The Questionless Books Interview: Novelist and Humber School for Writers Director Antanas Sileika
Inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, The Questionless Books Interview gets a host of lit-types (authors, editors, publishers, publicists, designers, booksellers, readers, bloggers, journalists, etc.) to finish a bunch of statements about the state of literature and the "future of books".
Antanas Sileika is a Canadian novelist and critic whose latest novel, Underground, is forthcoming from Thomas Allen in March 2011. He is the author of two novels and one collection of linked short stories, Buying On Time, which was nominated for both the City of Toronto Book Award and the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour. His last novel, Woman in Bronze, was a Globe and Mail Best Book selection. He lives in Toronto, where he is the artistic director for the Humber School for Writers.
I am... a writer in the happy position of having a novel coming out on March 26, 2011 (Underground - Thomas Allen). It means the novel has been written and all that remains is the fuss around proofreading, cover, promotion, etc., all of which means I am "too busy" to worry about writing the next book yet. Furthermore, since it is still early and no reviews exist yet, I can invest the novel with all the hopes I want, heedless of sales figures, reviews, or prize nominations.
I am known to... fantasize excessively.
I do this in... the car and while washing dishes or doing other routine tasks. Those are great for permitting the brain to work on fantasies (which is what novels are, after all) .
I do this because... the rest of life is slightly too boring. It makes me restless. Doris Lessing says one must be slightly bored to write. I am often slightly bored.
I do this... whenever I can.
The way I do this is... to drift away
At its core, a Writer is... someone who is unsatisfied with the messy narrative housekeeping of real life. Real life has no beginning or end and no shape. A fiction writers add shape, purpose, and elegance.
As opposed to an Author, who is... like a writer, but someone whose purpose is higher, someone who would write not only a story but a narrative with moral purpose or aesthetic importance.
A Writer is responsible for... keeping the words in their best order to deliver the message in the most effective way.
As opposed to an Author, who is responsible for... investing the words with higher purpose.
At its core, Publishing is... a business.
As opposed to Editing, which is... preparing a manuscript for publication.
A Publisher should always... make enough money to be successful in order to lavish a portion of those riches on money-losing writing.
As opposed to an Editor, who should always... be the housekeeper's housekeeper.
A Manuscript that's ready to be read by others is... not really ready to be read by others yet. The author is just sick of it.
As opposed to a Book that's ready to be ready by others, which is... something the author has been sick of repeatedly.
A Manuscript should always... show promise.
As opposed to a Book, which should always... show accomplishment.
At its core, Bookselling is... a business subsidized by people who love it and work for low wages.
As opposed to Book Marketing, which is... getting the word out to put people in the path of booksellers.
The smallest unit of narrative is... the single word: if
To be a Book a thing must be... or more likely, used to have to be between two covers.
The biggest reason to be scared of the future is... no more stretches of otherwise down time in airport waiting rooms, on long-haul bus trips, at remote cottages. It's not the death of publishing I fear, but the death of free time in which to indulge my reading.
The biggest reason to anticipate the future is... to see how this new reading/writing world develops.
In the future we will all... have less direct contact with the world and more symbolic contact, but no longer in the manner that we used to, in books.
At his/her core, a Reader is... paradoxically someone who has turned away from the flutter of a late autumn leaf in the wind in order to read about the flutter of a late autumn leaf in the wind.