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Writer as Worker

June 26, 1988

Regarding Russell Jacoby's "The Writer as Worker" (Op-Ed Page, June 17):

Those of us who write full time, without the support of a government grant, a regular paycheck or a working spouse, have of necessity learned that "writer's block" and "devotion to art" are luxuries we can rarely afford. The bank that holds the mortgage on my house is not the least interested in art. All they want is their money, on time, every time.

With very few exceptions, American publishers today are units in corporate conglomerates devoted only to maximizing the return on their investment. That means controlling costs, and of all the expenses required to publish, the only one not subject to purely market forces is that which is paid to writers. Over the last 30 years fees paid magazine writers have declined substantially when compared to almost any relevant index, including cost-of-living, advertising revenues, publishing profits and editorial salaries. This means that writers have been subsidizing publishers for a very long time.

So if "pure mercenary calculations undermine art," as Jacoby puts it, let it be understood that writers are not the real mercenaries.

MARVIN J. WOLF

Los Angeles

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