Friday, 31 July 2009

Lunch with Paul May

I saw my old friend Paul May for lunch yesterday. Paul came up to Cambridge for the day from his home in rural Suffolk and we yakked on for hours in the Michaelhouse Cafe about all sorts of things, but mainly - of course - writing.

Writing is an essentially solitary occupation, and I have always found writers to be eager to talk about what they are doing, how they work, books they have enjoyed and so on. It is a release, I suppose, for all those hours spent alone with our own thoughts. It is also an acknowledgement that only other writers know what it is like to be a writer.

Writers can be cagey with each other of course. No one wants to go into too much detail about what they are doing. Not for fear that someone will rip them off, but because as much as writers often present themselves as world-weary old cynics, we all know deep down that there is a kind of magic to the process and we don't want the spell to be broken.

A painter friend of mine once said that he did not like to talk about plans and hopes too much, in case the very act of talking about them would make them disappear - as if the gods of good fortune would take them away to teach you a lesson for being so presumptuous. Neither of us were superstitious people and yet I knew exactly what he meant.

Paul May and I used to share an agent and a publisher and so used to meet at least once a year at the Random House Christmas Party. Now we have to make more of an effort.

And I am particularly bad at that kind of thing.

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