Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Influence of Anxiety

The cheapest shot in the lazy or inept interviewer's arsenal is: 'So, what are your influences?' Polite or anxious authors will, through obfuscation, circumlocation and denial, provide endless material for follow-up questions ('So what precisely drew you to the work of George Herbert Wells?') and pseudo-psychoanalytic speculation that will pad out the rest of the session nicely.  No need to have read or thought about the author's work: job done!

If I'm ever asked this question again, I'll refer the interviewer to this brief list:

HP Sauce; a cloud I once saw on June 2nd 1972, around 2:30 pm; sunstars glittering off the windshields of traffic on the Santa Monica freeway, 1981-1983; scribblelarks; the proper motion of Antares; eschatological dread; the odour of secondhand books; the label on the Camp Coffee bottle; the exhaust beat of a Class 3F steam locomotive echoing up the winter valley; Zoom ice lollies; the welt on Action Man's face; several wasps; the map of the British Empire; the second half of the Twentieth Century; rain in Bristol; rain on Lake Champlain, Vermont; the rain that fell elsewhere; airport wi-fi; the motion of cigarette smoke in the beam of cinema projectors; the song of the fan heater; pine needles underfoot; 21a Dartford Close, Manchester; a shopping list I once found in a secondhand copy of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (between p122/123); a tray of glass eyes; whatever it was I last ate; the tea I'm drinking right now; every book I ever read; everyone I have ever met; every last second of my life, so far.


Blogger ¬†Ashley said...

Bravo, well said.

As a former cognitive behavioural therapist I detest pseudo-psychoanalytical approaches period. As for anxiety, exploiting another persons anxiety for one's own end is just abhorrent.

September 09, 2014 3:01 pm  
Anonymous Stuart in Canada said...

Okay, so now I am intrigued. Whatever have you got against the hapless resident(s) of 21a Dartford Close in Manchester - now being creeped on Google Earth by all the readers of your blog? The home of parental units? a teacher you didn't like? a girlfriend who jilted you? Or could it be the lair of the grandmother of Sri Hong Owen? a portal to another world? Don't keep us in suspense.

September 22, 2014 10:47 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

21a is liminal.

September 24, 2014 7:50 pm  
Anonymous greg_coyote said...

I'm reminded of 'I Just Make Them Up, See!' by Asimov


October 07, 2014 1:18 pm  

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