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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 11/22/2004
Vol. 2, #148

This week, I promised to present the beginning of my first novel, The Blowtop. Doing that would cover quite a stretch of time, and in the meantime, things are happening to me that I'd like to talk about instead. Some of you sent me congratulations on my 88th birthday last week--for which muchas gracias. But I suddenly found myself looking down from the top of a long span of years and it startled me. I started to take stock. Where am I? How much time and work do I still have left in me? Will I be able to keep on working? Stuff like that. So I'll make a deal with you.

Instead of filling this column for weeks with the chapters of an unusual early novel, and, as I see it now, going over old history, I'm offering all of you who are interested a better solution. I'll tell you how to get the whole of The Blowtop in one quick stroke, right off the Web, all neatly laid out in PDF or other appropriate forms. It'll cost you about ninety-six cents. Yep, for as little as that, you can have the whole book to discuss with me, if you like, on my Round Table. All you do is go to www.BlackMask.com, write in the name of The Blowtop in the appropriate blank space, and the work will be delivered to you. Paypal, credit card, the usual.

On the same site, you'll find all sorts of goodies in books besides, from the classics, just like the Gutenberg site, completely free and downloadable. For certain other once popular and out-of-print books, you may have to pay a few cents. A good deal. In fact a guy named David Moynihan owns the site and was paying me a nice royalty for a few quarterly periods a while back. He's suddenly stopped paying. Maybe he isn't selling many more. When I ask him, he doesn't answer. So, maybe that's his problem.

I don't know. But The Blowtop is still available. I downloaded one myself recently since I needed a copy in PDF format.

At the site, if you go there, you might try to find a way to remind Moynihan that he probably owes me some money, or at least an explanation. I know of whole classes at SUNY that have downloaded copies for various courses on that particular book, so some of them must be selling. In any case, get YOUR copy and discuss it with me on the Round Table. Right now, I'm doing this because I've got other fish to fry. Things are happening to me right now that I'd like to talk about.

One of those things is a writer's life. Doesn't matter if it involves comics writing or high literature, as they call it sometimes. And everything in-between. In the long run, and for the most part, only about 2% of all writers make any money. Writers write because that's the kind of people they are and will keep on trying no matter how long they have to wait and how long, if ever, the payoff. I've been doing some counting. I've published everywhere and in enough different modes and genres, and in some forms that have no names. That includes comics, of course, but I've talked about comics before. They kept me alive during the depression and the years that followed. And there were options I was offered that would have made me more money, like agreeing to do the Superman radio show, but I was bent on something else.

And then there are all the great opportunities that get missed because writers like me, at least in their earlier years, don't think commercially. For example, when The Blowtop first came out, The New Yorker asked to interview me, being especially interested, they said, in how I could write Superman and existentialist (or Beat) novels at the same time, The Blowtop was somehow many things to many people. "How," they wanted to know, "did I manage to keep the two things apart?"

I didn't respond in the right way, not at thirty. I hadn't learned commercial ways yet. So I simply told the New Yorker that I had two rooms, differently colored and separated by a phone booth through which I went from the Superman room to the literary novel room, it was as simple as that. A very funny story, for the sake of which, well, do you know how many copies of The Blowtop I didn't sell because I muffed that New Yorker intervew?

The truth is, writers do crazy things like that. They get opportunities and they don't play ball. It's not always the big greedy publishers fault. And not really the writer's. He/she is built somewhat differently and sees the world in strange lights. Just how strange and how different is what I'd really like to talk about in more detail in future columns. I have plenty of writer friends who moan about the difficulties of getting their work sold, of making a living at writing, and the endless, endless waiting, sometimes up to a year while decisions are being made. It's really quite a tough life, seen objectively. In other ways, there's no life like it. Besides, if you're a real writer, there's no use grousing. Because you'll have to keep on doing it anyway.

I'll tell you a lot more about it next week.

--Alvin

<< 11/15/2004 | 11/22/2004 | 11/29/2004 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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