May 13, 2012

AWRF 2012: An hour with Roddy Doyle

"He divides his time between Dublin and confusion." -- proposed by Roddy Doyle and his wife as the last line of the bio blurb on his next book's back flap.

Hats off to Brian Edwards for not having a "format" for this event, let alone announcing that he had one, which seemed to be the done thing at the Festival this year. What he had was a good conversation with Roddy Doyle. Let's face it: they are always saying "In conversation with", but it's usually just an elegant way of saying "Interviewed by".

I pondered this as I let myself be slowly taken back up the aisle of the ASB Theatre by the current of what seemed a notably unhurried crowd -- it had been a full house, and appeared to now be a satisfied one. What I came up with was, you can't fake enjoyment.

In their conversation, the bluffish guy in the big hat and the quiet, deadpan, very funny guy in rimless glasses further broke new ground by not talking much about the funny guy's newest book (Bullfighting), rather having him read a very funny story from it (Animals) in which a man looks back on an endless series of family pets and the variety of demises they encountered. From the laughter it was pretty clear that 98% of the audience could identify. For the rest, or maybe it was just the part I particularly enjoyed (talking of enjoyment), they talked about Roddy Doyle's views on life and writing.

"Writing is such a solitary activity, so unsynchronous with others. Why do you do it?"
"I do it because I love it. I do it because I can."

They talked about his 10 rules for writing which he supplied to The Guardian a couple of years ago for their Rules for Writers series. Here they are, for your enjoyment:

1 Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

2 Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph --

3 Until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it's the job.

4 Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.

5 Do restrict your browsing to a few websites a day. Don't go near the online bookies – unless it's research.

6 Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, eg "horse", "ran", "said".

7 Do, occasionally, give in to temptation. Wash the kitchen floor, hang out the washing. It's research.

8 Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments.

9 Do not search amazon.co.uk for the book you haven't written yet.

10 Do spend a few minutes a day working on the cover biog – "He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego." But then get back to work.

As you will have guessed, Rule number 10 was what inspired the quip which I led off with, perhaps my favourite of the evening.

But this was good as well, and good to hear it delivered as a quip:

"Why do people like your books so much?"
"Maybe the humour. And the tragedy. Laughter and tragedy always go hand in hand."

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 03:00
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