Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Darker Side of Sabbaticals

Although I always run across the room to turn off Garrison Keillor's radio show the moment I sense it approaching after Car Talk, I do find his writing quite entertaining. Mr. Keillor made some extremely astute observations on the subject of sabbaticals in the February 17 issue of his weekly newspaper column, "The Old Scout." He quotes from the obituary of an English writer named Edward Upward:

"The middle decades were bleak for Upward," wrote Mr. Walker. "During a sabbatical year designed to give Upward the chance to write, he suffered a nervous breakdown." And then when he did publish again, he had become an antique. His autobiographical trilogy, "The Spiral Ascent," was received by critics like you'd receive a door-to-door vacuum-cleaner salesman.

Keillor draws the following moral from Mr. Upward's obituary:

And thanks to Edward Upward, I have decided not to take a sabbatical after all. You go off to the woods for a year and it puts you under terrible pressure to write "Moby Dick" or something worthy of having had an entire year in which to write, and the longer you work at this masterpiece, the shabbier it looks, the whale turns into a guppy, and at the end of the year you have torn up almost everything you wrote and you are filled with self-loathing and bitter regret. No thanks. I am sticking to my post and recommend that you do, too.

No comment from me on this subject. It took me seven years of labour, forgoing weekends and evenings, to earn this sabbatical in the woods.


Julia Bradshaw said...

My neighbour is on sabbatical, but as she has a kid she is at home doing the same stuff except not going into work. Like you, if I ever make it that far I would want to travel and to see something new.

Sabbatical, schmattical.

This is how process art comes about.

vaughn wascovich said...

well i'll take one and take my chances. though i know that after about 6 weeks of traveling i'm ready to come home and sleep in my own bed. still, a year away from the entitled young ones and committee work would be a relief. and all i have to do is run around and make some photos. besides, no one expects me to write moby dick.