In every undergraduate creative writing workshop I was part of, there was that one kid who said, “I like to write, but I don’t really like to read,” and it was evident right away that you could pretty much write that kid off completely. “The ugly fact is books are made out of books.”
certainly. i know the cormac quote, if i haven’t already (re-) blogged it. i never took any creative writing classes though, so it is strange to picture them constantly populated by non-readers.
they’re typically small seminars, right? in which one out of… ten, fifteen self-selected students claims to not enjoy reading? meaning they don’t read for pleasure but only what is assigned in school? or that they refuse to read (fiction) altogether? yet they take the elective because writing is fun or rewarding? because they have ideas for stories? because they think they possess some special aptitude that could prove valuable if nurtured? is it merely a posture? a defense mechanism?
not liking reading (for whatever real or signaled reason) is different from not reading at all, which is what young says is his decision, and i propose is the point of the piece: neil young’s profound anti-intellectualism makes him hard to communicate with, and when he undertakes a new hobby that usually requires one be versed in prior work, all of which he is unaware of, it is difficult for the reader to see the value in what his lack of skill produces. moreover it’s part of a larger effort to explain what the author perceives to be young’s dull-wittedness.
young says he doesn’t read because he’s afraid it would somehow interfere with his songwriting. (lyrically, i assume.) perhaps he’s right? even if it has left him at least verbally stunted and impoverished like the author asserts, which since we’re talking about a hugely successful songwriter is fascinating and problematic and unexpected. (why can’t we just say he talks through his music? or through his filmmaking which david carr mentioned briefly last month?) (a: because now he’s writing books!)
young’s typical foil, though, article included, is dylan, who is reputably hyperliterate, so much so that, as you’re well aware, his plagiarism is a common issue.
maybe to avoid being indebted or called a thief, young has committed himself to a sort of radical art with the impossible goal to be wholly original? (i refrain from using “authentic,” because i’m aware that’s a nonstarter with you.) naturally he’s had to pay a certain price for his elected ignorance, his self-inflicted savant-hood.
maybe his writing and personality reflect this choice in a way that journalists at the new yorker simply don’t appreciate?
and what about tao lin? he’s supposedly read plenty, but that has not deterred critics from deriding his often affectless prose. even if it does make it more difficult to essentially call him stupid.