Of all the questions regularly put to authors by journalists and readers, it seems to me that the most important one is why they bother in the first place.
A number of years ago the French newspaper Libération published a special supplement in which they asked some of the great writers of the day to express themselves on the subject 'Pourquoi ecrivez-vous?' I remember Samuel Beckett's contribution was by far the most concise, reading in its entirety: 'Bon qu'a ca.', which could be translated as 'Good for nothing else.'
I thought it might be enlightening to ask some of the Roving Editor’s favourite writers to address this question under the heading ‘Why I Write’, after George Orwell’s famous essay on the subject, published in 1946. Orwell’s is an honest, revealing attempt at an answer, but ultimately he admits: ‘All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.’
In dusting off this question and putting it in front of a new set of writers I am not expecting responses as terse or as self-deprecating as those of Orwell and Beckett. However I’d be surprised not to detect some echoes at least of how they felt. So, in what I hope will be the first in occasional series on the blog, I am delighted that Donald Ray Pollock has agreed to tell us ‘Why I Write’. Watch this space.
- ▼ 2010 (6)
- ► 2009 (14)