Volume 19 | Issue 28 | November 24 - 30, 2006

The Penny Post

The writer’s burden

By Andrei Codrescu

I wrote some of the heaviest books a dude ever lifted. The only books heavier than mine are picture books, from which it follows that pictures are heavier than words, which explains why people say that a picture is worth a thousand words, by which they must mean that a picture is a thousand times heavier than a word. Not quite, but they are getting at something, the people. I recently had occasion to lift all the books I wrote to move them from one place to another and I collapsed from the weight. My back gave out and my knees wobbled and I heard a thundering voice say: You thought there was no price to pay for writing all these books! You thought that it was all fun and games to impress the girls and get paid to eat at Muriel’s! I listened to this voice for a while until I felt offended and replied from my bed of pain, where I lay under mustard compresses on hold to my doctor to beg for Vicodin: Listen, you voice! My words came from nothing and now they are books! Before I wrote them down these words didn’t say what I said with them, which is pretty much what nobody said before, or at least not in that exact form! And these words that came from nothing were written down by me and when there were enough of them they became books that other people paid to read. So listen here, you voice of mockery and guilt! The beauty of what we writers do is that we make something out of nothing. The only punishment we deserve is for the inordinate pride that makes us save our books and carry them from one place to another. You’re right, that shouldn’t be our job. We should be free as mustard seed to float unencumbered over the fields while the porters lug our oeuvre behind us. We are proof that humans generate wealth and that there is no end to the heavy objets of our unbound imaginations. There is no scarcity now and there will never be any if the ratio of creators to porters remains one to a thousand. Which is the same, weirdly enough, as that between words and pictures. Now, what can these doctors be doing that’s so important? Treating porters for bad backs while ignoring the creative? I’m both, remember?
The voice was confused, the voice fell silent. I moaned.

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