Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

LAURIE Taylor

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

LAURIE Taylor

Article excerpt

Clear off out of my way -- I'm on the verge of becoming a major literary figure

I'd lay odds that it was two-thirds of the way through the book and halfway down the left-hand page, but I'm still unable to turn up the paragraph in Martin Amis's superb Experience in which he talks about "writers" being people who are always hoping that everyone else will very shortly "clear off".

I need the exact reference so that I can add this characterisation to the mental compendium on modem writers' habits that I've been assembling for the best part often years. The motive behind this research is quite straightforward. Although nothing I've ever done in my life suggests that I might be about to emerge as a major literary figure, I've always entertained the notion that, if I could effect sufficient symmetry between my own attitudes to the world and those held by "writers", then one day my sense of identification would be so profound that I'd have no other existential option but to sit down and knock out a major novel.

Of course, unlike their bearded, tubercular predecessors, modem writers are tricky subjects for generalisation, but my research suggests that they tend to get up rather earlier than the rest of us, so that they can complete their daily word count well before midday. They are also temperamentally opposed to instant coffee and usually smoke and/or drink to excess on the grounds that they are too preoccupied with the higher cortex to worry about the lower abdomen. It is also axiomatic that "writers" never belong to health clubs or gyms, although they may play a little low-life snooker and indulge in the odd game of table tennis.

As I learnt from Roland Barthes, "writers" also find it difficult to take holidays in the same way as the rest of us because writing, unlike cost accounting or software development, is not an activity that can be turned on and off. …

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