Interviewer: Could you describe the experience of writing in your early years, compared to how it feels to write now? Is there a difference? Did you get a powerful rush of good feeling from writing good passages then, or a rush of pleasure from getting praise then? Do you get less of a rush now from success or praise? Or perhaps it’s the other way round?
Tóibín: Oh there’s no pleasure. Except that I don’t have to work for anyone who bullies me. I write with a sort of grim determination to deal with things that are hidden and difficult and this means, I think, that pleasure is out of the question. I would associate this with narcissism anyway and I would disapprove of it. I don’t read reviews now.
Interviewer: Which of your books did you most enjoy writing?
Tóibín: No enjoyment. No, none.
Interviewer: What do you enjoy most about your life as a writer?
Tóibín: The money. I never knew there would be money. It is such a surprise. And I like not having to leave the house in the morning. Yes, the money.
Interviewer: Is there nothing else you enjoy about your life as a writer?
Tóibín: It is not for enjoyment. It has nothing to do with enjoyment. I like selling foreign rights, but that feeling would last no longer than 20 minutes.
I particularly like the notion that if he did happen to start enjoying himself then he ‘would disapprove’ of the enjoyment. I wonder if he’s also available for children’s parties?
The Guardian followed up the story by asking nine writers whether they enjoyed writing. You can read their answers here (including John Banville’s splendid exaggeration of the importance of his own profession over the discovery of fire, Agriculture, the Wheel, Medicine etc: ‘Civilisation’s greatest single invention is the sentence.’)
Me I love the writing part of writing, I enjoy the revising part considerably less (howsoever necessary it is), and I dislike the actual publication bit, the reading reviews and so on, even more. Plus I’m here to tell you all: the money aint so good. If money is your sole aim, you may want to think of a different career. [AR]