I met another writer the other evening.
He was a generally affable chap, if somewhat over-fond of the sound of his own voice. Fair enough though, I’m sure most of us are prone to waxing lyrical about our literary endeavours after a glass or two of falling-down juice.
For around half an hour, we had a pleasant (if rather one-sided) and wide-ranging conversation in which we most eruditely expounded upon the great literary topics of our enlightened age.
The obligatory and ubiquitous themes of: “Whither traditional publishing in the age of the ‘indie’ self-publisher?”, “Is a professional editor a necessity?” and “Don’t get me started on Fifty Shades of Mummy-Porn Tosh” were debated, discussed and deliberated.
Then it got weird.
No, that doesn’t quite do it justice.
Then it got WEIRD.
That’s better. Add your own wavery elongated vowels in the middle and it’ll be even closer to the mark.
I chanced to ask the chap’s opinion on eReaders versus lovely papery ink-smelling books with pictures on the front. As usual, I prefaced the question with the fact that, until someone creates an eReader that smells like a book, I’m sticking with books. Nothing against eReaders, you understand, just a personal preference.
In the space of a nano-second, the affable would-be author standing before me transmogrified into a wild-eyed, slavering beast, his unruly hair billowing manically like the unfurled sails of a galleon in a typhoon. He stared at me in horror, as if I had somehow metamorphosed, Gregor Samsa-like, into a 6-foot beetle with the sole intention of devouring his children.
“You cannot,” he bellowed, saliva whirling globbily across the room with the force of his insanity, “be a writer today unless you read on an eReader!!”
I understood the individual words, the syntax and the grammar, but combined in that particular order, they made as much sense as if he had claimed: “You cannot ride a zebra unless you have a goldfish bowl.”
Mopping myself down with a handkerchief, I attempted to clarify matters. Did he, perhaps mean that it is imperative that one releases an eBook version? That I would agree with. Could it be that he was alluding to the necessity of understanding how to technically format a novel for the medium? Again, total agreement on my part.
But no, dear readers, far from it. Once more he raved, equally forcefully and with added twitching.
“You cannot be a writer if you do not read on an eReader!!” His hands furled into fists of rage and a vein in his forehead began to throb in a most alarming manner.
At this point I remembered an entirely fictitious train I was about to miss, made my excuses and left, using the same trying-not-to-run motion employed by anyone walking down a dark alley in the early hours telling themselves that werewolves don’t actually exist.
Is it just me?
As far as I’m concerned, it’s the words that matter. The medium of delivery is secondary, surely? Write them on paper, project them on the wall, scratch them in sand or train starlings to arrange themselves in formation across an azure sky.
The words we use and the world, the emotions, the truths they conjure up in a reader’s imagination is the first, the only, the be-all-and-end-all to a writer’s purpose. To subjugate that to the vehicle used to impart the words is, I would contend, a heinous triumph of form over content.
I would love to know your views. Does he have a point? Am I simply a Luddite? Am I missing something?