Are there moments when you think I will not adversely affect someone’s future? I remember visiting Kensington Market with my sister and seeing all these men, lean and in leather, wearing purple scarves and cowboy boots and not doing very much and I thought, yes, one day I will do that too.
Today in the library an immaculate granny in pearls, lipstick and cashmere coat asked me whether Somerset Maugham is shelved under S or M. ‘You see, it’s my grandson… he wants to be a writer…’
From behind the racks came a huge explosion of indignation… ‘Pleaaassse! you do not have to tell everyone..’ and then this besuited ventriloquist doll appeared: tie, jacket, varnished hair, cufflinks– all turned out for his library visit.
The embarrassment of wanting to write, far worse than a STD. The idea of writing as the secret sickness, what ointments you have you must apply in private. And then I started giving him advice, transmitting the virus. ‘What you should look at are Somerset Maugham’s notebooks where he’s training as a doctor… yes, I will order that for you…’ The poor guy was glowing and fidgeting, looking up at my bad skin, greying hair, years of drug addiction that have made me almost incoherent but still an enthusiast. Was it malice that made me give him this advice? an attempt to chip off some of that varnish? The only way to check the quality of the wood are a few hard knocks, any ventriloquist’s doll knows that.