Magaret Drabble

An Interview with Magaret Drabble
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OKR:

What about the globalizing effect of computers and the Internet?

MD:

I do think that computers and the Internet are certainly going to transform the market. I don't know about the novel itself. There must be things we can't yet foresee. Maybe there will be a whole new kind of interactive model. I know people have tried it, but it's been very primitive so far. At the moment people are much more interested in how to do it than what they're doing. But the day may come when they're doing really remarkable things so there may be some new art form lurking there. I was never very interested in collage fiction and jumbling paragraphs up, but it could be that there's something waiting for us that will be interesting. But forget about our generation or the next generation. Think 500 years ahead. Can one imagine books being -- thought processes being -- essentially the same? I suppose one can.

OKR:

Would you suggest then that a young writer today should try very hard to learn as much as he or she can about his own little two inches of ivory, or whatever it happens to be, and write about that before spreading out and trying to incorporate materials from all over the world?

MD:

I would hesitate to give any advice. But I would have thought that if you had the security of knowing where you come from then you can afford to venture out from your inch of ivory. I think very few of us could lead a truly restricted life now and be a great writer, but then one thinks of Emily Dickinson. Of course, who would wish to lead such a life? I'm sure you can be a great writer without moving out of one room, but I think that the security of knowing where you come from makes you able to leave that room, beyond which there are many hazards.

OKR:

Do you think that that sense of venturing out, of exploring, helps to explain why you still write -- why you still find writing exciting -- after all the changes that you've talked about and all of the success that you've had?

MD:

Yes. I like to find out what it's all about. I write to explore and find out. I don't like to tell people what I already know; I write in order to find out what I don't know. So each book is an exploration or a journey. I push characters into places that I can't go to and see how they behave. The Witch of Exmoor was an example. I had the most brilliant idea for a novel which was based on John Rawls's A Theory of Justice. I wanted to create various contrasting political societies, and -- but I can't. It would have been a science fiction novel, and I can't write science fiction. So I had to do it through a much more assimilated family plot. So you have to cut your cloth according to your talent. You can have a brilliant political novel in your head, which you don't have the capacity to write. But that novel was about social justice and it was about the extraordinary disparities and the self-satisfaction of the British middle classes about that the fact that they all live in such a wonderful country. So it is political in that sense. But the novel is a means of exploring those inequalities. We're all individuals and what I like to write about is the way social events affect the individual; it can go the other way too. I like to write about interaction of the public and the private, and the social and the personal. The stuff of the novel is how people behave. I suppose I finally just find that endlessly interesting, so I write about it.


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