from Envy by Kathryn Chetkovich

“It’s not as though anyone thinks that being a good writer makes you a good person. But it helps. (Isn’t this perhaps one reason why women, as a whole, are more apt than men to see writing and reading as therapeutic acts? All that private time spent rendering and transforming personal experience on paper is easier to justify if the writer – and, ideally, reader – is healed in the process.) If you’re truly talented, then your work becomes your way of doing good in the world; if you’re not, it’s a self-indulgence, even an embarrassment.

“…I was raised to admire a life of service, and to this day I do admire it. When I see someone bend to the task of helping another I think she is doing the work of all, the human job. But someone else’s good deed never stabs my heart the way a good book does. I admire it, but I do not envy it. Whatever else it has done, my envy of the man has helped me see the difference between what I was raised to want, what I wish I could want, and what I do want.”

The full article, republished on This Recording from Granta 2003.

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