Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Far from home

Good stuff here:
If you're a self-styled bohemian writer, however—if you aspire to live the life of a Henry Miller or a Charles Bukowski—you are by definition obligated to seek a seedy variation of authenticity. You can't settle for video games and fan conventions. To truly embrace your fantasies, you must actively booze, brawl, and womanize until you've achieved something resembling oblivion. And if you don't have the money, courage, or social cachet to do this in your hometown, moving overseas to indulge your inner misanthrope is a sensible and time-honored solution. In nearly every expat setting I've visited as a traveler—from Prague to Phuket to Porto-Novo—there seems to be this notion that being a writer has more to do with drinking and screwing than actually writing.

So, expat scenes invariably have plenty of writers and artists but a curiously scant quantity of writing and art. This isn't a new phenomenon: Ernest Hemingway alluded to it in The Sun Also Rises, when Bill Gorton jestingly upbraids Jake Barnes: "You drink yourself to death," he says. "You become obsessed with sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafes." George Orwell made a similar observation in "Inside the Whale" (an essay-length riff on Miller's Tropic of Cancer), pointing out that expatriate writers are disproportionately obsessed with "drinking, talking, meditating, and fornicating."

No comments: