top of page

Call this a found blog.

by Robin Lippincott, Spalding MFA Fiction Faculty Member

Born while I was thinking about the current state of literature, and about the writers who find commercial success and the writers who don’t, what follows is a compendium of quotes intended to provoke thought and dialogue; I am merely the messenger here (don’t shoot me!).

“Reputations are made here, as in Russia, on political respectability, or by commercial acceptability. The worse the author, the more he is known.”

—James Purdy


In her fourth volume, The Heart of a Woman, Maya Angelou recounts a 1957 encounter with the crusty and vulnerable Billie Holiday…. By the time she met Holiday, Angelou had followed the fashion of the time: she was a calypso singer, soon to cut an album entitled ‘Miss Calypso.’ But it was clear that the album itself was not the point. Developing her artistry was not the point. Fame, not art, was her spur—a fact that Holiday recognized instantly. After walking out in the middle of Angelou’s calypso act, Holiday told her, ‘You want to be famous, don’t you? . . . You’re going to be famous. But it won’t be for singing.’ From then on, Angelou spent little time deliberating on the forms of her ‘self-expression.’ She made sure to call herself not a singer or a writer but an ‘entertainer.’ She sang; she danced; she wrote stories and plays; she acted; she composed incidental music. But what can one make of this blur of activity? It reveals ambition, certainly, but also, sadly, a woman who is only moderately talented and perpetually unable to understand who she is.”

—Hilton Als, The New Yorker


“Fame is pursued, and recognition is accrued. . . . And you can think of examples: think of Norman Mailer, if you can bear it. Here is somebody who pursued fame like mad. . . . Then think of Marilynne Robinson, and Alice Munro, and Steven Millhauser. . . . Beautiful writers who are consistent, year after year, writing quietly, and then this recognition through the merit of the work accrues.”

— Cynthia Ozick, interview at the 92nd Street Y, 2008


“Doesn’t anyone care how something is written anymore?”

—Francine Prose, in her review ofThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, The New York Review of Books


“Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world.”

—Lily Tomlin



bottom of page