (Not really. She did drown though.)

The Elizabethan writer, Christopher Marlowe, was rumoured to have been a spy. There was also speculation that he actually wrote Shakespeare's plays for him. (Naughty).

Edgar Allan Poe married his 13 year old cousin, before descending into poverty and alcoholism at a young age. He also appeared nude, apparently, for a public parade, apart from a white belt and gloves, once. A fashion faux pas by anyone's standards.

The blind, 17th century poet, John Milton, only recieved £10 for his masterpiece, Paradise Lost. That's got to be the worst publishing deal in history, surely? Unless £10 then, was equivalent to £1 million now, which I doubt.

It made me think, though. Maybe I'm not eccentric enough to be a 'proper' writer. Not that I want to go down the raging-alcoholic-with-suicidal-tendencies route, of course, and I don't think treason's making a comeback this season, but...I don't know. Maybe I could start wearing a silly hat or something. Non?

12 comments:

Yvonne said...

Before my English teacher would introduce a new poet to our reading we'd have to guess what was wrong with them - Alcoholic? Depressive? Suicidal?

Stephen King says that he can't even remember writing some of his novels because he was so drunk at the time. I can't even write with a hangover! (And I'd love to see you in a funny hat!)

Faye said...

Suffering for the sake of your art? Maybe that's not all together necessary. However, a slight personality imbalance and a signature hat may help your literary reputation, Karen. Be sure to let us all know how you decide to go!

For myself, I do love some good angst in literature,drama or music. Not art though,it scares me.

Anna said...

eccentric is ALL in the mind of the beholder... hee hee....

HelenMH said...

Having read this, I can't help thinking that some of us just aren't trying! I don't really fancy giving TB or suicide a go - but heavy drinking could be worth a try!

Lane said...

The thing about being eccentric is don't realise that your not quite 'normal'. Maybe you're a raving eccentric really ... maybe we all are:-)
Great post and I love the comments:-)

Carolyn said...

This post really made me giggle. But I don't think you need to suffer for your art. I've been working on a post about genius and creativity for a while now... I have a few thoughts on the subject. I should really get it posted.

Annieye said...

Most famous poets are nutters aren't they, in one way or another. I knew about Edgar Allen Poe marrying his kid cousin.

Artists too can be a bit strange. What about Andy Warhol painting soup tins? I never did get that.

I definitely write better when I'm angry. Never send an e-mail in angst - that's my motto!

Lily Sheehan said...

What a great (and educational) post. I loved reading it. I have been told by my boss that I am a bit weird and I dress a bit crazy and I have bright red hair. Is that eccentric enough?

Tom Foolery said...

A silly hat, false nose, green eye shadow, so many options :)Tommox.

KAREN said...

yvonne - I sometimes think alcohol might help, but I don't like the blimmin' taste. I get high on tea occasionally though...

faye - I can't find a signature hat, but have no problem with the slight personality imbalance!! All grist for the mill, as they say.

anna - Fair point. One man's eccentric is another man's genius. Not that I'm claiming to be a genius, of course :)

helenmh - No, on balance I think it's safer to stay away from killer diseases and stick with the Typhoo!

lane - Raving eccentric has a certain ring to it, and conjures images of silly hats for some reason. Maybe I do have a problem...

carolyn - The only thing I really suffer from is Procrastination! Look forward to your thoughts on the subject :o)

annieye - Oh, I wouldn't dare write in angst. Not for public consumption anyway. I've been tempted before, but after simmering down felt mighty glad that I didn't!!

lily - I like to think bright red hair is more of a quirk :o) I've been told I'm 'slightly mad round the edges' before, which can't be right...

tommo - For God's sake! I thought you were describing Pete for a minute, just to wind me up...

kallioppe said...

I can imagine that people in the future will be reading about the writers of the 21st century and wondering how it was possible we wrote AND maintained blogs, myspace, facebook pages. twitter, second life, youtube, emails, websites, goodreads (and other libraries) social bookmarks, rss feeds, readers, stats and everything else we do online necessary for a well connected writing career. Whew. I tired myself out just typing that list. Give me the opium and the TB clinic any day.

Oh, as an aside, I had you on google reader but you never updated your pages? Strange as when I linked here directly there was always new stuff. Damn google not working properly, thought I. But no, I had subscribed to wrong Karen. Hmm. No wonder the writing was so different!

vzjp said...

10 pounds in 1667 is worth in today's terms over 300 000 doallars

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