Bewildering Stories

Steven Utley writes about...

Fame, Fortune, and, Uh, I Forget

Our plaintive wish that we might be remembered when Steven goes (to) Hollywood (in issue 100) seems to have struck a chord...

During my formative years as an artiste I gave away my doodles and the typescripts of my early stories to practically anybody who showed even a little interest in getting them. Opinion diverged as to whether I should pursue a career in Art or Literature, but the consensus was that I should excel in whichever field I chose, and be great, and become rich and famous. And friends promised always to cherish whatever I bestowed upon them even after I had become rich and famous and old acquaintance had been forgot, and then to cash in once I was dead and gone.

Some of these people and some of this early work have since resurfaced at class reunions, and several individuals seemed put out that during the intervening decades I had not, in fact, Become Rich And Famous, never mind that I remembered them. It availed me nothing, of course, to protest that I was the one faced both with the actual hard work of Becoming Rich And Famous (presumably on the strength of my doodling and/or typing skills) and with eventual memory loss. Anyway, I didn't want to seem like a bad sport. Greater men than I had begun as humbly. Could I aspire to less than had the young Picasso, who gave away his precocious scribbles, or the young Einstein, who handed out his early arithmetic homework? And young Henry James had at least meant to give people his early stories, though by the time he finished inserting the dependent clauses he was middle-aged and the intended recipients of his juvenilia had wandered off. (Conversely, young Ernest Hemingway's early work was so terse that people often mistook it for telegrams, enabling the future author of A Farewell to Arms to sock away a bit of change by pretending to be from Western Union.)

Moreover, there was always the faint hope that if I should, still, one day, somehow, pull off the trick of Becoming Rich And Famous, I could, like Proust before me, have the last laugh on those who expected me not to remember them.

The matter may be out of my hands, however. I was prodigious in my youth, and now the ravages of age are beginning to accomplish what elusive Fame and Fortune have not had the opportunity to do. I can no longer keep track of all the people who expect me to forget them once I Become R&F; they are in real danger of being forgotten while I am yet poor and obscure.

Copyright © 2004 by Steven Utley

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