Why Risk Poverty Just to be a Writer? - Andrew Crofts

Another book recommendation for anyone who likes to read about writing and writers. “Self & I: A Memoir of Literary Ambition” by Matthew De Abaitua.

Almost anyone who came of age realising that the only thing they wanted to do with their lives was write will find something moving, funny or frightening in this memoir of a young writer from an entirely non-literary family wading out into the swamps of intellectual snobbery and potential poverty in search of the elusive uplands of literary success.

The USP for this particular story is that young Matthew was employed by Will Self, a novelist famous for being a terrifying mixture of drug and drink fuelled intellectual rigour, Hunter S. Thompsonesque japery and, some might say, literary pretension. The book is marketed as being a real-life "Withnail and I" – and it certainly fulfils that brief, but it is also a serious look at why on earth so many of us are willing to risk starving to death in order to be free to write what we want.

Reading it reminded me of how scared and excited I felt when reading Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London” as a teenager. Books like these are what keep us glued to our keyboards day and night when so many more pleasant distractions are beckoning us away.

Quick disclaimer: This book was edited by the excellent Scott Pack, who also edited my “Confessions of a Ghostwriter”.  


Umberto Tosi said…
I read your post with a wry smile, recalling rollercoaster rides as an alternately starving and substantial-but-never-secure ink-stained wretch over the decades since since I read "Down and Out..." back in my youth. I look forward to reading De Abaitua's confessional memoir, having also apprenticed with - and been editor for - my share of gonzo writers. Thank you.

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