August 16th, 2015

baby

Little and big

Adam Gopnik, writing in the New Yorker about Max Beerbohm, the paradigmatic beloved minor writer. "Beerbohm found so many ways to be modest that when he had to try and be major he couldn't." (Max assembled materials for a big Jamesian novel he got nowhere with.) "Still," Gopnik writes, there is no such thing as a minor writer, because--there is no such thing as a major writer. As Max wrote, considering Whistler, even Shakespeare occupies shockingly little of our attention -- shocking, that is, for those of us who are trying to occupy it too. (Boswell, one of Max's favorites, said the same thing about Voltaire: no had ever been more talked of, and look how little, really, Voltaire was talked of.) This means that bigness is a mirage, but it also means smallness is a kind of illusion too. Anyone who is read at all is more or less the same size."
I think that's a wonderful insight.