The above quote is attributed to author, Gore Vidal; he wrote Myra Breckinridge, among many other novels.
Why would a successful author make such a quote? Was it in jest? Perhaps. But he was addressing an age old emotion – envy. We’ve all had it. That lottery winner that coulda, shoulda been me or you. Why is it so hard to be happy for others success? Or is it? Because it appears that way to me. To be genuinely happy for the success of another should come naturally. The footnote on this blog by Voltaire is about appreciation. And what is appreciation in a literary sense? For me, it’s a recognition of excellence. When it comes to a good novel, I know in my heart of hearts that I could not have written something that good. But I can appreciate reading it perhaps as much as anyone. And I am thankful that there are people out there that can do it – better than I could ever dream of doing it. Are we envious of the heart surgeon that has the ability to save lives? Are we jealous of him or her? I think not. But in the literary world there seems to be a lot of online jealousy, a lot of pettiness and a lot of silliness. Or maybe I’m all wet? Maybe I got it all wrong and it’s one big cheer leading section with everyone rooting for one another – the American version of root, not the English one, I think.
Here is what I know: when I am happy for the success of another, I feel happy. When I am envious of the success of another, I never feel good. Ever. So why would I choose that route?
7 Responses to ““Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.””
When I read a fantastic book, I think I feel both thrilled and envious. Thrilled for the privilege of being able to read something wonderful and envious, not of the person, but of the skill. But I might feel differently if I was a writer and saw someone else’s book have greater success than my own…
Thanks, FictionFan … you make some valid and honest points. Competition, as a general rule, is a good thing. For today’s published writers there has never been more competition for the reader’s eyes than there is now. There is also more opportunity to be published. The role of author has changed over the past 40 years. As readers I think we benefit, provided we are able to separate the wheat from the chaff without too much difficulty.
Dear Mr Footprint- “When I am envious of the success of another, I never feel good.” That is, so abundantly the point. Any energy spent on envy is the sad sublimation of the energy one should be spending on ones own path…I love the way you agonise about this stuff!
Your note has caused me to think about this. I think we root for people to succeed who share our values. Oftentimes we’re friends with people who don’t share our values, so it can be a little cringing when they succeed. Perhaps Gore Vidal’s values were a little hard to share. 🙂
Your comment is most on point, for me. Because it is easier to share in the good fortune of those we feel have similar values. The converse being it is more difficult to feel good about the success of another’s whose values are quite different than your own. The corrupt politician that has amassed a great fortune comes to mind. While he/she may have achieved financial rewards, the manner in which it was gained makes it impossible to feel good about their “success”. Thanks again for your comment.
If one cannot enjoy a friend’s success, then one is not truly a friend.
All very thoughtful comments … Thanks for taking the time to leave them.