OK, so the category-day thing is all wonky, but that’s all right since I’m at least posting three consecutive days in a row.
This quote relates exactly to how I felt yesterday, when I expounded on whether graduate school was a good place for an aspiring writer. It’s a good thing Mr. Hawthorne agrees with me.
It is a good lesson—though it may often be a hard one—for a man who has dreamed of literary fame, and of making for himself a rank among the world’s dignitaries by such means, to step aside out of the narrow circle on which his claims are recognized, and to find how utterly devoid of significance, beyond that circle, is all that he achieves, and all that he aims at.
I don’t think Hawthorne is disparaging the literary life, but only insisting that writers occasionally break away from their self-obsessed cloisters and engage with the real world. There, no one cares whether your short story was published by whatever obscure journal in South Dakota. They are only concerned with surviving everyday life, and how hard you work. Perhaps then, writers would find that much richer fodder for their stories lies outside the ivory towers and celebrity-obsessed classrooms. So maybe all MFA students should be forced to spend three years in a Custom House, as Hawthorne (or his narrator) does. Or, maybe folding clothes in a mall. Or, covering high school sports for a local paper. Or, working as a lineman in a factory. Their stories might be a whole lot better for it, not to mention their souls.