In tomorrow’s New York Times real estate section—my wife’s (and my) guilty pleasure—there is an article about people who buy an extra apartment in their own building. It begins thus:
Freddie Gershon lives with his wife, Myrna, and his dog in a penthouse duplex with a terrace in Midtown East. The space is plenty big, he concedes — 6,500 square feet.
But apparently not quite big enough. Last month, Mr. Gershon, the chief executive of Music Theatre International, a licensing agency, closed on some additional real estate in his co-op: a one-bedroom 1,000-square-foot unit on the fourth floor.
“I have reached a point in my life where I want to write,” he said. “I have a book in mind, and I wanted a sanctuary that didn’t require me to get dressed and go outside. I wanted to go to the passenger or service elevator and just go to a different floor.”
Mr. Gershon—he of the penthouse duplex that you could fit two of my three-story house inside of, with room to spare—has managed to land squarely in the capital of pet-peeve land, as far as I am concerned. I mean, I cannot be the only one who think it is just ever so charming when amateur writers, people with no reason to believe they have any writing ability whatsoever, decide that they have a book in them. Mr. Gershon manages to demean the writing life in several ways, treating it as something that apparently anyone can do, at the same time that he sequesters writing in that “point in [one’s] life,” that is to say, in one’s retirement, when one takes up self-satisfied pursuits like gentleman farming, or running for the historical commission.
Here let me say that, as someone with a bit of a career as a writer, I actually don’t think writing is that hard. Not relative to some other vocations. If you can speak good, clear English, have an idea or two in you, and know how to read and write, you are well on your way to writing something reasonably compelling. But by that I mean only to say that Mr. Gershon may be able to write a decent 700-word op-ed piece, more surely than he can quickly learn to play lute or win archery competitions. Writing a book, on the other hand, at least a professional-quality book, is hard work. And the skills it takes to write a book, one that people want to read, are not apparently transferrable from other careers. Mr. Gershon works in music licensing—why does he think he can write a book? Does he think he can do particle physics?
For further evidence that Mr. Gershon is off to a poor start, consider this, also from the article:
Mr. Gershon said he had tried working at home. “But then I’d hear the phones,” he said. “Or I’d get distracted by the view of the river.”
I hope that Mr. Gershon proves me wrong—I hope he writes a terrific book that people flock to read. Meanwhile, however, he might consider this other characteristic of real writers: they don’t have the luxury of being distracted by a view of the river. Most of us writers, if we had done well enough to have a 6,500 square-foot penthouse duplex,wouldn’t need to buy an additional studio apartment just to put pen to paper.