I have an interesting topic I'd like to discuss, and would love to know what others think. First, a few words on what I am reading right now. A great blog called Writers Read asked me this a few weeks ago and they have just posted my answer today - and you might be surprised that it's not all short stories, or even fiction!
And, to shock you even more, dear blog readers, sometimes.... I just don't want to read short stories. (I know!) Sometimes... I want to have that delicious experience of immersing myself in one story for several hours. I did this yesterday, and in one day read two novels, straight through: Dear Everybody, by Michael Kimball (thanks, Nik, for the recommendation) and the Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano. Both were excellently written, devastating and moving. Both, oddly, dealt with characters who were deeply wounded in some way, and with the themes of disconnection from one's family, but in very different ways. I highly recommend them both.
Now, to the other topic I wanted to discuss. I read an article in the New Yorker the other day about a 36-year-old artist who is now the latest Wunderkind (well, slightly older) in the art world for his odd installations (wax sculptures of women that melt as the exhibition progresses; a large pit dug in the floor of the gallery) and sculptures. His works fetch enormous sums of money, in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, and this is mentioned in the Arts articles as if it is simply accepted, a matter of course. So I say this: what is it about "art" of this kind that such sums are demanded and are received but that when it comes to the written word, the situation is so different? Even talking about artists who are not the latest Hot Item, a painting in a small local gallery has a price tag of several thousand pounds. And yet... if I get £10 for a short story, I am thrilled.
Here's my question: are we not asking enough for our work? Is it something to do with a sculpture, installation or painting being a "one-off", in some way unreproducable (even though this is not always the case)? Is it that the collector or buyer wants to own the art in a way that you couldn't own a piece of writing? And... is there any way we writers could somehow emulate these artists, by putting our work up for sale instead of submitting it to a journal? Any other ideas, thinking outside the box on this one? Is there a way we might write one-off pieces too, something we can guarantee is unique and unreproducable or - and this is a big question - do people view an object that is made up of words, which are the currency everyone trades in, as far far less valuable, as something they could "probably do themselves if they tried"?
I would love to start a proper discussion about this. What do you think? While it is quite common to hear that someone is a poet, novelist and playwright, for example, I rarely hear of someone who is a painter and short story writer. Why the gulf? Is there "art" and then "art"??