In the Books section of The Guardian
today there is an interesting video of Irish author Colm Tóibín talking about reading from The Empty Family, answering the inevitable audience question of 'what did you mean?', and both the pain and pleasure of writing and reading. (Listen to the video here
Listening to Colm talk as I replied to emails, flicked through my notes from yesterday's meeting and scanned my 'To Do' list for today, I was suddenly apprehended by this quote:
'Pleasure is swimming in Majorca in August, on a beautiful evening when it's nine o' clock and the sun hasn't gone down yet, and you're going to a beautiful dinner later. That is called pleasure. Writing is not pleasure, it's just not. And you're pulling things up from the depths of memory and feeling that really should be left alone; most people leave them alone for very good reasons and they should be left alone.
Because a novel is a thousand details and you find those details in the strangest places and the imagination is a haunted house. Maybe some people get pleasure from it but I would call it pain. I suppose some people get pleasure from pain. Reading is pleasure...'
Would they call it pain? If so, is this experience unique to writing fiction, or could the same be said of non-fiction?
Author Shirley Lanigan
who took on the colossal task of choosing The 100 Best Gardens in Ireland
said in the Introduction, 'I am constantly told that I have a great job, visiting gardens. But it is not true. Visiting gardens is no job. It is pure pleasure.' Visiting gardens may be a pleasure, but is writing about them?
Perhaps writing is only painful when it involves that 'haunted house' of imagination? At first glance, that seems to suggest it therefore is unique to fiction but doesn't all forms of writing involve imagination, even if it is a piece of journalism or a reference text on staplers?
I think we are all agreed that reading is pleasure. Unless forced to read a reference text on staplers perhaps.
Thoughts? Please leave a comment...