- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (October 15, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 031219255X
- ISBN-13: 978-0312192556
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,845,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Dangerous Profession : A Book About the Writing Life Hardcover – October 15, 1998
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Part memoir, part literary criticism, novelist Frederick Busch's A Dangerous Profession could serve as a warning to post on the door of every creative-writing program in the nation. Take, for instance, Busch on the glamour of the writer's life: "Yes, the thrill of rising at 5:30 a.m. and writing in the dark cold, or typing late at night after jobs that eat our hearts and livers..." Or Busch on the literary marketplace: "Something that is part of the gift is also a compulsion: that we seek the darkness, not the light; that we serve up grindings of glass in blood sauce rather than the Fifth Avenue soufflé most readers want." Or, finally, Busch on the attitude of the world at large to writers: "...we are the enemy."
What drives people to an activity so manifestly difficult, unprofitable, and against common sense? The author of 21 books, Busch illustrates the ancient need to tell stories by reflecting on writers as varied as Melville, Dickens, Kafka, and Graham Greene. Busch is a perceptive reader as well as an accomplished writer, and it's a pleasure to read criticism so clearly passionate about books as art and not just ideas. The most moving part of A Dangerous Profession, however, is that in which Busch meditates on his own sources of inspiration, including the complex and elusive figure of his own father. There is a little bit of oh-pity-the-suffering writer here, but not a lot--and, in fact, much more of oh-pity-the-suffering-writer's-wife (husbands not included, since Busch doesn't have one). Eclectic, witty, and never less than stunningly written, A Dangerous Profession is a memorable tribute to the rewards as well as the rigors of the writing life. --Mary Park
From Publishers Weekly
Thought-provoking, honest and carefully considered, this reminiscence by novelist, critic and teacher Busch (Girls; Closing Arguments) will enhance any writer'sAor reader'sAreference library. The 16 chapters examine both quality fiction (Dickens, Melville, Thoreau, Hemingway, Graham Greene, John O'Hara, etc.) and Busch's writing life. Although Busch's reflections about other writers are spot on ("As ever, Dickens writes of memory; as ever, he seeks to state a long grudge or wound and then forgive or heal it; as ever, he cannot quite succeed"), what really galvanizes the reader are Busch's observations about writing as a career and his career in particular. The most rewarding essay here ("The Floating Christmas Tree") is a near flawless retrospective of his marriage, his early career and his sense of promise ("It was a most excellent Christmas because we were what we had dreamed to beAin love and undefeated in New York"). In a similar vein is his almost penitential description of the writer's wife: "Writers' wives are those women who not only receive the hourly report of shifts in the weather of the soul; they are the women to whom vows are made with as much frequency as to the wives of gamblers, alcoholics, drug addicts, and politicians." Busch captures the struggle to create worthwhile fiction while also earning a living by doing so: "money is a letter from the world to an author about his work." Think of a more cerebral version of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and you'll have some notion of this valuable hybrid, which combines heartfelt memoir with an ardent love of literature.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
7 customer reviews
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No, what this university author's talking about in this collection of pieces are those writers who take risks with their works. Not to write the next potboiling, page-turning best-seller, but something more lasting and more personal. These are writers who live out their lives according to a sort of literary DNA, doing what they must at whatever cost to themselves.
There's Herman Melville, who felt himself finished at age 33 because the book he believed in, "Moby Dick," had earned him "the scorn of reviewers -- they questioned his sanity as well as his skill -- and, by the end of his life, a total of $157." There's Graham Greene's exquisite career writing about how we betray love, loyalty, ourselves. Or, as Busch puts it: "follies were his subject matter, finally -- how, in love, we betray the beloved; how, worshiping God, or a god, or a hope of one, we betray that hope or wish; how, striving to do good, we cause damage."
There's Charles Dickens, whose "David Copperfield" is nothing less than a novel about writing and the power of the written and spoken word can hold over its audience. The novel is also a reflection of the man himself, who carried on stage readings of his works that would leave him exhausted and probably hastened his end. That's writing capable of killing.
But Busch doesn't sustain the promise implied by the title, so the book's not a dirge. He leavens it by including essays on bad popular writing and bad literary criticism, memoirs recalling his early literary career, and a short humorous look at the writer's life from the point of view of the (usually) long-suffering wife.
It's tough to explain to someone who doesn't write why putting words on paper can be so difficult, why writers can turn into divas in their self-absorption and why those who work so hard to become so good seem capable of sacrificing so much. Busch's look at the writing life reminds us why it is so.
Frederick Busch knows about the dangers of writing, he is a best selling author of more than twenty works of fiction and non- fiction, but you do not see him on nightly TV. Busch examines what makes him and the writers that he admires including Charles Dickens, Herman Melville and Ernest Hemingway continue to write in the darkest hours. The reason is simply to share stories. Busch is the writer of the sixteen essays that are in the book. If a writer is honest with himself, he hopes that what he writes will be interesting to the readers.
Called a Notable book of 1998 by the New York Times, A Dangerous Profession will captivate writers and readers alike, inspiring them to pick up books that they would not normally want to read, which has been the case with me. I would recommend this book to any one who likes to read.