Stats from the Wilderness

I seem to recall promising myself, my wife and the world that there would be no more harping on about Edmund Ek for a while. Nevertheless I can’t help directing readers’ attentions to an article in this week’s Majfisk (a Swedish literature and fishing magazine, for those who don’t know) written by one Marianne Vingerbäd.

Entitled Wilderness: The Statistics, the piece in question employs Ek as the primary case study in what purports to be a ‘comprehensive study of what happens when young writers go into the wilderness’. It is, of course, anything but comprehensive, as you’d expect from a two-page magazine article (one page of which is taken up by a large photo of Ek himself, in prime ‘dandy’ mode) but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t, in its way, perfectly readable.

Vingerbäd has noticed a trend that was, let’s be honest, obvious to all: that of young writers creating a book or two, garnering some success, suffering a spiritual/emotional crisis and promptly rushing off into the ‘wilderness’ to write a pseudo-philosophical poem on the nature of being. Obvious to all, maybe, but let us give the lady credit for getting down to the business of actually writing about this ‘trend’ of hers. Though she invests her project with no more than a sprinkling of originality (Jesus, she kindly informs us, is the true model for our modern-day literary adventurers) she does present a refreshingly scientific approach to the subject. One question alone lingers over her study: What is the success rate? All these young scribblers scurrying off to the middle-of-nowhere to pen a magnum opus – but what is the end result? Everybody loves the idea of Ek in his Norwegian nowhere-land – but what are the chances of us loving the work he produces?

The statistics she comes up with suggest, perhaps surprisingly, that Ek’s chances aren’t half bad. He may even create something vaguely worthy. In short, all my fears of an anticlimax may have been in vain.

Then again…

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