Last night The Best Beloved and I had dinner with Haitian/Quebec writer Dany Laferriere. Dany has written a vast number of books, including the well known and critically praised “How To Make Love To A Negro Without Getting Tired.” His new book, a brilliant memoir entitled “The Return” has been short-listed for the 2011 Giller Prize. I’d met Dany at other events over the years, but this is the first time we’ve been able to spend any real time together. Both The Best Beloved and I like him very much. The conversation turned, as it is likely to do with writers, to the wonders and difficulties of the writer’s life.
“I am always surprised,” said Dany, “when someone tells me that reading my books is hard work. Why would they say such a thing? Do I tell them how much hard work it was to write the book? Do I scribble This took three months to write in the margin next to a certain passage? No. So I tell them, ‘I have done my work; I wrote the book. Now you must do your work and read it. Meet me halfway at least!”
All said with a great twinkle in his eye and an easy laugh. I believe a writer who laughs easily, especially at himself, is one who has his ego in a healthy spot.
And Dany did keep us laughing. He spoke of a VERY FAMOUS Haitian writer who called Dany for advice bemoaning how his/her life had become unmanageable since s/he became famous. What do do? “The solution is simple,” laughed Dany. “I told this writer — there is only one thing to do, if you want your life back, then write a bad book! Then see how quickly everyone leaves you alone!'”
I wonder how many writers, running like addicted hamsters on the wheel of ambition would be willing to write a bad book in order to regain their lives, their souls?
Perhaps more should — not only would their lives improve, but I suspect their writing would as well.