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Friday, June 11, 2021

Are Novelists Normal People?

     Is there such a thing as a novelist personality or type? Are there behavioral quirks, personality traits, and emotional temperaments common to fiction writers? Do they fit some kind of psychological profile? Are writers, as some people think, emotionally disturbed egomaniacs? (In the acknowledgments to her book Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life, novelist Natalie Goldberg thanked her typist, her agent, her editor, her acupuncturist, and her therapist.) Over the years, several well known writers have committed suicide. Many of them were alcoholics and/or drug addicts.

     Some novelists openly reveal in memoirs, journals, and letters that they consider themselves, at least in some respects, psychologically strange and abnormal. Such revelations are quite often the most interesting aspects of their life stories.

     In addition to being odd, many novelists have outsized egos and are pathologically competitive. George Bernard Shaw, for example, said this of himself: "With the exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare when I measure my mind against his." (John Mason Brown, "George Bernard Shaw, Headmaster to the Universe," Saturday Review Gallery, 1959)

     Novelists have also shown themselves to be compulsive, whiny, petty, and cruel. When Truman Capote died, his rival Gore Vidal was supposed to have referred to his passing as "a good career move." 

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