Listening to Goliath Sleep

I have decided I’m not one of those writers who has an impeccable resume, made all the right career moves, attended the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and whose Facebook page is the fountain of eternal youth.

And, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!

Here, in fact, is a list of all the things I have not done that is somehow required of a writer and, yet, I oddly still feel like a writer. Or so say I, who is in the majority of one, but it’s my one, and means so much to me.

I didn’t have an angry young man stage in my twenties. I still have it in my forties. But I did have an existential stage when I read Henry Miller, Knut Hamsun, Rainer Marie Rilke, Hermann Hesse, D.H. Lawrence, Lawrence Durrell, Oscar Wilde, and Tove Jansson. Oh, and I guess I still have this stage, too.

I didn’t read as a child. Well, I did, but it wasn’t the centre of my universe. I was more happy kicking a football down side streets; rolling down sand dunes; stealing from shops; offering gifts of Black Magic chocolate to girlfriends; and spending time alone in the woods whittling spears and ingesting fly agaric.

I didn’t read that much in my teens or my twenties. In fact, I only really started reading in my late twenties, shut up under thatch in Ireland before a smoking peat fire. I was actually much better at stabbing dead rats onto the thorns of a hawthorn as a meal for a hawk.

I didn’t start working in the publishing world at age 3.

I never owned a dictionary until I got one as a birthday gift at the age of 33.

I have never read what everybody else is reading and then compared notes over flapjacks and coffee and pretended to know what I am talking about.

I majored in History in college and then dropped out because I had to write too many papers and was miserable because I had done so badly in high school that all the universities I wanted to attend wouldn’t have me and the one that did take me I hated.

And, no, I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer as soon as I was birthed, kicking and flailing and crying and slapped about by the doctor until I whimpered at my mother’s breast.

I have not read all the classics and probably never will. And I still don’t know what it really is about Hemingway that makes him the writer all other writers invoke with gunsmoke and booze and fall on their knees and praise. Or Joyce for that matter, although Joyce did make me laugh.

I don’t have stories I wrote as a kid stashed away. I have bags of plastic soldiers and my LP collection.

All my English teachers disliked me. If I ever got a “C” it was because there was a substitute teacher that day.

I didn’t squirrel myself away in libraries reading and studying. I used libraries as places to get out of the rain and read my newest copy of Judge Dredd.

I will never admit to any of this if I am ever lucky enough to be interviewed and asked about my writing life. I shall lie through my teeth and say I have always read, always wanted to be a writer, have a talent for words, my English teachers doted on me, and I love Hemingway.

3 thoughts on “Listening to Goliath Sleep

  1. If you live up to that last paragraph, Allister, I’ll kill you in your sleep, in front of your pets. I swear it. What you’ve revealed in the paragraphs above is so much more interesting than wanting to be a writer from birth. I too didn’t start to read in earnest until pretty late, and deciding to write took many years more. I think we’re better for it, frankly. After all, how boring is it to play to fate?

  2. You know, I sometimes REGRET my single-minded desire to be a writer since I was young (being praised for someting early is a strange kind of curse). It means that I haven’t lived as much as I should so I’d have something to write ABOUT. You have.

    And content is what makes the difference.

  3. Pingback: Mr. Lawrence Durrell; “Justine” « kwirkyepicity

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