NONE BUT A BLOCKHEAD: On Being a Writer by Larry L. King


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A memoir from King, best known as a cowriter of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, that is partly an inspirational sermon to struggling writers, partly a settling of old literary scores, and--rather too often--an unabashed ego-trip. King's best (as opposed to best-known) work was probably his series of profiles and essays for the old, valiant Harper's of the late 1960's; and at its best his style is journalistic in every good sense of that term: fresh, incisive, apothegmatic, energetically grouchy. King on word processers: ""Screw word processers. They do not make satisfying clackety-clack noises indicating the writer's progress. . .I never even gave in to the electric typewriter when it first came out. Electrics jump and skip when hit with passion. They make smug little purring noises. . .as if to indicate they set the pace, not the writer. (Hmmmm. Come on, dummy, I'm waiting. Hmmmmm, What's the matter, stuck again?)."" When King switches from inanimate objects to people, however, his curmudgeon's pose can become tiresome. Aside from a zestful rehash of the break-up of the Harper's editorial team in 1971 and a moving account of the final illness of his second wife, King (like so many other writers in their memoirs) talks too exclusively in terms of Making It (the friends who did and the friends who didn't) and Money, the advances he landed, and occasionally, the contracts he couldn't fulfill after spending the advances. (This book itself is part of an elaborate reparation for a large advance King received years ago from Viking for a book about Lyndon Johnson that he found himself blocked from completing.) A patchy blend, then, of undigested biographical data and marvellous hortatory wisdom--far more impassioned and forthcoming about what writers do than about who Larry King is.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Viking