Cult Following

At a writing workshop a number of years back, one of the students asked the instructor about his readership "goals."

I thought it was an odd question to pose, but the instructor immediately said, "I'd like a small but devoted cult following."

Again, this seemed a rather odd aspiration. Why aspire to a "small" following?

The phrase stuck with me, though. And Wednesday night, watching Wilco perform for about 1500 adoring fans, I was again reminded of that "small but devoted cult following."

As I mentioned in the previous post, everybody stood for the entire show. Most people sang a good many of the lyrics. And this crowd, the one that was so obviously into this band, standing up and singing the lyrics, came from all over the Midwest and was made up of people from, I would guess, age ten to about sixty.

Would it be "better," I wondered on the way home, to perform for multitudes of the mildly to severely interested at Soldier Field? Would it be "better" to have one's book on the shelves in every Walden and Borders?

Financially, I suppose it would, but if I were the rock star, I think I would want it just the way Wilco had it last night.

And now that I've had six or seven years to come to terms with that instructor's modest "goal," I've also come to realize that a number of the writers I admire have their own small but devoted cult following. Think Charles D'Ambrosio. Amy Hempel. Lydia Davis. Dan Chaon. The list, I think, could go on and on.

And in the end, too, I think it's a fine goal for any artist to aspire to.


Alison said...

Just so you know: I'm part of YOUR cult.

I heart me up some macrame owls.

Chad Simpson said...

Aww. Thanks, Al.

And just so you know: The Kook Aid is fantastic.

Viva le macrame!