Sketch to Story #2 : The Honed Writer

“He did not believe in the text book definition of love, of swinging from tree to tree in an impossibly floral garden, while pursuing a female whose movements were surprisingly choreographed for her apparent intelligence. He did not believe in roses and chocolates and the laborious art of wooing. He would learn to love, the one he began to care for.To him all love was the same, the one for a parent, for a child, for a dog,for a profession or a destined member of the opposite sex. What varied was the degree and side orders of lust.”

These words kept a lot of rationalists going through the era of the 60’s and 70’s. Lines from the book: The Impudent Life, by Marcus Peabody ,renowned author and novelist, still continue to remain popular among a generation, the first to experience a quarter life crises. With a career ranging over 23 years ending with a voluntary retirement in 81, Peabody produced 20 novels, each selling more than a million copies. We spoke to him on his 76th birthday to catch up with what this literary giant has been up to.

Sketch #2 : Marcus Peabody (File Image : 1995)
Marcus Peabody (File Image : 1995)

A large study with thousands of leather bound and paper back volumes lining the walls welcomes you at the Peabody residence. There is a definite old time charm about the comfy looking, tall backed arm chair, wooden paneling and generally cozy room. The only thing out of place is a large black LCD monitor with a keyboard and a CPU which makes a slow humming sound in the background. There is a large drinks cabinet stuffed in between two book shelves. In keeping with this setting is my host, dressed in a warm looking jacket. He hands me a cup of lovely smelling coffee and places himself, rather grandly in his arm chair. The usual chit chat begins and he jokes about whether I shall be tweeting this interview live or actually writing about it.

Its been many years since you gave an interview, what changed?
MP : ” Sophie, may I call you Sophie?.. I believe that an author must not get too familiar with his readers. When the weavers of dreams and fantasies are shown to be humans with faults and follies somehow the allure of their creations diminishes for the average reader. I think my last direct interaction with the public was in 94, a radio show as I recall. The hosts questions turned out to be rather disappointing and as I am no longer in the business of writing books and selling them, the need for public approval somehow seemed rather trivial. It would be a lie to say that I love all my readers, I did at a point of time, before my books became a cult thing and just carrying one around defined your identity as a potential thinker. I am honored that such a thing did happen, but if you can’t judge a book by its cover can you judge a man who carries it? I chose to break my silence as I had announcement to make for my 76th Birthday.”

I : Aah, what would that be sir?
MP : ” I am fascinated by things open source and the open Library, Guttenburg project and all that sort of thing. Literature shouldn’t be confined to those with means when it can do so much good for those without. I have decided to make all my works available for free download. I have enough to survive in the existence that I am now accustomed to and with the support of my publishers have decided to go forward and make every thing free. That’s why I chose an online magazine for this interview, in the spirit of things digital.

I : Wow sir, that’s amazing, I mean what prompted this?
MP : ” Many things my dear, I may have dropped of from the world of authors and books as a contributor but I have remained a faithful consumer. As I began to run out space to store my new acquisitions and as my back restricted access to the top shelves I delved into ebooks. Fascinating things, get a tablet and load 10 times the size of my library on to it. I then began reading new works by self published authors and those using online services. Its a mad mad world out there, first we had only unsuccessful middle aged men posing as female spinsters churning out romantic drivel by the bucketful, to content with. Now the realm of the literary equivalents of refuse have increased.  Teen wolf stories and sugar coated vampires are but only the beginning of the ocean of bile that is making 20 foot waves over an already receding bunch of readers. I thought I’d plonk my works, such as they are to dilute the market a little.

I : Admirable indeed sir, but surely you serve a different demographic ?
MP : ” Well true, but how many authors do you know who make their works free before biting the bullet? I am able to do this because my publisher was my late brother from whom I inherited all the rights of my works. Possibly I’d be able to make this feeble attempt to castrate a deceased publishing world, work with social media and things that go viral. If not what have I got to loose? No children, no dogs, my royalty earnings shall be superfluous as soon as I become dust.”

I : So you don’t see any promise in the writers of today?
MP : ” No, obviously I do. There are always authors capable of brilliant works of fiction with some real life import. But the disease of the writer of today seems to be an obsession with reality and then his utter failure in capturing it and through it his audience.. I of course don’t refer to your fantasy fiction writers, but those crafting stories physically plausible. There use to be an allegorical attempt on politics and time dependent plight in years gone by. In the fantastic we would find mirrored the problems our age. That was engaging, now people write so much and yet say so little.Earlier philosophy seemed to seep through even the most humorous lines of a short comic work. Today there is no call to the soul, no pandering to the mind. Books are loosing out to other media and do survive only due to an exploding educated class. They don’t cover too much percentage as a medium but in terms of numbers remain impressive. I think the problem is that they have to compete with other mediums which offer more immediate gratification. That’s why you see so little depth in the literature these days, its looking to give you a quickie not a passionate session of verbal love making.”

I : Then as per you , what needs to be done to improve literary quality?
MP : ” That’s like asking how do I write a good book, well there is no one way. Is a book that sells a lot a good book? Not in my book.. (smiles)   But one major thing which I don’t see happening today is good editing and publishing. Some of the best writers I knew were editors. You see spelling mistakes in published works, stories drawn to an impotent climax and books with such improbable story lines that you wonder not of the sanity of the author but those who allowed its publishing. Self publishing is a good thing, brings out great talent which would otherwise remain undiscovered but get your thoughts reviewed before putting them out for public consumption.”

I : A final question then sir, why did you retire?
MP : ” I applaud you Sophie, for restraining from asking such an obvious question till the end of your interview. When you write fiction and find yourself compelled to write things entertaining rather than informative, things get a little tough. I would often find myself wrestling with the idea of reading a made up story versus studying theories in science and philosophy. Where as one stems from the imagination of a stranger, the other has corroborative evidence which broadens human understanding. Of course what we accept as laws of nature and dictum of societal living may also be products of a creative mind but some how seem more rewarding to read about. With all the smoking and drinking I did back in the 70’s to irrigate my adjectives and lubricate my verbs, I thought it would see me dead by the early 90’s. So I decided its time to stop writing and to read. Once you begin to read the point of verbal expression of an opinion on that of others seems trivial. I always wrote for my enjoyment not that of others.”

This interview was published in the June Edition of the Caustic Mirror, the interviewer : Sophie Heartbleed.


This interview is part of a series, introduced here.



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