Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Letter to Salon Magazine

Ms. Walsh:

I am not a subscriber to Salon Magazine; thanks to your columnist Laura Miller, I never will be. A Column, “Better yet, DON’T write that Novel” by Ms. Miller appeared on November 2, 2010, on Salon’s website. The column consisted of a cold-hearted and poorly argued criticism of National Novel Writing Month, a program to encourage both teenagers and young adults alike to set pen to paper and write a novel in thirty days. It is a nearly impossible task for the tens of thousands of participants, and many don’t finish. However, all of them write something. All of them have ideas, and all of them want to accomplish something with their time, even if it is merely a personal achievement. Some of them will finish their novel. I myself was a winner last year, when I wrote fifty thousand words while preparing for law school finals and the winter holidays. Many, including myself, have no intention of publishing our novels– of causing the acute pain to editors and publishers that Ms. Miller describes in her column. We simply want to prove to ourselves that we can do it. One wonders if Ms. Miller is so disenchanted by her own personal achievements that she feels the need to discourage others. Perhaps she worries that more writers will bring more competition.
Ms. Miller admonishes that the last thing the world needs is “more bad books.” Clearly, she doesn’t consider creativity, original thought, and ambition to be important values. I can assume that Salon magazine does not value these things either, since the column was approved for publication.
In her article, Ms. Miller describes reading as a selfless act, while she pans writing as an indicator of narcissism. Perhaps she is speaking of her own personality quirks, but who does Ms. Miller think compiled those bound pages that fill up our libraries and bookstores? What will the “selfless” readers have to read when there are no more writers?
Ms. Miller’s column was insulting and ignorant. It is, to use Ms. Miller’s words, “the last thing the world needs.” The last thing the world needs, Ms. Walsh, is people and publications who discourage independent thought, creativity, and critical thinking. The last thing the world needs is a magazine which condones a columnist like Laura Miller.
What this world needs are smart, independent thinkers who are willing to spend time and energy putting pens to paper and writing out their ideas. This world needs ideas, motivation, and inspiration; we do not need bitter cynics who sneer at a hundred and fifty thousand people who believe that they can accomplish something incredible in thirty days.
In a country where public education is abysmal, where students graduate from high school with vocabularies that could fit onto a single sheet of paper, and where independent thought is discouraged, repressed, and even punished, we need more “bad books,” Ms. Walsh. We need a lot more “bad books.” We need millions.



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