|Portrait of Dostoevsky by Vasily Perov (1872)|
It is easy to see how writers like Mailer, Hemingway and Plimpton (who all boxed), Isak Dinesen (who hunted game), Gloria Steinem (who became a Playboy bunny) Jean Genet (who was a hustler and criminal), Peter Matthiessen (who explored dangerous places like the Himalayas) and most recently William Vollman (who explored his dark side in varying dangerous milieu ) challenged bulls or added tails to their tales. It was the only way to differentiate themselves from their colleagues, meek Kafkaesque creatures who lived in fear of rejection and waited for telephone calls or the return of sases (remember them) from imperious editors who could make or break their careers. Even running for your life at Pamplona or performing half naked in a sex club and facing the leering eyes of inebriated businessmen was better than dealing with the literary world in a places like London, Paris or New York. Graham Greene was another writer who put himself in danger whether exploring the criminal world of Nice (J’Accuse: The Dark Side of Nice) or in his varying travels through Mexico, Africa and Caribbean. V.S Naipaul chased his high in his well documented sadistic relationship with his mistress. Many writers and artists, whose art evolves from their quirky and eccentric way of doings things and ofttimes their inability to conform to the more narrow lifestyles afforded by run-of-the-mill professions, occupied the world of haute boheme. But few would go to the lengths of colorful figures like Norman Mailer who stabbed his then wife on eve of his candidacy for the mayoralty of New York. What made Dostoevsky engage in dangerous revolutionary activities that in a famous instance found him in danger of execution? Was he looking for material or was he just trying to escape from the lot of being your typical weirdo and egghead whose ego would one day be trampled by an insensitive world? “Not having heard from you, I was wondering about the status of my submission,” is the kind of note that writers today may text or e mail. Even a firing squad is better than that.