Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Question of Vulnerability

Anne Enright continues the week's Guardian theme of authors' vulnerability at public readings, particularly when it comes to the Q & A.

Apart from Norman Mailer, it once seemed to her:
I asked a question myself once. The writer was Norman Mailer, and I had just had enough of him - standing up there thinking he was someone, when every single thing he said was pants.
Enright challenged him:
He was advocating sex to the (manifestly anti-sex) audience. What a great activity. He couldn't praise it enough; metabolically, spiritually, possibly even financially. I put up my hand and waited to catch his eye.

I was a bit pink and tingly, indeed, as I got ready to break through the fourth wall that exists between performer and audience, between the one who is known and the one who is not. When my turn came, I found the act of speaking sort of mortifying and dreamlike. I said: "If you're that keen on sex, then why are all the sex scenes in your books so unhappy?" And he said: "Why are you so angry?"

Enright is telling this story ironically, first and foremost against herself, since earlier in the article she says, 'Long experience tells you that it is the angry people who ask about anger'. 'You have to hand it to Mailer,' she acknowledges, ' - now there was a man who was made for the Q & A.'

But she can't resist adding: 'The prose he read, I am delighted to report, was dire.'

Tee hee.

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