Writing is a cruel game. Whatever I can say about the years of unreward, about a promising start terminated, others, more established, have had crueller fates.
In The Weekend Australian Magazine on 7 April 2012 was the story of David Ireland, three-time winner of the Miles Franklin in the 1970s and now ‘The Great Unknown’. I’ve seen him on the list of Miles Franklin winners, tried to read his last published novel, and wondered what became of him. What became of him is that he can’t get published any longer: in the last two decades he has written seven novels that publishers will not publish. He has them in the drawer of his desk.
The article tries to explain his fate. Partly, he is out of fashion, his brutal, strange, working-class novels just not what publishers are looking for. His last published novel, The Chosen, was reviewed badly in 1997. And then there is his shocking unpublished torture-novel, “Desire” that ‘probably ended, or at least stalled, his career as a published author”.
Ireland is quoted as saying ‘I don’t live or die by whether things are published, I live or die by whether I want to keep writing’. He is a true writer, then. I have little motivation to go on writing without being published, without my words having an audience. It is a crippling fear, when one’s confidence is gone, and a voice says that the new project, all the years sunk into it, might also come to nothing.