Sunday 4 December 2016

Give up the day job? You must be joking

Published 29/01/2012 | 06:00

Writing, which used to be regarded as an underpaid vocation, is now viewed as a full-time career -- and a lucrative one for those lucky enough to command hefty advances and large sales. So it's nice to hear about an author who not only has another job entirely unrelated to writing, but who also finds that job so rewarding she has no intention of giving it up.

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Such is the case with 35-year-old Christie Watson, whose winning of the 2012 Costa best debut novel award for Tiny Sunbirds Far Away carries with it the lure of fame and wealth, but she won't be abandoning her job as a paediatric resuscitation nurse.

"I can't imagine nursing is that unusual a job for a writer," she says, "because the two involve thinking about life and death and what makes us human."

By contrast, the preferred idea of a job for many novelists nowadays is a cosy semester or two with a university faculty where all they have to contend with is the awestruck admiration of their creative writing students.

That's the life led by some of our best-known writers and good luck to them, but it hardly seems conducive to gaining the insights that nurture real inspiration.

Imagine what would have happened to Kavanagh's poetry if he'd been given a university sinecure when he came to Dublin. Indeed, would there have been any poems?

*****

I was cheered to see that for the weekly Guardian column, My Hero, Eoin Colfer chose the neglected English novelist Patrick Hamilton, who died in 1962. The Artemis Fowl creator focused on Hamilton's Gorse trilogy about a conman in 1950s England because it changed his notion of what a novel could be: "There was no hero and the victims were not appealing."

But Hamilton's genius was to make them utterly absorbing, as are the characters in such marvellous earlier novels as Hangover Square and the trilogy Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky.

Indo Review

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