Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Not Even a Penny a Line

I've been engaging in an exchange with Barry Malzberg that springs in part from my use of "wounded" with regard to Phil Klass. Certainly writer after writer has been wounded by the conditions of the writer's life. I think just now of Phil having been, by his own estimation, a hack writer at one early point, then feeling offended by Virginia Kidd's much later characterization of him as a hack writer. His taking offense may have been the cry of one being slapped upon a wound that never fully healed. Judy Merril, too, showed discomfort at memories of engaging in writing that she regarded, from a later vantage point, as not being writing from the heart.

Yet in this case I was speaking of a different wounding: that of having been a soul caught up by and transformed by the experiences of World War II. (See Klass's Dancing Naked and my own C.M. Kornbluth, to begin understanding the transformation. I say "begin" out of feeling unsure we can fully understand.)

Being a penny-a-liner, though, may be a necessary stage or at least a useful stage for even the writer of conscience. The experience of trying to pull forth the reluctant words from whatever obstinate realm has its clutches upon them, no matter whether they are true words or false; of doing so at as fast a pace as possible while at the same time making sense; of writing as though the act of putting forth words is no less than life itself -- these are tasks easy for some but hard for those for whom words have not just dimension but weight.

I had expected to write something today about snow -- about digging out the dog-run that goes in-between and around the grape vines -- about doing that digging in the predawn, windy darkness. Ah, well. "Penny-a-liner," by the way, is a term I fortuitously stumbled upon in the dictionary the other day.

Cheers ...


  1. Hello!

    Where is this exchange with Malzberg? Can any of it be revealed?

    I think it was Max Beerbohm talking about 19th century overwriting who used the phrase, "penny-a-lining for the sake of penny-a-lining."

  2. rick1844 is Rick Bowes by the way.

  3. As to the second comment, I say: Ridiculous. I know perfectly well that Rick Bowes is Rick Bowes, and that Rick1844 is Ralph124C41+'s first-cousin-fifteen-times-removed.

    The exchange with Malzberg was via e-mail -- and since for some reason I can't reach this morning, it is unavailable even to myself. If I am able to ask him, I'll ask him about unveiling it somehow.