P.J. O'Rourke said, "Creative writing teachers should be purged until every last instructor who has uttered the words 'Write what you know' is confined to a labour camp. The blind guy with the funny little harp who composed The Iliad, how much combat do you think he saw?"
Like O'Rourke, William Faulkner had his own take on the Other Commandment for writers, the one that goes, ìThou shalt not quit thy day job.î Faulkner, who won the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature, had, twenty-five years before, worked at the post office in his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi.
Mister Faulkner was known to say, ìOne of the saddest things is that the only thing a man can do for eight hours, is work. You can't eat eight hours a day, nor drink for eight hours a day, nor make love for eight hours.î
He must have been determined to give something else (writing, we may assume, perhaps a glass of whisky on the side) a whirl when he tendered his resignation to the postmaster. 'I reckon I'll be at the beck and call of folks with money all my life, he said, 'but thank God I won't ever again have to be at the beck and call of every son of a bitch who's got two cents to buy a stamp.'
The authors in this book have tried their hands at some of the same jobs you have held, or still keep. They've worked on the railroad, busted rocks with a sledgehammer, fought fires, wiped tables, soldiered and carpentered and spied, delivered pizzas, lacquered boat paddles, counted heads for the church, sold underwear, and, yes, delivered the mail. They've driven garbage trucks.
And, like William Faulkner, they have quit those day jobs. And like Faulkner they write. They tell good tales. If you wonder what work preceded their efforts to produce a great pile of books, if you would like to know how they made the transition to, as William Gay said, "clocking in at the culture factory,' then this is the book you've been waiting for.