Vantzeti Vassilev reminded us that the Bulgarian communist regime in addition to helping writers not to write by sending them to luxurious writer's retreats on the Black Sea or in the mountains outside Sofia, to conferences concerned with progressive whatevers, to readings in factories, mines and other work places ALSO simply paid them not to write according to Georgi Markov who as you all know was murdered by the Bulgarian secret police in London.
This strikes me as the first thing I have ever heard that was actually a good thing the communists did and think how much good it would do in this country and in the World Republic of Letters if for instance George Soros instead of wasting vast sums of money attacking Republicans--- who enjoy his attention too much--- would set up a fund for paying writers not to write.
The fund would have to specify in return for a considerable sum that the writer would cease immediately all publication and would destroy all notebooks, all unpublished works, all journals and diaries and all letters... and as a result these writers could move on to some other inviting area of self-abuse in the years left to them.
Just imagine the resulting clear literary air and the future beckoning--- see, even I can get into the spirit of the good old communist days...
Just imagine never having to read a new book or even entertaining the possibility of a new book by: (there is no ranking in the list) Don DeLillo, John Updike, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Mary Gordon, Philip Roth, Richard Ford, Charles Baxter, Galway Kinnell, Salman Rushdie, Bernard Henri-Levy, Gunter Grass, Sherman Alexie, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss, W.S. Merwin, Jhumpa Lahiri, Paul Auster, Sharon Olds, Junot Diaz, Jane Smiley, Francine Prose, Seamus Heaney, Katha Pollitt, Paul Muldoon, Umberto Eco, Amy Hempel, Dale Peck, Rick Moody, Barry Hannah, Edmund White, Billy Collins, Robert Stone, Anne Waldeman, John Edgar Wideman, Jonathan Franzen, Kevin Young, Mary Gaitskill, Russell Banks, Derek Walcott, Cynthia Ozick, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Lynne Tillman, Franz Wright, Carlos Fuentes, Louise Gluck, Philip Levine, Tim O'Brien, Martin Amis, Roddy Doyle, J. D. McClatchy, Mark Strand, John Irving, A.M. Homes, Alice Walker, William Boyd, Bell Hooks, E.L. Doctorow, Ian McEwan, Nikki Giovanni, Peter Carey, John Banville, Nadine Gordimer, William Gass, Lydia Davis, Margaret Atwood...
Once the program was in place Mr Soros might contemplate extending this program to include anyone who has ever published a book and somehow achieved a tenured position in the creative writing business in our universities. The colleges and universities do a pretty good job of discouraging publication but this would provide a modicum more of security against the possibility that any of these....(fill in any word you might like) will commit a book.
I confess I do not know what to do with genre writers. They like cockroaches and ants will always be with us.
Some people might be surprised to learn that a few of the writers listed above are still among the living... but the dread remains still.
If anyone doubts the benefits of my proposal just step back and think of the small pleasure knowing that there are no more novels from Saul Bellow and Susan Sontag! No more short stories from Raymond Carver! No more... I was going to mention a poet or two but
If anyone would like to nominate a writer for one of these Soros grants please let me know and I will silently add the name to the list.
AND BEFORE anyone says:::::: at a future moment I will write out a list of those writers whose books I am looking forward to.