Yes, as I told you before (if you’ve been paying attention) Hanif Kureishi can properly be called the father of this blog, since it was his idea. We met in Leicester Library; I asked him for one piece of advice, and quick as a flash he said, ‘Start a blog.’ I didn’t hang around; and Lizardyoga’s weblog was born the very next day.
I have to say I liked him better in the flesh than I did on TV. The BBC’s profile did not show him in the best light; he appeared bad-tempered and defensive, particularly when asked about the direct way in which he had put his family members into his work. He had left his wife and children; just walked out of the house – at least that was the way he told it – and then written in a very direct way about that experience. And here’s the rub: this is a dilemma for all writers – at least those who are not Science Fiction authors or writers of preposterous romances – what do you do about the people in your life? Do you just go ahead and put them in your novels, warts and all or, given that most disguises are easy to penetrate, do you disguise them? Some writers don’t let it bother them: D H Lawrence didn’t, and lost friends as a result, but he seemed to regard it as an inevitable part of the process. Kureishi, however, reacted to Alan Yentob’s questions as if he had no right to ask them; and I think this is a mistake. Of course a work of art is what it is; stands alone and ought to be judged as such, blah blah blah, but to ignore the connection between it and a writer’s life is to leave out a vital part of the equation. Anyway, judge for yourselves as it’s still on iplayer:
It is tempting to wonder how Jane Austen’s family reacted to the characters in her novels: who was the original for Mrs Elton? Or Lady Catherine de Burgh? This problem is something I wrestle with – one of the reasons I was unable to write as a child (I started a novel at the age of eight and couldn’t continue it) was that on some level I knew my parent’s marriage was in trouble and couldn’t bring myself to write about it.
I’m still struggling with this problem because, unlike Kureishi I don’t think it’s OK just to put people in your novels willy-nilly and disregard their feelings on the matter. But neither is censoring your own life a very satisfactory answer. So what do you do?
Answers on a postcard please…