Tuesday, 11 November 2014

On Watching the Giller

Last night we watched the Giller prize being awarded. I have to confess -- don't shoot me -- I've only read one of these authors, and I didn't like any of what I heard last night. Granted, we only got to hear snippits and couldn't be drawn gradually into the story the way we're meant to be when we're reading. But what I heard won't incite me to run out to buy the books.

I admit that I never end up liking the stuff other people like. Somehow the books that make the Oprah List or win the big awards always leave me rather cold. I hated Remains of the Day and was bored by Life of Pi. I can only take Margaret Atwood in small doses. I think the prose always comes out sounding like dough that has been over-proofed and is now making its way out of the pan onto the counter like a great white slug. Every word has been so carefully chosen and thought-out and molded that it all ends up sounding terribly pompous and self-aware. Even the way they read their own work is self-conscious. There's no spontaneity, and certainly no joy.

Now you may say that this is just sour grapes, because my books will never win the Giller. But you know what? I wouldn't want them to. I fully acknowledge I don't belong in the "literary" group. I don't take my work nearly as seriously as they do. Not at all, in fact. I don't write to create "art." I don't think about what I'm creating at all, really. I just want to tell a story, to have fun, to make people laugh. I splash words out like a kindergartener using construction paper and glitter glue. It doesn't make a Rembrandt, but it isn't meant to. My son, who also likes to write, commented last night that he likes to make people dream. That is a terrific aim, and I'm proud of him for it.

My silly little stories are for entertainment, and I have no delusions about them changing the world or impressing anybody. My books are styrofoam boogie boards in an ocean of big steamers and sleek yachts. And I'm okay with that. My kind of people are the kind who play with boogie boards. Personally I think words are meant to be gobbled down and flung about, treated more like a big Italian pasta dinner than three French beans artfully arranged on a plate. That may be pretty, and it may have its place in the world, but I don't find it satisfying or filling or even nourishing.

Words can serve all kinds of purposes, of course. Books of every type please someone somewhere, and certainly we don't all have to have the same likes or needs. Obviously somebody liked the stuff I heard last night. But all in all, I think I'm content with my writing's place in the world. And with my place too. I may not win $100,000, but the small joys are everything.

Though I could use a pair of winter boots...

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