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Librarians as writers

March 24, 2010

It is (almost) a truism that librarians harbour a secret (or not so secret, as the case may be) desire to be writers. It is, similarly, (almost) a truism that keen readers desire to be writers. Now, I am a librarian (retired) and a keen reader but I have never really had a desire to be a writer – well, let me clarify that, I have never really had a desire to write a novel, so those of you who want to write the Great (insert your nationality) Novel need fear no competition from me. But, am I letting the side down?

Stereotypical Librarian

Typical Librarian? Not! (Courtesy: Hope this is part of her CC-SA content)

That said, as truisms go, many librarians have been (and still are) published authors and so I was interested when, in my inbox today, lobbed an email from Abe Books with a list of books by librarian authors. The authors are:

Admittedly, I haven’t read all of these authors, but they do make a pretty respectable bunch don’t they? Being surrounded by books clearly did them no harm. And, if Wikipedia is right, Marcel Proust, Lewis Carroll and Philip Pullman were also librarians at one stage in their careers.

Looking at this rather impressive line-up, I think it is just as well I decided to be a librarian and reader (not to mention blogger), and not an author! But don’t let me turn the rest of you off … someone has to do it.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2010 19:23

    *chuckle* Well, I do wear black, and I do have spectacles, but my hairdresser tactfully deals with the grey before ever I see it LOL.
    Lisa (writing the Great Australian Novel, with long, long breaks in between chapters.)

    • March 24, 2010 19:59

      LOL Lisa … And, you don’t have the bun! I was thinking of you, partly, when I wrote this. I hope you do write the GAN – I’ll be the first to read it – but you’ll probably have to retire first!

  2. March 25, 2010 00:32

    Librarians make awesome writers and bloggers! 🙂 I’m not sure about a Great American Novel, but there might be something in there someday, or not 🙂

  3. March 25, 2010 04:36

    Five of these librarian / writers are personal favorites: Berger, Larkin, Taylor, Tyler, and Wilson. I can’t imagine why anyone who is around books all day long would want to come home and write ….. more books.
    I’m trying to think of a single one of the books by these writers that takes place or has a scene that takes place in a library.

  4. March 25, 2010 07:42

    Stefanie: they do indeed! I did wonder whether you also had aspirations. If you do, go for it … would you set it in a library. Libraries after all are rich in characters – users AND staff!

    Tony: Good for you. While I know most of those, I’ve only read Tyler (whom I do enjoy a lot but haven’t read much recently) and Angus Wilson (but it was a non-fiction). I’m sure I’ve read Larkin a long time ago but can’t bring any poems specifically to mind, and I’ve been meaning to read Taylor for a while. Maybe now I should – you know, hold up the flag for my fellow-travellers! Which of Tyler’s recent works do you like best. (I’ve read 5 and the last was The patchwork planet).

    • March 25, 2010 10:51

      I don’t remember any libraries in Larkin either, but I’ll point out that he has one poem, called Reading Habits, that ends with the line, “Books are a load of crap.” Borges is not one of the five you’re talking about, but it might (I’m not sure) be true to say that he had the most famous library-story out of any of’m: The Library of Babel.

      When Alberto Manguel read for him at the end of his life, he noticed that Borges, blind by then, owned only a few small shelves of books.

      I think Proust had a voluntary position in a library for a little while, to appease his parents, who believed he should have a profession (he studied to become a lawyer and acquired a position that lasted two weeks) but he floated quietly out of it on a raft of sick days. Work did not appeal to him.

      • March 25, 2010 19:33

        Oh, thanks DKS. I haven’t read any Borges. Maybe I should start with that. LOL re Proust. He clearly had other things on his mind – unlike me who enjoyed working in libraries/archives.

      • March 26, 2010 18:44

        Borges’ library is infinite and one of his librarians is a genius philosopher. You might like it.

    • March 31, 2010 00:54

      No, not in a library. Probably a historical novel about the witch burnings in Germany. But, we shall see. I have no particular urgency so if it never happens I won’t be broken hearted 🙂

  5. March 25, 2010 08:01

    Hi, my favorite recent Anne Tyler isn’t too recent- ‘ ‘Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant’. I still read her new novels, not her newest yet, and kind of give her a free ride as far as opinion goes, because I liked her early work so much.

    • March 25, 2010 10:06

      Oh yes, I did like that one … a lot. Such great characters. I also loved The accidental tourist. The ladder of years was good too. And I loved, as I recollect, the opening of Breathing lessons – the scene of the husband and wife driving to the son’s wedding? baby’s christening? just can’t quite recollect.

      • March 26, 2010 02:25

        Oh, and “The Amateur Marriage”. That is my favorite recent Anne Tyler novel.

  6. March 25, 2010 14:55

    I received the same email and thought of you as well!!

    • March 25, 2010 16:18

      LOL, but as a librarian I assume, not as a fiction writer. I’m sure you can tell by my earnest blog that writing creative fiction is not my thing!!

  7. March 26, 2010 08:22

    Ah, thanks Tony. I gave that to my Mum (I’m pretty sure) and have often meant to borrow it. Sounds like I should.


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