The Surprising Non-Literary Jobs of Some Authors

Mark Twain

This is an updated, slightly edited rerun of a book piece I wrote back in 2012:

It’s not a big shock when novelists work as journalists or professors before, during, or after their book-producing years. But some famous writers have held rather unusual non-literary jobs.

On the positive side, stints of atypical-for-authors employment can inspire future books and/or give writers firsthand knowledge of the way non-writers live. On the negative side, need-the-money jobs can take away from precious prose-producing time.

My job is to now give examples of this multi-profession phenomenon, and I’ll start in the 19th century with the career arcs of a famous American literary trio: Mark Twain (born Samuel Clemens), Herman Melville, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Twain, from 1857 to 1861, worked as a riverboat pilot — a stint that inspired his pen name as well as the nonfiction book Life on the Mississippi and (to some extent) the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The Civil War halted riverboat traffic, and one wonders what Twain’s career trajectory might have been if his piloting job hadn’t gotten sunk.

Melville, whose book sales sank as his writing became richer and more complex, made ends meet during the latter part of his life by reluctantly working as a customs inspector in New York City from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s.

Hawthorne fared much better with atypical-for-authors employment. After penning a puffy campaign biography of his college pal Franklin Pierce, The Scarlet Letter writer was appointed U.S. consul in Liverpool by President Pierce. Hawthorne put his fiction work on hold during that time in government, but being in England made it easier for him to make a post-consulship move to Italy — where The Marble Faun novel took shape.

Also in the 19th century, it’s well known that British author Anthony Trollope did postal-service work for many years while writing books and that Anton Chekhov (who lived a bit into the 20th century) was a physician.

Moving to the 1900s, we have Booth Tarkington (The Magnificent Ambersons) serving a term in the Indiana legislature, French author Colette performing in music halls (which inspired her 1910 novel The Vagabond), Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God) doing anthropology work with Margaret Mead and on her own, Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse-Five) owning/managing a Saab dealership on Cape Cod, Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) working as a physician, and Fannie Flagg (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café) and Thomas Tryon (The Other) doing acting.

A variation on the multi-job life is when an established author gets “undercover” employment for the purpose of writing a book. One famous nonfiction example of that was Barbara Ehrenreich toiling in low-paid menial jobs to show how the working poor can barely survive in America — leading to her powerful exposé Nickel and Dimed.

Meanwhile, here are some authors who hold or held less-surprising positions. Professors: Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Eugenides, Diana Gabaldon, Alison Lurie, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, J.R.R. Tolkien, etc. Journalists: Geraldine Brooks, Willa Cather, Charles Dickens, Nora Ephron, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ernest Hemingway, Carl Hiaasen, George Orwell, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Portis, Anna Quindlen, Emile Zola, etc.

Any authors you’d like to mention who held surprising non-literary jobs? And do you think authors are helped or hindered by having non-literary jobs sometime during their adult lives?

Today, August 15, 2021, is the 75th birthday of Jimmy Webb — who wrote memorable hit songs such as “MacArthur Park,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Worst That Could Happen,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” “All I Know,” “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress,” “Highwayman,” and “Up, Up, and Away.” Here’s the original 1968 version of “MacArthur Park” (grafted onto a 1972 live performance) sung by Richard Harris — who, among his many other acting roles, would shortly before his death play Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies based on J.K. Rowling’s novels. (Also, “MacArthur Park” was covered by Donna Summer and various others.)

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” local topical-humor column for The latest weekly piece — about COVID and my school district as the 2021-22 academic year nears — is here.

125 thoughts on “The Surprising Non-Literary Jobs of Some Authors

  1. Pingback: FIVE POSTS To CHECK OUT: Be You, Freelance, Give to Grow, Authors odd jobs – R I O P

  2. C and p
    On Feb. 16, 1857, Twain entered a different profession and a more enchanting period of his life via his departure from Cincinnati on the steamboat Paul Jones. According to the Mark Twain Project, steamboat pilot Horace E. Bixby agreed to train Twain as a Mississippi River pilot thus opening the door to more creative work than criticizing Cincinnati’s paper of record.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave…lpt of debates if this was really said my Mark Twain , but it is circulationg for decades.

      “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it’s always twenty years behind the times.”
      – This quote has been attributed to Mark Twain, but until the attribution can be verified, the quote should not be regarded as authentic.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reading over the various jobs held by various authors, whatever remains of a 10 year old boy in me thinks Mark Twain, riverboat pilot and Roald Dahl, fighter pilot, had the best jobs.

    But the aspiring decadent aristocrat in me thinks Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Duke of Palma di Montechiaro, Baron of Torretta, and Grandee of Spain and the last Prince of Lampedusa, had the best job of all: reading and thinking in shabby palatial splendor.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Then there was Faulkner, who worked as a boiler repairman in the South. The only time he ever had to get up was when the monitoring equipment made a noise and called him to his feet.

    I don’t understand why there was no patron for most of these literary artists. It wouldn’t have taken much coin to keep their soul and flesh in one piece. It’s a sad commentary when the rich are building 200 feet yachts and the artist gets nothing.

    — Catxman

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Catxman! I’ve heard that about Faulkner. It certainly gave him time to write “As I Lay Dying”!

      And, yes, it would be nice if more rich people subsidized some talented authors rather than spending money on ever-bigger yachts — on or rockets to take ego trips to sub-space.


  5. Thankyou sir.

    On Sun, 15 Aug 2021, 11:54 pm Dave Astor on Literature, wrote:

    > Dave Astor posted: ” Mark Twain This is an updated, slightly edited rerun > of a book piece I wrote back in 2012: It’s not a big shock when novelists > work as journalists or professors before, during, or after their > book-producing years. But some famous writers have” >

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Two Churchmen:

    Poet and satirist Jonathan Swift, writer of “Gulliver’s Travels”, “A Modest Proposal” “Tale of a Tub”, etc. held a fairly high rank in the Anglican hierarchy: Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin– though I can’t, looking around today on wikipedia, quite make out what his duties entailed. The fault may be mine, as I know very little about the office or the denomination, despite the fact I was raised an Episcopal but the rope broke, to borrow an old joke from an old bluesman.

    Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (“Pied Beauty”, The Wreck of the Deutschland”, etc.) was a convert to Catholicism after his Anglican beginnings, and became a Jesuit.

    wikipedia: “After his ordination, Hopkins took up duties as sub-minister and teacher at Mount St Mary’s College near Sheffield. In July 1878 he became curate at the Jesuit church in Mount Street, London, and in December that of St Aloysius’s Church, Oxford, then moving to Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. While ministering in Oxford, he became a founding member of The Newman Society, established in 1878 for Catholic members of the University of Oxford. He taught Greek and Latin at Mount St Mary’s College, Sheffield, and Stonyhurst College, Lancashire…In 1884 he became a professor of Greek and Latin at University College Dublin”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, jhNY! Some writers did indeed have a religious calling, or maybe I should say some people with a religious calling became writers. Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” is an unforgettable book.

      “I was raised an Episcopal but the rope broke” — ha! 😂 That’s quite a line; unfamiliar to me until now.


      • It comes from a man I was fortunate enough to meet in 1969: Furry Lewis: “But the reason I wasn’t raised in Mississippi was the rope broke…” from an interview printed in “Goin’ Back to Sweet Memphis: Conversations With the Blues” by Fred J. Hay.

        Lewis was for decades a sanitation worker in Memphis TN– the people for whom ML King was marching in Memphis when he was assassinated.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. HI Dave, I think working and writing is much more common now than it was in the past. Literature and writing was mainly an undertaking of the wealthy who had the time and education in the past. Robin Cook, who writes medical thrillers, is a physician, and Roald Dahl was a fighter pilot and then an intelligence officer. Those are the ones I can think of off-hand.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I don’t know if your article highlights the fact that anyone can become a writer or people’s lives are, often, quite mundane! 😀 It’s inspiring all the same.
    The first author that sprang to mind was Arthur Conan Doyle, a GP, he was also ships surgeon on an expedition somewhere. Interestingly, Dr Joseph Bell, one of his tutors/profs at university, inspired the most famous of his characters.
    Ernest Hemingway was a stretcher bearer in the first war and Ian Fleming a naval intelligence officer in the second. There are far too many writers with war time experience to mention here perhaps (although all are worthy of course!). I will mention Erich Maria Remarque. Apart from being quite famous for his A-List Hollywood affairs and being married to Paulette Goddard (one of Charlie Chaplain’s wives), he trained as a primary teacher after the first war. And finally, I shall mention Philip Larkin who was a librarian.
    I realise there’s a lack of female authors here. All the ones I can think of were always writers (Oliphant) or came from more privileged backgrounds (Mitford, although she did work in the war, Woolf etc). My morning brain is struggling to come up with something short and succinct that addresses this, the patriarchy and women in the workplace. I’m sure Margaret Mead would have something to say!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Sarah!

      Terrific mention of Arthur Conan Doyle. And, yes, wartime experiences for writers/future writers meant doing very different kinds of work.

      I didn’t realize Erich Maria Remarque was a teacher (or trained as one) for a while. One of my favorite authors! I’ve read seven of his novels, and “All Quiet on the Western Front” isn’t even the best one! He did lead a life with elements of both glamor and tragedy.

      And thanks for the mention of Oliver Sacks, too!

      Liked by 2 people

      • ‘All quiet…’ is a tremendous book and the only one I’ve read of his. I shall dig out some more of his titles. His personal life was certainly quite colourful.
        After a fairly recent house move I’ve been exploring a little more of the area. I was interested to discover that Wilkie Collins stayed nearby (a great friend of Dickens, who also resided in my neck of the woods. I can’t walk out the front door without tripping over blue plaques and pub names dedicated to him). Anyway! I learnt that Collins was also a clerk to a tea merchant before he abandoned this work to become a writer full time.

        Liked by 3 people

        • “The Night in Lisbon,” “Arch of Triumph,” and “A Time to Love and a Time to Die” are my three favorites of Remarque’s. Incredible prose, unforgettable characters, and heartbreaking.

          So great that you live near some of Dickens’ and Wilkie Collins’ old haunts! I didn’t now the latter worked as a clerk to a tea merchant! Sort of an underrated novelist. His “The Woman in White,” “The Moonstone,” “Armadale,” and “No Name” are fabulous — and his women characters are much more three-dimensional than Dickens’.

          Liked by 2 people

          • I will look out those titles, thank you for listing your favourites.

            I do need to read more of Wilkie Collins and will get round to it!

            It still amazes me that Dickens has such a widespread influence – not undeserved I suppose and he was a great advocate for the poor. I must admit, though, he’s not my favourite of authors.

            In amongst all the plaques on all the buildings that commemorate him, there’s a house nearby that proudly states ‘Charles Dickens did not live here’…

            Liked by 3 people

            • You’re welcome, Sarah!

              “Charles Dickens did not live here” — LOL! 😂 Love that. 🙂

              Dickens did indeed do lots of good in his life. I like his work a lot, but he’s also not one of my favorite authors. His mostly one-dimensional female characters are a major reason for that.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Yes, he had a very skewed view of women and treated his wife abominably I thought. It’s easy to see how those views would have translated into his writing. Either beautiful young women or hideous older women. Having said that I do think Miss Havisham holds her own amongst some of these caricatures.

                Liked by 3 people

                • Very true about the way Dickens treated his wife, especially after all the children they had together. Such a stereotype — a rich and famous older guy having an affair with a younger woman.

                  And, yes, Dickens’ female characters, while often caricatures, were quite memorable caricatures in some cases — also including Madame Defarge of “A Tale of Two Cities,” among others.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  • According to her wikipedia bio, Dickens “blamed her for the birth of their 10 children, which caused him financial worries. He had hoped to have no more after the birth of their fourth son Walter, and he claimed that her coming from a large family had caused so many children to be born. He even tried to have her diagnosed as mentally ill in order to commit her in an insane asylum. As well as this, to ensure no more children could be born, he ordered their bed to be separated and put a bookshelf in between them.”

                    His affair with 18 year old actress Ellen Ternan came after.

                    Sarah has put it perfectly; Charles Dickens treated his wife abominably.

                    Liked by 1 person

  9. Since you mentioned Jimmy Webb’s 75th birthday, I thought I’d share my sorrow over the death Friday of my favorite female songwriter/singer, Nanci Griffith, (though Joni Mitchell is a close second) at age 68. There wasn’t a cause of death noted in any of the many news articles I’ve read, but I did think that she might not be in the best of health because she hasn’t released a new recording since “Intersection” in 2012. She’d also previously been treated for both breast cancer and thyroid cancer in the late 1990’s. I’ve been listening to her wonderful songs all weekend — Spotify had a great playlist going yesterday, and today I’m listening to her CDs in my car and now as I sit in my bedroom. I have her entire catalog of recordings on CD, plus her videos of concerts “One Fair Summer Evening” and “Winter Marquee.” There are also some other concerts on YouTube that I’ll be re-watching this week. Her music touched me on so many levels and has been a great comfort during some bad times (and good). I only saw her in concert one time, at the Keswick Theater near Philly, also featuring a young folksinger whose name I forget, as well as the great Judy Collins (another one of my favorite singers). I was in heaven to see two of my musical idols on the same stage — what a thrill! Although I think about it a lot I can’t come up with my favorite album, let alone song; there are just too many. The album she won a Grammy for was the fantastic “Other Voices, Other Rooms” after the book by Truman Capote. She performed the songs of many other great writers from the same folk tradition that she was from, and partnered with many other singers on this recording. For example, she and Arlo Guthrie sang the lovely “Tecumseh Valley” by Townes van Zandt, and Bob Dylan contributed the harmonica on “Boot of Spanish Leather.” I could go on forever, but will end for now. So sad!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Kat Lit! My condolences to you on the passing of a favorite musician of yours. I had sadly read about Nanci Griffith’s death within the past couple of days in The New York Times. A shame — she wasn’t that old, but you’re right that she had had bouts of bad health. So glad you got to see her in concert once, along with the also-great Judy Collins! I appreciate all the heartfelt thoughts and interesting information you offered about Ms. Griffith.

      (I liked her rendition of the Julie Gold-written “From a Distance” better than Bette Midler’s — and Ms. Griffith’s came first.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with you that her version of “From a Distance” was much better than Midler’s. As far as Jimmy Webb goes, he was another great songwriter; I think “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” is my favorite — especially the cover by Judy Collins. Have you ever read “Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs”? I thought it was hilarious, but his survey of bad songs had “MacArthur Park” sung by Richard Harris as the number one worst song ever. I’d agree to many of the survey results; however, I loved that song, especially because I was madly in love with Richard Harris after seeing him as King Arthur in “Camelot”! This book arose from a column he did about a bad song, Neil Diamond’s “I Am…I Said” — which of course I also loved very much. Go figure!😏 Anyway, he was certainly right about Boomers not being able to remember the most important dates, names and events in our lives, yet we are still able to come up with the lyrics to every song we ever listened to in high school and college. 😃

        And to finally get back to your main topic in this week’s blog post, I was surprised to learn that Dorothy L. Sayers had been a copywriter at an advertising agency, which she eventually put to good use in her mystery novel “Murder Must Advertise,” one of her better ones, I think. Although I suppose it’s not too surprising, given the fact that she was such a great wordsmith. She considered her master work to be a translation of Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” though that had to be completed by her god-daughter.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Thank you for the follow-up comment, Kat Lit!

          Jimmy Webb is indeed a stellar songwriter — and I agree that Judy Collins’ version of “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress” is mesmerizing.

          I haven’t read “Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs,” but you’re right that “MacArthur Park” has no business being in it. Some of the lyrics are a bit odd, but they totally work in the context of the song (and were inspired by what Webb observed in the real MacArthur Park in Los Angeles). Plus the melody/music is off-the-charts good. A romantic, passionate, and heartbreaking song.

          Yes, some song lyrics stick in one’s memory for decades!

          And a great mention of Dorothy L. Sayers’ additional talents!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I was spoiled by over-hearing “MacArthur Park” the summer of 1969, when it seemed to be everywhere I went, mostly because one of my running buddies that year was going through a self-inflicted divorce, and owned the record, so when we were at his place he played it too much, and when it came on the car radio, he turned it way up and looked wistfully out the windshield at some distant object, silent and sad. It didn’t help, in those days when printed lyrics were thin on the ground, that I misheard the line as “sweet green icing (I am not alone here) flowing down”, rather than “sweet cream” etc, and I never much liked the couplet “I don’t think that I can take it/’Cause it took so long to bake it’.

            The song in its entirety seemed like one long metaphor stretched too far. However, even a curmudgeon like myself recognizes a bit o’ the old poetry in:

            I recall the yellow cotton dress
            Foaming like a wave
            On the ground around your knees
            The birds, like tender babies in your hands
            And the old men playing checkers by the trees

            That summer, for better or worse, there was nothing else like it in the air, especially “Inna Gadda Da Vida”.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, “MacArthur Park” was overplayed back then — and, from your description, it was overplayed on steroids in your presence. 😦

              Some of the lyrics are indeed a stretch, but they work in a strange way and I’ve never heard a song with words quite comparable. So, a number of gold stars for originality. And the soaring, irresistible music covers a multitude of sins.

              “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida”! One of the first albums I ever purchased, and I played it often — much to my parents’ dismay. I think the 17-minute title song is magnificent, with almost church-like organ and one of the most melodic drum solos in rock history.


              • The original title was “In the Garden of Eden”, if memory serves, but the singer had imbibed more red wine than made for distinct enunciation. I only mentioned it because it was probably ‘in the air’ in 1969 about as much as ‘MacArthur Park”, at least in those places as I drew breath.

                Liked by 1 person

                  • I purchased both the Richard Harris album and “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida” but wasn’t aware of the story behind the title of the latter It does however make perfect sense. I liked that song a lot and even recently added it to one of my rock Spotify playlists,

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Definitely a memorable song, Kat Lit, and, like “MacArthur Park,” it has stood the test of time well. I agree that it’s still wonderful to listen to.

                      The young drummer Sina, who has a huge following on YouTube, did a fantastic cover of the Iron Butterfly song with three other musicians.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • That was a terrific cover by Sina and the other musicians in that YouTube video. Thanks! I’ve always considered Karen Carpenter’s voice as the best ever in rock/pop, but it was also really cool that she played the drums! She still is usually somewhere in the top ten lists of greatest female drummers of all-time.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Glad you liked it, Kat Lit! Yes, a VERY impressive rendition!

                      And it is indeed impressive when someone both sings (well) and plays the drums (well) like Karen Carpenter did — and Don Henley of the Eagles does. I agree that Karen C. had a beautiful voice.


            • Two Minds But a Single Thought Dept.:

              Only yesterday, attempting to wrest thorough understanding out of a celebrated writer’s essay, I stumbled on:

              “…she seems to rise from the broad tiered flounces of her costume as from a package of waves at a shoreline, the great fabric petals of her long train swirled, heaped as seawater at her feet…”– Stanley Elkin

              Maybe make that Three Minds:

              “Whenas in silks my Julia goes, Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows The liquefaction of her clothes!”– Robert Herrick

              Liked by 1 person

          • Great, Rebecca, that you purchased those books and that your father was a Dorothy L. Sayers fan!

            I’ve read a couple of Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane mysteries — “Gaudy Night” (set at a women’s college) and “Strong Poison” — and found both very compelling.

            Liked by 1 person

                • Sayers is more well-known for her literary mysteries, rather different from Agatha Christie, whose greatest ability was as a master plotter, especially when it came to ways to murder someone else! “Gaudy Night” is considered to be her best mystery (although some would place “The Nine Tailors” as better). I considered “Gaudy Night” to be a feminist novel and is perhaps my all-time favorite novel, after “Persuasion,” “Pride & Prejudice,” and “The House of Mirth.” The quote from the book that has stayed with me all of my working life and beyond is:

                  “I know what you’re thinking – that anybody with proper sensitive feelings would rather scrub floors for a living. But I should scrub floors very badly, and I write detective stories rather well. I don’t see why proper feelings should prevent me from doing my proper job.” –Harriet Vane

                  Although there were many times I could have pursued a position with better pay and more status, I chose to stay with my “proper job” that I enjoyed and performed well.

                  Liked by 1 person

              • Or that the author of “Lolita” would put out a 4-volume translation (1 vol. for the poem, done in clunky, supposedly literal prose, and 3 vols. of notes– these entertain and are exhaustively useful) of “Eugene Onegin?”

                Liked by 1 person

  10. Unsurprisingly perhaps, hard-boiled crime fiction master Dashiell Hammett worked for some years as a detective in San Francisco– some of his experiences were later put to good use in his Continental Op short stories.

    Raymond Chandler worked for years as an executive in an oil company before the Depression killed his job, forcing him, thankfully to a life of crime…fiction.

    A lesser-known crime fiction writer out of the John D, McDonald School, Robert J. Ray, worked as a tennis instructor. His hero, Matt Murdoch, was featured in a half-dozen of his novels.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. The thing is you think these really famous authors just swanned about penning their next masterpiece but no. Wodehouse worked in a bank I believe, handy. mind you, for counting his money later on. I think he also wrote stories about his experiences which a lot of authors do, I guess work is a rich seam worth mining but could lessen the amount of creative output for some.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Dave – your brilliant post reminded me that we all have different careers, jobs that put food on the table and a roof over our heads. Sometimes we put our creative energy on the back burner because we simply run out of time. In my high school years, I was in a George Bernard Shaw play. Imagine my surprise when I learned that he was a telephone company employee at the Edison Telephone Company giving demonstrations. I just read “A Secret Sisterhood” by Emma Sweeney and Emily Midorkawa who gave a profound insight into the life of Charlotte Bronte, who was a governess for several years as well as an English teacher in Brussels. Thank you for mentioning Barbara Ehrenreich. I read “Bright-sided” and “Living with a Wild God: A nonbeliever’s search for the Truth….” Brutally honest but with loads of compassion. “There is a vast difference between positive thinking and existential courage.” Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright-Sided

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thank you for the kind words and interesting comment, Rebecca! I had no idea George Bernard Shaw did that! Great piece of trivia! A few years later, Edison moved his lab to West Orange, New Jersey — a few-minute drive from my apartment. Fascinating museum there now.

      Yes! Charlotte Bronte was a governess, as was Anne Bronte. Certainly influenced their novels.

      Barbara Ehrenreich is a compelling and admirable writer. Thanks for that excellent quote!

      Liked by 3 people

      • I am looking forward to reading The Bronte Cabinet which is next on my reading list. Thank you for the recommendation. I am especially interested in the friendship between Charlotte Bronte and Mary Taylor. There is so much to learn – life is always exciting when there is a book in my hand.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Love that last line!

          I think I’ve written this on the site before, but fellow novelist Elizabeth Gaskell (“Cranford”, etc.) was her friend and correspondent, and wrote her biography 2 years after Charlotte’s death. I’ve never read it, but did stumble on an opinion piece in the Guardian that attempts, contrary to the Gaskell portrait, to show her in a more lurid yet friendly light, while excoriating Gaskell for, among other unforgivable assaults on her memory, her infantilizing “miseribilia”:

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you so much, jhNY! This is a brilliant article and more in keeping with what I believe Charlotte accomplished during her lifetime. By the way, I have never read Elizabeth Gaskell, nor did her writing ever appear on a high school literature list. Everyone knows Charlotte Bronte as a household name. Sorry – Elizabeth Gaskell – you missed out on that title.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I’ve read her “Cranford” and found it enjoyable and well-wrought, though I felt it sort of petered out just when it might have tied a few plot points and characters together. It begins intriguingly well:

              “In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses above a certain rent are women. If a married couple come to settle in the town, somehow the gentleman disappears; he is either fairly frightened to death by being the only man in the Cranford evening parties, or he is accounted for by being with his regiment, his ship, or closely engaged in business all the week in the great neighbouring commercial town of Drumble, distant only twenty miles on a railroad. In short, whatever does become of the gentlemen, they are not at Cranford.”

              Liked by 1 person

              • I agree that “Cranford” — which I read on your recommendation, jhNY — is a very good novel. And that is indeed a terrific opening passage that would have most readers wanting more.


  13. I don’t want to spoil my story by actually making sure I’ve got things exactly right, for fear the facts might take away amusement, but as I recall, William Faulkner claimed to have written parts, possibly most of “As I Lay Dying” while hired as a shoveler of coal for a MS power plant. By placing a plank atop his wheelbarrow, he made a sort of desk which he wrote on between shovelings.

    He also endured a stint at the Oxford MS post office, during which time he filed his enemies’ mail in the trashcan, where they were free to pick it out, before quitting, saying later something like “I was tired of being at the beck and call of every son of a bitch with three cents for a stamp.”

    Charles Bukowski, apropos of post office gigs, worked for the post office for a few years as a letter carrier.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, jhNY! I’ve read that about Faulkner and “As I Lay Dying,” but didn’t know he worked in a post office, too! Terrific mentions — as was your remembering that Charles Bukowski was a letter carrier (before he wrote a novel called “Post Office”; hmm, what a coincidence. 🙂 ).


  14. The first bank account I opened in NYC was at Barclays Bank, a British-based firm, because I was under the misimpression that early on in his career in GB, Barclay’s had hired poet TS Eliot to manage foreign accounts. But it was Lloyd’s Bank, and there was no poetry in my relationship with Barclays.

    Liked by 4 people

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