Author Jane Hamilton ask a rather probing question toward the end of her radio interview on To the Best of Our Knowledge (you can listen here with your Real player, interview starts at 43:25). The question evolves from a conversation about the crowds of people who want to be writers, but who aren’t well read — and the loss of filters to discover and celebrate the true visionaries among them.
The leading character in Hamilton’s most recent book, Laura Rider’s Masterpiece, longs to write a romance novel but doesn’t care to read. Says Hamilton in the interview:
I think it’s kind of an angry book about this idea that we’re all artists. So, what happens when there are more writers than there are readers? And how will the really talented young writers’ voices bubble up through the gaseous murk of the blogosphere? How will they be heard? …they probably will. I’m banking that they will. But I think it’s going to be more difficult for those real writers to find their place.
There are glorious, democratizing forces at work when almost anyone can publish their thoughts to the world. But to me, the challenging byproduct of those benefits are what Hamilton describes. How do we make space in this instant publishing world for the truly remarkable voices — in words, in song, in composition, in performance, in whatever? Particularly, how do we nurture those exceptional voices that need time and attention to grow?
This isn’t a defense of the gatekeepers or editors/curators who ran the filters before the Internet, as that system had its flaws and foibles as well. But it’s a call for the nonprofit and public arts to consider their part in answering that question.