Home > Literature, Quotations > Thus spake the guru

Thus spake the guru

I’ve just sent off another question to Stephen Donaldson via his website. Hopefully, in a month or two, he’ll post an answer. He’s answered various questions of mine in the past, but I submitted them (for some bizarre reason) under my ‘real’ name. I’ve had one answered using my webonym, which I intended to post, but didn’t get round to it – so I will now. I’ve also had an e-mail in response to a question (well, a nitpick) about a couple of typos. One was at the back of one of the omnibus editions of the first and second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: the advert for the Gap series listed book five, This Day All Gods Die, as The Stale Gods Die. Stephen said there was nothing he could do about it. On to the quotes.

Captain Maybe:  O, sagacious and logophilic Donaldson! Dost thou feel like a guru?

OK, I expect your answer to that is something along the lines of ‘No,’ but what I want to get at is your thoughts about the relationship between writer and reader. A fair fraction of the questions you answer on the GI (and presumably at book-signings etc) are about writing and the publishing industry. For people who read your work, are aspiring writers themselves and who may not have anyone else to ask, your willingness to field questions would appear to make you an obvious source of literary wisdom. How do you feel about this (albeit very minor) mentoring role? More broadly, is it an implicit part of an author’s unwritten job description to take on this role?

Donaldson’s answer:

It seems natural that aspiring writers (and students of writing) might want to question someone in my position. Its also natural (considering the many obstacles that I’ve had to overcome) that I have strong opinions on the subject of writing. And since I enjoy the illusion that I’m an expert of some kind <grin>, I often try to answer. But “is it an implicit part of an author’s unwritten job description to take on this role?” Absolutely not. Some writers are entirely unsuited by personality, by inclination, by ego, by ethos, or by writing methodology to talk about what they do; or to generalize based on their personal experience. This has nothing whatever to do with the quality of their writing. It’s a description of who the writer is, not what the writer does. Hel*, for all we know, *Shakespeare* was utterly inarticulate about writing.

And no, I do NOT feel like a guru. <grin> If I did, I would probably be dangerous.

(10/11/2006)

The italics mirror how it’s presented on the website. In retrospect, ‘an implicit part of an author’s unwritten job description’ looks like a tautology. Oh, well.

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Categories: Literature, Quotations
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