Sunday, March 1, 2009

Even The Greats Have No Pleasure In It

Colm Tóibín: No Pleasure in Writing.

With a touch of Irish gloom perhaps, but without self pity, Colm
Tóibín tells the Manchester Review that he writes at least 355 days a
year and says -- three different times -- that he takes no pleasure in

Oh there’s no pleasure. Except that I don’t have to work for anyone
who bullies me. I write with a sort of grim determination to deal with
things that are hidden and difficult and this means, I think, that
pleasure is out of the question. I would associate this with
narcissism anyway and I would disapprove of it.


Which of your books did you most enjoy writing?

No enjoyment. No, none.

If there’s no pleasure in it, why not quit?

Because I have things that will not go away. Some of them are true,
some slowly become imagined. They do not disappear just because I
write them. If I don’t write them, I find that suddenly I am writing
them. They make their way into sentences and I feel a need to finish
what I began, to formalise it and then publicise it. I emphasise that
it heals nothing. Quitting would be like deciding never to listen to
music again. It would be mad, unnecessary. I also have sought fame as
a novelist – the phrase is V.S. Naipaul’s - and I presume that the
urge for that is essentially neurotic. I don’t think we have a right
to enjoy our neuroses; in fact I believe that we have a duty not to.
But we cannot walk away from ourselves. Who else is there to become?

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