It's particularly apropos that today's saint, Jerome, is the patron of librarians. First, last Thursday, my book club met at my house to discuss the month's selection, Catcher In the Rye by Jerome David Salinger. Second, I find it comforting that the writing and work for which Saint Jerome became famous was done at the end of his life, when he was living as a hermit in Bethlehem. (Are all Jeromes doomed to be solitary, cranky writers? I picture Jerome and Salinger in heaven, talking about what a phony bastard Saint Paul is.) Third, on Jerome's feast day, I've spent a good deal of time on Google trying to find information about the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, which is going to be announced in the next week some time.
The fact that I was born on October 5 and am a writer may have something to do with my preoccupation with the Nobel and all people and things literary. I have this dream of some day learning that I've won the Nobel on my actual birthday. Any way, I watched an interview with Cormac McCarthy yesterday. Oprah asked McCarthy whether he cared if people read his work. McCarthy laughed and said "not really." It irked me. McCarthy is an incredibly successful writer--has won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Genius Grant. He's always on the list of writers whom bloggers and critics shortlist for the Nobel. Every year. And yet he doesn't give a shit if people read his books. Most writers I know are obsessive about publishing, the bigger the audience the better. I honestly believe that authors who say they don't care about being read are authors who have a lot of readers. A LOT of readers.
If I sound bitter and unchristian, it's because I am. It's a facet of one of my greatest faults--jealousy. I've written about this unattractive part of my personality in previous posts. It's nothing new, and, for the most part, I can easily hide behind sarcasm and disparaging bon mots. People who don't know me well think I'm charming and funny. People who do know well think I'm charming and funny, but they also know I'm deadly serious when I call Herta Muller (last year's winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature) a Teutonic vampire.
I try to act humble and nonchalant, but it's just an act.
I'm not going to come up with some kernel of wisdom that puts my jealousy into perspective. I have no perspective on it. It's an ugly part of my person, a raging red boil that I mask and cover up with humor. One of my best friends laughs at me, however, and says, "It burns your ass. I know."
It does. I'm fine with that. Most people who win the Nobel Prize are at least in their 70s. Saint Jerome didn't start writing in earnest until he retired from active priesthood. J. D. Salinger only wrote two or three books and then disappeared from the spotlight, never to publish again. He became a legend. I still have time. To be a better person. To let go of all my petty jealousies and angers.
We all can be better than we are.
Until next week when they announce the winner of the Nobel in Literature.
Then all bets are off. Unless I win. Stay tuned...