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Keith Gessen, Nathaniel Rich: I’m sorry I trashed your novels

I write. It is what I have always done, searching for what Robert Frost called "a momentary stay against confusion."

But I want more than just wisdom -- every writer does, outside the most hopeless of naïfs. Like most of my fellow scribes, I also yearn for fame, greatness and immortality, preferably in that order. Allow me to be immodest: I would like to write the best thing about Brooklyn since William Styron's "Sophie's Choice" and a campus novel to rival Donna Tartt's "The Secret History." I would also like to write a play and perhaps some poetry, if there is time.

Let me go further: If you do not want your own version of the above, if you are indeed a reasonable and/or responsible young man or woman, then literature is not for you. If you have a compelling personal story to tell, tell it to a therapist. An MBA will do you far more good than an MFA. Pursue writing only if you are pathologically unable to pursue anything else. Otherwise, consider advertising.

William Faulkner once said that the artist is "a creature driven by demons -- he usually doesn't know why they chose him and he's usually too busy to wonder why." The demons chose wisely in his case, yet you and I would be foolish to count on their discretion. I say that as someone who has tried and failed to publish a novel for a good decade, despite efforts that any dispassionate observer would consider impressive, if not outright troubling.

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