A friend of mine, a terrific writer, is convinced there is a conspiracy excluding him from certain rewards and publications. Surveying the field, he calculates the present advantages of race, religion, gender, generation, genre; the lamentably low aesthetic standards of the current cultural moment; and the charlatans who act as our literary gatekeepers. I consider him, like most of the paranoia-inclined, an optimist. If only it were that simple. If only we could lay the blame on a sinister group of fashion-conscious power brokers (those cowards, those bozos!) who get together every first Monday of the month at, say, the Century Club to determine the season’s winners and losers. No, I am a pessimist in such matters: I see nothing but randomness, pure randomness.
Fortunately, the solution to such a painful dilemma is always close by. I am referring to a sense of perspective. We are all soon to be dust and ashes under the aspect of eternity — a comfortingly modest thought. There is nothing, I repeat, in an author more becoming than modesty. I myself am, when all is said and done, exquisitely modest. I recognize my talent is a small one, and it has taken me further than I ever imagined when I started out in adolescence on the writing path. So I will conclude by expressing my abject gratitude to the powers that be for recognizing me to the degree they have seen fit. We will leave it at that.
— Midlist Crisis – NYTimes.com. To the question of whether I see any personal application of the thoughts presented by this essay, I reply: You may well think so, but I couldn’t possibly comment.