(Or rather: On writing and himself as a public person.)
Michel Faber, author of not just one but two of my favourite novels (Under the Skin and The Crimson Petal and the White), quoted in a feature in Thresholds:
I’ve largely withdrawn from my career as a public person. I say no to almost all offers, don’t go to book festivals any more, etc. … I’ve resolved to avoid [these events], because you meet lots of people in the literary ‘industry’ and you smell their hunger for success or attention or status, and I hate to be reminded of all that.
On the publication day of J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy (more on that another time), let’s take twenty minutes to revisit her truly charming commencement address at Harvard University in 2008. It’s one of my favourite bits of inspiration.
Overall it’s a funny and wise and heartfelt speech that contains advice for all of us at many points in our lives. And quite daringly, this modest woman in a cardigan lectures the elite of the world’s superpower about failure, which allows, among other things, ‘the stripping away of the inessential’. It also has an emphatic endorsement of the idea of imagination in its broadest sense. From what I have read in early coverage and reviews, these ideas of failure and imagination are central to the political consciousness that’s core to the new book.
But watch for yourself. (And here is a transcript of the speech, entitled ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination’, too.)
J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.