Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Writer's Gene

Yesterday’s post got us thinking about literary lineage. Not influence, mind you, but writers who actually beget other writers. In my five minutes of looking around, it appears to be more common than you’d think. Perhaps there’s a “writer’s gene” waiting to be isolated in the human genome project.

Take William Falkner. No, that’s not a typo. I’m talking about the author of The White Rose of Memphis , great-grandfather of the William Faulkner we all know- the one born before the family added a “u” to their name.

Or, there’s John Steinbeck… the Fourth- son of the John Steinbeck we all read in high school, journalist and posthumous memoirist. Or his brother Thomas, author of a few novels of his own, not to mention an upcoming memoir.

Hemingway’s first son, Jack, helped prepare A Moveable Feast  for posthumous publication, and himself published a memoir. Jack’s daughter Mariel has written three books of her own. Ernest's second son Patrick edited his father’s 800 manuscript pages from a trip to Africa into True at First Light , and has been good for an introduction or forward in many a Hemingway book ever since. Youngest son Greg (AKA Gloria) also authored a memoir, as have a couple of his children.

Then there's Thomas Mann, whose brother was also a writer, as were three of his children. Or the Bronte sisters for that matter. I’m sure there are tons of other examples I don’t have time to research, but it’s shockingly common. So maybe there’s something to this writing gene after all.

(That, or maybe there's a universal desire to capitalize on one’s family name when it happens to be a juicy one. I could be convinced of either.)

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