Grateful for the Life’s Throw of Dice

Actually I wanted to write this yesterday. Last night itself, to be precise. But when I finished reading this it was quite late in the night.

And as the day breaks, things are not in your control. There are things to do. Tasks to complete. People to meet. Calls to make. Meetings to attend. And mails to answer.

Perhaps if I had written this last night as soon as I finished reading, I could have recorded my impressions in freshly minted condition.

Still, nearly twenty four hours later, I will try and do my best.

The Guardian interviewed PD James, the celebrated crime fiction writer. I liked the format of the interview. The way it sourced the questions is very novel. The paper’s correspondent had her own questions. Since she put out that she was going to interview PD and invited the paper’s readers to shoot off questions to the writer, she had those. What is more interesting is she had asked some celebrated writers to put questions to PD.

Normally, an interviewer has her own questions. A slightly more enthusiastic one crowd-sources some of her questions. And someone with a bit more of imagination speaks to the literary honchos before framing a questionnaire. But here it is a wonderful mix of all.

The result is a sumptuous interview.

It is remarkable for its candidness, simplicity and above all for its grace.

To begin with, PD James’ picture looks grand.

To a question by Jeffry Archer whether she was a lark or an owl, she said that she was a lark. She had the habit of getting up ‘terribly early’. I loved that expression ‘terribly early’. But she also said that she would go back to the nest in the afternoon and that she was a ‘siesta woman’.

It was brilliant that she continued the bird metaphor because she described herself as a lark. I wonder how she would have continued the metaphor had she described herself as an owl. I am sure, she would have pulled it off equally brilliantly.

Listen to what she said as an advice to a questioner who described herself as a budding crime writer:

‘Increase your word power. Increase your vocabulary. Words are our raw materials. Practice writing. Read widely, particularly of the best writing. Learn to try and understand and sympathise with other people. Go through life always open to experience. Nothing that happens to a writer, good or ill, is ever lost.”

Every word is a decoction of her nine decades of life experience. After all, she has been writing for the last eighty years. Eighty years! ‘Everything that happens to a writer, good or ill’ – look at that sentence. Any lesser writer would have said, ‘good or bad’. For PD, it is not ‘bad’ but ‘ill’.

That’s the difference between a mere writer and a craftsman. Rather a craftswoman. Maybe a craftsperson!

What made me fall in love with this interview is the answer that she gave to the question ‘Do you feel lucky in the life you have had?’

She said, “I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed, for which I nightly give thanks. I have worked hard and tried to do my best but many other people do that without the good fortune that I have enjoyed”

What humility! How realistic, and grateful for the life’s throw of dice!

( You can read the interview at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jul/15/pd-james-author-interview-readers?CMP=twt_gu )

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