Sunday, July 18, 2010

Behind every great man...

Patched up one of the holes in my literary education by reading James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small this afternoon. Yes, yes, I know. It was indeed a grave oversight. But it's fixed now.

My writing has been deteriorating, I can feel it; when I mentioned this to my immediate boss, he said that's because I've been reading too many student scripts. I can well believe it. The other day I was grading essays on the topic of arranged marriages, and caught myself wondering if there is an i in arranged... as in, "arrainged". Horrors!

My boss further said that the only way to remedy that is to read more. So, being an obedient employee -- *cough, cough* -- I'm taking his advice.
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For some reason I got interested in Herriot's wife. In the book, he says they spent part of their honeymoon going around farms and testing herds of cows for tuberculosis, so I thought, "Man, this woman sounds like one of a kind. I can't imagine any other woman taking that sort of thing very calmly!" Imagine not turning a hair when your husband has to spend part of your honeymoon working, and you have to follow him into barns and fields with splotches of cow poop, to help him take notes as he does that work!

I wondered how much of the book was autobiographical, so I looked it up. Apparently that really was what happened! Not only that, I discovered that his wife had an important role to play in his success as an author because it was she who'd encouraged him to write his first book. Wikipedia says he'd always wanted to write but couldn't find the time, and he finally started because his wife urged him to do it.

Reminds me of something I read recently in Shaunti Feldhahn's book, For Women Only. Discussing the results of a couple of surveys she conducted among 800 men, she says many men revealed that they secretly feel inadequate, like an impostor; they're trying their best, yet at the same time afraid that people will find out they're merely faking it, that they don't really know what they're doing at all. And she said if a wife provides affirmation for her husband and helps her husband feel like he can safely be himself with her, he'll be able to become all God intends him to be.

Sounds like common sense. Shaunti does delve into more detail about how men would like their wives to respond; I won't go into all that here, but I kept thinking how nobody would ever have heard of James Herriot if his wife had not given him the support and confidence to start writing. After all, it's hard to brave rejection when you're a first-time author sending your manuscript around to agents and publishers. And, considering he had a busy veterinary practice, it must have been hard for him to find the time to write, too. She must have been a pretty extraordinary lady, I think.

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