Friday, February 10, 2012

"[...] they never saw me writing."

"Colm Tóibín’s new book is called New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and their Families (Penguin) but the key is in the subtitle. This collection of essays is by no means restricted to mothers. It is the entire family that needs to be destroyed, it seems, if an artist is to realise his vision. [...]
     Tóibín quotes the Northern Irish novelist Brian Moore saying, 'I began to think of myself as someone who was concealing something.' In a way it becomes a guilty secret: this world you escape into, taking no one with you, not revealing it to anyone, partly out of fear their reaction might wreck it and partly because writing is like a photographer’s work in the darkroom. Expose the negative to light too soon and it will be ruined. Also, it is the world outside the darkroom that is your subject—yes, even your family, friends, home and shared experiences. I realise now what the looks from my family expressed: what is she going to make of it, of us, of what is ours? It was true: their lives provided me with my material, their experiences that nourished my work. Without them, what would I have—myself, alone, and emptiness?
      What was lacking was any acknowledgement that I was a writer, any admission that it was a worthwhile pursuit. At the most I might encounter someone who had heard that I wrote and said to me 'What a nice hobby.' That was all it appeared to be—not a profession. I realised it would not be regarded as such until it was seen to earn something, which gave it its worth. And to begin with, my books had none."
— Anita Desai, Prospect

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