As a late starter writer, but a life long reader, I have always held writers (particularly novelists) in ridiculously high esteem, assuming them to be children of greater gods, if for no other reason than they could make up a story and bind it to the seemingly impossible task of spewing out 80 or 90 thousand coherent words. The best of these, the novelists who lifted me out of my mundane concerns and into some sort of state of grace, were beyond mere children of gods, they were alchemists and magicians, a state of being I believe to above the mere godly. Sometimes my life seems to have been a series of books, it seems to me now. I cannot remember much about high school. But I can remember the shattering of my heart when I read the French Lieutenant’s Woman during that period.
Then I sat down one day well beyond many an ambition’s sell-by date, and become one myself.
One of the more pleasant by-products of having written three books, and having received some small but briefly blinding sparkles of acclaim, is that I have made friends of novelists. Many of them. I had some before, serendipitous outgrowths of my lifelong friendship with Rian Malan and my marriage to writer Kate Sidley. But here was a whole new world, largely fueled by social networks. Among them are people I was unlikely ever to have met, let alone exchanged witty and pithy comments with – Paige Nick, Edyth Bulbring, Louis Greenberg, Fiona Snyckers, Gail Schimmel, Lauren Beukes, Ken Barris, Colleen Higgs, Helen Moffet, Jassy Mckensie, Sarah Lotz, Rachel Zadok, Lisa Lazarus, Gareth Crocker, Joanne Richards, Joanne Richards, Casey Dolan, Henrietta Rose Innes, Jame Whyle Tony Wende, and damn, a whole slew of others, to whom I apologise for having left off this list.
These people have never been to my house , nor I to theirs, some I have not even met in person (all of these holes shall one day be filled). They are mainly Facebook friends, via various online book clubs of which we are all members. We digitally chat and opine and agree and disagree and discuss and question and insert small silvers of ourselves in these exchanges, constructing tantalising avatars as simulcra, awaiting real human connection.
I think about these people a lot. I hardly know them, on most levels. But I am obsessively interested in their lives, what they write, how they write, why they write. I am interested and enthused by their success (surprisingly we seem not have fallen into ugly competition, everyone seems to root for everyone. I hope this doesn’t change – we swim a very small pool). I wish to assuage my own literary anxieties in our exchanges. And I do.
And amazingly. They are not gods. They are not alchemists. They are simply people who I rather like. They have things to say. And mot most importantly, they read books, they care about books. More than anything.
More than anything.
And to me, that matters.