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Sunday Times Books LIVE

Louis Greenberg

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

I’m for dogs

I don’t think it was that long ago when the general image of a contemporary writer was must and tweed, Sharpei faces and old cardigans, unapproachability, yellowed bookshelves and fingers, cynicism. Curmudgeonly writers so immersed in their studies they forgot how to talk to real humans. Hard or scary to interview, behind-the-camera, behind-the-page sort of writers. Writers whose paragraphs made you ache, whose words made you stop. Whose books bent your brain.

It was clear: if you had to choose, you’d rather bring White Noise to Mauritius than Don DeLillo.

My tweedy old dad was an old-school writer, battering away at his Olivetti. He swore, he smoked, he drank. He was a journalist, not a publicist. That’s what I thought a writer was. He was probably why I resisted the calling at first.

Now we’re under the impression writers have to multitask. Not only do they have to put in a full day at the office, but they have to be entertainers. Not their books, they themselves. Singing, impressions, tapdancing, having some interesting hobby or habit or freakish quirk besides the – let’s face it – rather dull business of writing books, all of these might render them more promotable. Neat hair and look good in a tight top.

I’m all for author pics of flowing locks and muscle tops, of Zadie Smith peeking demurely from her Tuscan tower. She’s very gifted. I’m not jealous. But what about the rest of us? Frankly, to borrow the heart-warming words of the pet food manufacturer, I’m for dogs.