It can be a little hurting when writers, especially the ones you like, try to play god.
The day after the Man Booker Prize award ceremony, you get an email from your editor. She wants you to interview the winner. You are getting ready to move and are up to your ears in work. But you instantly say yes. Normally, you would not. But this year, the winner is not some flash-in-the-pan writer or someone who got lucky with a first novel. This time it is a man with a track record of accomplishment. A man who was shortlisted for the award no less than three times before he won and who people read because his writing actually means something to them and not just to pass the time. It certainly means something to you and you believe that you have been handed the opportunity to interact with The Master.
The next day you track down The Master's press agent and send her an email. She replies within the hour to say The Master does not give interviews. You are not fazed. You email her back, saying that you represent a newspaper with more than 2.5 million readers and the home of one of India's best-known literary awards in English. The interview will be a lead article in the Literary Review and there is a good chance it will be reproduced in other Indian newspapers which will give it an even wider audience. You point out that the Literary Review is one of the most respected in the country and frequently features Nobel Prize winners and other eminent writers. You sign off saying that if The Master is not willing to do a face-to-face interview you will be quite happy to send her the questions, no more than 10, via email and the answers can simply be emailed to you. She comes back, saying she is not sure but if you email her the questions she will approach The Master. You instantly prepare a list of nine questions and send them over. You wait, hopeful, checking your email at frequent intervals. Before the end of the day she comes back saying that The Master will not answer the questions.
You are nonplussed. The questions are not personal or invasive. They deal with his books and the craft of writing. So what is the reason? You decide to make one more attempt. As a writer you know that one of the closest relationships a writer shares is with his or her literary agent. So you email her, with a copy to the press agent, saying that you have a lot riding on making this interview happen. But that is not the point. At this stage of his career The Master may not care about the dictates of the marketplace but as a venerated writer he has a responsibility to his audience. By answering these nine questions he will be connecting with a portion of his audience that does not get to see him or hear from him. So you would be grateful if she could use her good offices to persuade him. She gets back to you in a few hours to say that she is sorry, but The Master will not budge from his policy of no interviews.
For an insane moment you flirt with the idea of breaking into his house and forcing him to do the interview at gunpoint. Then you snap out of it and tell yourself not to be crazy. You wonder why you are so depressed. You are a grown-up and have faced rejection before. Then why should this one affect you so much? Is it because he is a writer? The kind whose writing actually means something to people. Certainly meant something to you. You believed for that reason it would all turn out differently. Just like the devout believe that their faith will make the gods do what they want. You put him up on a pedestal and in the end he behaved like any god, doing what he wanted while remaining remote and inscrutable in the process.
Of this world
Can a writer be like a god? you wonder. Retreat within a fortress of silence and expect to be sought only through reading books and contemplation? Somehow the notion does not sit well with you. Unlike gods, writers live and breathe in this world. No matter how lofty they get they depend on mere mortals like you for their daily bread. It is the books that you and others like you buy that allow them to live and write. If you did not exist then who would they write for? Hence they should feel an obligation to talk to you sometimes.
You contemplate a little longer and find you are merely replaying old thoughts. You make yourself a cup of coffee and sit down at your computer and write it all out. Writing it out does not clear up anything or make you feel any better. But it does give the whole affair the sense of an ending. That is all you can hope for.
Keywords: Man Booker Prize award ceremony