Digital Enthusiasm

At a recent dinner party someone remarked that the two secure careers remaining in America are business and science.  There are also education and academia, but since both have been for several decades now radically inhospitable to anyone to the right of Howard Dean, no one thought it necessary to mention them.  I thought at the time that the speaker was probably correct, while reflecting that, were I in my teens or 20’s today, I should probably seek the life of an adventurer on the high seas and in remote places among remote peoples, armed with a bolt-action rifle and a packet of paper maps in an oilskin bag substituting for a GPS.  What struck me particularly was this man’s assumption that business and science are occupations anybody is equally at liberty to take up, and to succeed in.  I am, among other things, a novelist, but I have never imagined novel writing to be a rational choice of occupation for anyone who simply happened to see in it another path, one among hundreds available, to security and worldly success.  I have always assumed, rather, that novelists are people born to write narrative fiction, as businessmen are born to found and run companies, and scientists to experiment with rats, cats, human beings, and atomic particles.  I myself, though a competent writer, have neither an interest in nor a head for business and science, and my father almost certainly got it right when he told me,...

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