Wednesday, 13 October 2010
What is a Best Selling Author?
published which includes interviews with a range of contemporary British authors, described as "best-selling", in which they talk about their writing lives. It is a beautifully produced book with stunning black and white photographs and I am very honoured to be one of the subjects. But a "best-selling author"? I think there's a mistake but I am happy to go along with it. I really feel, as Matthew Arnold once put it, that: "I am the most unpopular of authors." Bruce Chatwin, when his Songlines became an authentic best-seller, asked himself: "Have I joined the trash artists?" Typically, he wanted his cake and eat it. Every writer wants his or her book to sell, not out of vanity, but because books need the co-operation of readers to come alive. An unread book is simply a heap of paper and glue until another's imagination comes along to breathe life into it. No doubt there are some authors who like the idea of not being appreciated by the vulgar, of being a rarified taste, but I think they are very few. So I am going to enjoy my slightly fraudulent status as a "best-seller" for at least as long as it takes for anyone to look up my sales figures. Oh, and do go out and buy this lovely book.Later this month a book, Writers in Black and White, is