Ernest Hemingway in a letter to friend Maxwell Perkins in 1928: “This bull market in letters isn’t going to last forever and I don’t want to always be the one who is supposed to have made large sums and hasn’t and doesn’t.”
A less than inspiring confessional. If this grand poobah of 20th-century literature fretted over the value of his work and the future of the trade, what does it say for aspiring writers almost a century later?
But despite Hemingway’s foreboding, the bull market in letters lives on. It has crept by less noticed in past years as TV and interactive websites have swirled around it, but nevertheless the novel has not been eradicated, nor the play made arcane, nor the poet barred from grand auditoriums.
After Hemingway’s time, Arthur Miller ascended as the champion of American drama after penning his first play “No Villain” during his sophomore at the University. The Hopwood Creative Writing Awards, founded by another famous playwright alum Avery Hopwood, continues to grant tens of thousands of dollars each year to University student writers, such as Miller, Frank O’Hara and Mary Gaitskill. While next fall, Creative Writing Prof. Laura Kasischke will see her novel “The Life Before Her Eyes” made into a major film starring Uma Thurman.
It’s not just a menagerie of famous pen-wielding alumni and the largest undergraduate writing award program in the nation that speak to the University’s literary tradition. It’s amateur poetry readings in the basement of the Residential College and the 35 creative writing sections available to undergraduates this semester. Ask any English lecturer with an unpublished manuscript: Fiction and poetry writing can seem thankless. But it’s a task that still draws art-grant aspirants and closet dabblers alike.
In this issue of The Statement we’ve collected fiction and poetry submissions from students and recent alumni. There’s a poem accounting the harrowing experiences of being deloused and loving an all-too-human mother, a vignette from the eyes of a Vietnam vet and a twisted narrator’s take on the burning of Los Angeles. Enjoy.