Thursday, 16 December 2010
The Other Side of the Coin is Indifference.
Just as I embark – well, in 18 months time – on the next stage of my writing career, I am continually reminded that publication (unless you are a c’leb) is no passport to fame. Not that I want “fame” per se. To keep a roof over my head and the wee man stocked up on x-box games would do for me, thankyouverymuch.
One story I heard recently demonstrated the issue of a general public indifference quite wonderfully. It concerns the poet Norman Maccaig, who at the time of this story was deemed to be one of the foremost poets in Europe. Our Norman was accosted by a neighbour as he walked home. The reported conversation, which I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing might have gone thus.
Neighbour says while brandishing his copy of The Times – it says in here that you are a poet.
NM – yes, so it does.
Neighbour – so you’re a poet.
NM – aye. (He might even have nodded)
Neighbour – one of the best in the world.
Neighbour - Could I have a look at one of your books?
NM – aye.
And later on that day NM obliges by handing in a copy of one of his collections.
A few weeks later Norman is returning home when he is once again accosted by his neighbour.
Neighbour – here’s thon book back you gave me.
NM – what did you think?
Neighbour opens the book. Locates a poem and says, see that one? That one there. That was the worst.
Another demonstration of the general lack of interest in writers was demonstrated to me on Saturday night. I was on my Xmas night out with some colleagues and during a lull in the conversation I thought I would indulge in a spot of namedropping to a couple of ladies sitting by my side.
Me – I had lunch with Ian Rankin yesterday.
Lady 1 smiles and says – oh right.
Lady 2 smiles, looks blank and says – who?
Me – Ian Rankin.
Lady 2 still looks blank.
Lady 1 looks at lady 2 – you don’t know Ian Rankin?
Lady 2 shakes her head – no
Lady 1 – you must know Ian Rankin
Lady 2 – no, I don’t.
Lady 1 is working up some enthusiasm – surely you know Ian Rankin.
Lady 2 – I’m sorry, I have no idea who he is.
Lady 1 – Ian Rankin? He’s the bank manager down at....she looks at me...does he work down in the Borders somewhere?
Me with a big grin – aye, he works out of Rebus branch.