Why we write, and The Life of an Unknown Man

I’ve had the time to do a little reading recently. Why we write was a fun collection of reflections on writing by 20 different authors, and The Life of an Unknown Man is a gentle, melancholic novel by Andrei Makine.

Why We Write: 20 acclaimed authors how and why they do what they do  is a good read. It’s edited by Meredith Maran, and the reflections are all short and readable. At one level, it’s mundane – there is no earth-shattering truth, no life-changing quote (at least that I encountered). Because of that, it’s also a healthy inspiration. It’s reflections by twenty people who’ve struggled hard, and been successful in doing something that they all seem to love doing, or having done, even if it isn’t easy at the time. In it’s own way, that’s inspiring.

The risk, of course, is that there’s a measure of selection bias. It’s not clear how much of a role random chance plays in the lives of those who’ve been tremendously successful as writers. Probably some role, at least. Without knowing how much luck has helped those writers up, it’s hard to imagine how many other equally talented writers are out there, frustrated at their lack of recognition, wishing they’d spent five or ten years doing something else.

But regardless, it’s a good read – worth it if you like reading about writing.

I found The Life of an Unknown Man tedious at points. It is a slow, gentle piece. There’s very little that’s urgent, or sharp.

But for all that, it’s an excellent read at points. The story is movingly melancholic. More of a meditation than a narrative, a reflection on sadness and love. Worth reading.



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