“Egon Schiele, My Father and Me” was published in New York on February 11th and will appear in London this week, or next, in a full page spread with a photo and illustration. I could not be more pleased. This is a story “with legs,” as we say, of interest to many and an important contribution to the historical record. It is my hope that it will continue to travel far and wide. I have retained all rights.
It’s always gratifying to have an article, essay or book accepted for publication especially if one is paid well and/or the subject is deserving of attention. Gathering material for a story, writing it, working it, submitting, and then collaborating with a good editor—the arduous process is rewarded with a sale. But it’s not the only reward. People respond to the work with commentary online or letters to the editor, or they contact the writer with a personal anecdote, a question, a criticism, or a correction. My preference is to answer everything I receive in a timely manner with courtesy and attention—even the critical comments. After all, I have sent my writing out into the public sphere and this implies an obligation to those who read it.
In the case of the Egon Schiele piece, which explores the oddity of my father’s art collection among other things, the response has been both heartwarming and critical. I have been invited for drinks, invited to peruse documents that might change my mind, and I have discovered cousins I never knew existed. Quite a ride.
Once in London, after writing a controversial article for The Times Educational Supplement about racism in the British school system, I was asked to testify in the House of Lords. I had been invited by a Lord who liked the article and wanted to use it in defense of new proposed legislation. In the midst of a hot debate during which I remained silent, another Lord got up and suggested I return to the United States where I belonged. Of course, he was extremely polite and called me Mrs. Bergman. I was very young and inexperienced . The flattery of the invitation had trumped my journalistic scepticism and I felt stung. It took me a while to understand that I’d done nothing wrong. The article had legs.