|Preparatory art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins |
"I never read anything written after 1900." (Later on the same neighborhood man read one my novels and declared that he loved it, so maybe he was exaggerating.)
"I never read novels. Can't do it." (Another guy in my neighborhood. Twice. With accompanying head shakes. I'm still wondering if he forgets to what I have devoted my life.)
"Why don't you write something like Stephen King?" (Evidently we all want to sound exactly the same, we writers!)
"Why don't you write something that makes a lot of money?" (Oddly, we don't all have the bestseller gene and the desire to write about alluring vampires or some carbon copy of the latest book-to-movie trilogy or anything that puts money ahead of truth and beauty and well-made sentences--not that the good bestseller doesn't exist, just that it's not the norm. And all that said, we don't object to being paid.)
"Would I have heard of you?" (General mortification abounds.)
"What does the world need with another poem?" (Your answer here. This one came as a tease from a colleague, and it stopped me from poems for a year, during which I began writing fiction. So maybe it was a blessing.)
"Where do you get your ideas?" (I can't say that I get them from the fount at the end of the world and time, or they'll think I'm mad. But that's a better answer than most.)
"What are your books about?" (Read them, and you'll know! My 12th and 13th books are forthcoming, and I look back and see that my books are all as different from one another as rutabagas from fox kits.)
"How can I find an agent?" (I have no idea. Both of my agents asked, one through my first publisher, the other after Louis Rubin suggested my name. But some people ask this so very immediately!)
"Do people read poetry anymore?" (You. Tell. Me.)
Some more via responses to this post on twitter and facebook--
A familiar addition from poet Julie Brooks Barbour via a twitter response: "My favorite: Could you tell me how to get my novel published?" She posted a similar one in the comments with a funny remark.
From writer Gary M Dietz: 1. Your book is on an Amazon list. You must be rich! 2. On (multiple) job interviews "So, you are an author. Why do you want to this job?" (Maybe because my net income from my book is negative!) 3. How many words per minute can you type?
Here's a favorite one, via facebook: "I don't tell folks I'm a writer. I tell them I'm an astrologer. But it doesn't help. They still say peculiar things" (John P. O'Grady.)
See the comments for more, including some peculiar things people sometimes say to a visual artist...
I am going to have to do a roundup of similar remarks from painter friends, I guess! I think this topic falls into the "weirdly fascinating" category.