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Sarah Britten

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

I think I would like to be famous

I think I would like to be famous. I really would, because it would mean that I was successful and my books were selling and I was making money. I think that would be quite nice.

Charlene Smith has her doubts about fame though. “I’ve been in journalism long enough to have some name recognition and, regrettably, face recognition too,” she writes. Fame is fleeting, and it sets people up for disappointment when they meet the object of their admiration. Besides, your readers will never know all of you.

I found this article surprising because I’ve never really associated “fame” with writers, not in South Africa at any rate, where writers remain largely invisible. (Does Spud author John Van der Ruit get mobbed by groupies wherever he goes? I doubt it, simply because most people don’t know what he looks like.) Fame is for people like Khanyasile Mbau. How many writers anywhere become famous, really famous in the Lindsay Lohan, cellulite in the pages of Heat magazine sense? Or even major celebrities? Jeffrey Archer is one, perhaps, or JK Rowling. Maybe Jackie Collins.

Charlene Smith says she never keeps any of her articles or watches any of her interviews. I find that strange too: how else to, if not remember what you once did, then at least show someone else? I left a mark upon the world: I wrote something and it was read; here is the proof. I am far too self-conscious to read any of my own writing once it is published, and for the same reason, I never, ever watch my interviews. But my family faithfully cut out every copy and file it away, evidence of the achievements of their offspring.

Ah, that weasel word, achievement. I’d still settle for the writerly version of fame, name, if not face recognition. Sales. A nice fat bank balance and a house in Languedoc-Rousillon with a nice view, and all the freedom in the world to write, do nothing but write.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    January 9th, 2008 @12:17 #

    Always interesting how readers internalise a writer, carrying a fictionalised perception that seldom bears upon the real writer behind the words.

    The reverse, where an author writes for a fictitious reader, is an equally peculiar phenomenon.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    January 9th, 2008 @12:26 #

    When we were young, we'd ask each other, "Would you rather be rich or famous?" as if being both at the same time were an unconscionable hazard. Because the spotlight burned too hard, the sort of child who would become a writer would always choose wealth over fame, and end up with neither.

  • Sven
    January 9th, 2008 @12:42 #

    I have always thought that one of the great privileges of being a writer or a cartoonist is that you get to remain anonymous whilst sharing your talents with a wide audience. Then again I have always percieved the desire for fame as inherently pathological and rooted in an absence of genuine relationship with oneself. 'I want to be famous' epitomises the idiot clarion call of the Idols devotee.

    Michael Tsarion puts it best, I think:
    "Your thinking is autistic, narcissistic, and masochistic, and you're in denial of your denial. You use your pain to gain attention. You perform good deeds and mistake that mere performance for true virtue. Your ambition and preoccupation is an avoidance of inwardness. You compete to prove you're better and that you matter. You adore the clutter, the noise, over-stimulation, and endless domestic minutiae, because it distracts you from attending to your authentic destiny. You crave a relationship because you have none with yourself. You want children because by your twenties you are sick of yourself. You crave more so you can feel rich. Deconstruction, divestiture, and psychosomatic catharsis mean nothing to you. All that matters is acquisition, competition, attainment, and award. The Earth can suffer, but that is alright, as long as you succeed. Just remember that there is a price for such egregious error and folly."


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