Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Who are you writing for?

Listening to NPR moments ago I heard James Ellroy answer the question "Who do you write for?" This a question that writing instructors have been known to pose. Who is your audience? Who are you writing for? My unspoken response when I first heard that question posed ponderously was 'Anybody who's interested, right?' The question itself irked me as it seemed to encourage a sort of calculation involving the assumption that age, education and socio-economic background determine one's ability to hear. Reading is a form of hearing I think.

So, since I've been posting notes for an audience of 3-4 people, the question was on my mind. I thought I would declare that I wrote for J.D. Salinger and 'the fat lady' from his story about the kid geniuses who dress up for their radio program. That might be Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters. I will investigate. One brother asks the other brother (Seymour?) why they have to dress up for a radio show. They have often imagined in great detail a member of their radio audience sitting on her front porch fanning herself (wearing patent leather shoes?) and Seymour tells him he should dress nicely for her sake.

(I found it. It's from Zooey and the shiny shoes were on the younger brother. Memory is so weird. my attempt to post another link failed so you will have to investigate further yourself.)

In James Ellroy's interview with Steve Inskeep the question is raised. Who do you write for? Mr. Ellroy, who had moments before revealed that he spent the sixties drinking and looking through windows of strange women and hanging out at the library listed God in his target audience. Then he said something that could easily have come out of my mouth. The exact quotation isn't letting me find it but the idea was that he feels faith within himself knowing that he neither created nor cultivated it. That's precisely my experience and it's why I'm doing this. What do you do if your inside is bigger than your outside and not particularly connected to the present? Read a lot.

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