Some one of these years I’m going to finish my review of Listen Up Philip.
I’m getting there. It’s going to need pruning though. It’s on its way to being another patented Mannion movie review that takes longer to read than to watch the movie. Right now it includes an extended riff on the life of a young writer that probably won’t survive the final edit and which includes this bit:
If you’re lucky you’ll have some true believers among your family and friends. They’ll support you and encourage you and love what you do. They’ll cheer your success and cry with you over your failures.
If you’re lucky in another way, someone important to you will be overtly hostile to your dreams and ambitions. They’ll dismiss your work, deny you have the talent or the character or the ability to make your own luck. They’ll make you want to show them and keep on showing them. They’ll drive you on with their doubt.
But most people you care about and who you thought cared about you will be worse than indifferent.
They won’t even notice you’re doing what you’re doing.
It’s the paragraph that begins “If you’re lucky in another way…” that’s the point here. Some young artists are lucky in having people opposed to their becoming an artist who stand in their way or try to. It makes them mad and they channel their anger. It energizes them and makes them determined.
Like I said, this is probably a target of the delete key, but I’ve been re-thinking since I read this passage this morning in The Last Train to Zona Verde, my favorite curmudgeonly travel writer Paul Theroux’s latest travel book about what he’s pretty sure was his final trip to Africa where, he believes, his career as a writer really started, almost fifty years ago, and it may have gotten started there because he was lucky in that other way:
As a young man, I never entertained the idea of death in travel. I had set off for Africa almost fifty years ago with the notion that my life had at last begun, that I was free in this great green continent, liberated from my family and its paternalism just at the time many African countries had liberated themselves from the paternalistic hand of colonialism. And when Africans told me how they had been repressed, confined, belittled, exploited, and infantilized by their colonial overlords, be it Britain, Belgium, Portugal, or France, I thought of my fierce mother saying, “It’s your own damn fault” and “You’re not going anywhere---you have no gumption,” and my father saying, “Get a job---money doesn’t grow on trees” and “Why are you so defiant?” and “Why do you write trash?”
For the record, I was never lucky in that way.