The other night, RTE broadcast their latest in the 'Arts Lives' series. Colum McCann, the writer of 'Let The Great World Spin,' was the subject.
As with most books that leave some kind of scar on me, it took me a couple of months to get through. I fought with his words, they annoyed me in their brilliance, every night for half an hour before falling asleep, every night through next door's parties and the fucking of furniture overhead, through January and February and into March.
I've never been one to finish a book in one sitting, not a novel like his anyway. They form too many images for me and set my mind to wandering to the point where I have to go back and take it all in again. I won't waste a sentence, hence the slog and the fact that I'm not as comprehensively read as I'd like to be.
He's an engaging person living the life he seems to deserve in New York. Bastard. He wears suits in all the right ways and grows stubble that doesn't stop. Bastard. He has a wife and kids and plays basketball, spends days in libraries and finds poetry in squalor and hookers and all sorts of random miserabilia. Enviable bastard.
The thing that struck me most, though, was not the excerpts from his work or his trawling of Manhattan. Not the speaking engagements or the classes he gives to others who want to be him, and not his Upper East Side idyll.
No, the thing that got me was the calendar.
He produced the 2010 version and said he'd been writing them for years, ten years producing this standard calendar like the Bank Of Ireland version that used to hang on the wall in 32A, seven thousand years ago.
"I needed the money," he said. "I suppose I just kept doing it. Kept writing these calendars. I'll probably stop now. The thing is, every single thing I've written in my life has me where I am now, even the most pointless piece of grunt journalism is a stepping stone."
I'm paraphrasing as I type this from memory alone but it does me good to think that I'll look back on the College Basketball synopses, on the previews of Fulham v Bolton, on the endless dirge of racing results, on the knee injury flashes and pulled Achilles tendon detailings, on the managerial sackings and the clicking and unclicking of random text mania, on the drudge of the copy and paste, and I'll figure that all of the above...
...actually, no, I'll never think it was worth it.