“Occasionally a date with a face blank as a sheet of paper asks you whether writers often become discouraged. Say that sometimes they do and sometimes they do. Say it’s a lot like having polio.” (Moore 126)
Lorrie Moore’s “How to Become a Writer” is a story about a young writer. Over the course of this short story we can begin to see how this profession of writing can be a lonely one. This puts it at a complete opposite of what the things that writers write are used for. Of the course of the semester we have seen how the activity of reading has been used to bring people together. Most recently we have seen this in the Jane Austen Book Club. That novel was a story of how the practice of reading Jane Austen books brought a group of friends together. That novel also seems to imply in some places that Jane Austen herself might have had a lonely life sense she was always writing about marriage but never actually marry herself. Comparing these two stories shows how writing can be an activity of loneliness and reading one of community.
The selected quote from “How to Become a Writer” most clearly shows how writing can be very isolationist. We can see this by the way that the author compares writing to having polio, a very dangerous and contagious disease that would call for the person with it to be isolated from others. The author also describes other people in a very impersonal way by saying that their “face was as blank as a sheet of paper”.
In The Jane Austen Book Club it is fairly obvious to see how reading is bringing people together. By reading Jane Austen books together the group of six friends grow closer together. The relationship between Jocelyn and Grigg is especially revealing. The relationship starts at a meeting at a science fiction convention. Then is really grows because of the creation of the book club and Jocelyn inviting Grigg. Then the relationship is cemented when Jocelyn finally reads the books that Grigg loves and also really enjoys them. Without books it is easy to see how this relationship would never exist.
However Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler shows reading as both solitary and relational. It shows its solitariness with the professor at the college who is surrounded by books all day long that no one else seems to want to read. It also shows how reading can bring people together with the relationship between the reader and the other reader which grows through the search for reading and a good story.