Novelists don’t age as quickly as philosophers, who often face professional senility in their late twenties. And novelists don’t age as slowly as poets, some of whom (Yeats for instance) just keep on singing, and louder sing for every tatter in their mortal dress. Novelists are stamina merchants, grinders, nine-to-fivers, and their career curves follow the usual arc of human endeavour. They come good at 30, they peak at 50 (the ‘canon’ is very predominantly the work of men and women in early middle age); at 70, novelists are ready to be kicked upstairs.
Douglas Adams on Art
- O: Do you feel concerned that after all this work, people won't treat it with the gravity of, say, a movie or a book? That they won't treat it as an art form?
- DA: I hope that's the case, yes. I get very worried about this idea of art. I've been trying to... Having been an English literary graduate, I've been trying to avoid the idea of doing art ever since. I think the idea of art kills creativity. That was one of the reasons I really wanted to go and do a CD-ROM: because nobody will take it seriously, and therefore you can sneak under the fence with lots of good stuff. It's funny how often it happens. I guess when the novel started, most early novels were just sort of pornography: Apparently, most media actually started as pornography and sort of grew from there. This is not a pornographic CD-ROM, I hasten to add. Before 1962, everybody thought pop music was sort of... Nobody would have ever remotely called it art, and then somebody comes along and is just so incredibly creative in it, just because they love it to bits and think it's the greatest fun you can possibly have. And within a few years, you've got Sgt. Pepper's and so on, and everybody's calling it art. I think media are at their most interesting before anybody's thought of calling them art, when people still think they're just a load of junk.
I’ll tell you this little story. There’s something inherently cinematic about it. I run in my neighbourhood, and one day I ran past this guy running in the other direction: an older guy, a big hulky guy. He was struggling, huffing and puffing. I was going down a slight hill and he was coming up. So he passes me and he says: “Well, sure, it’s all downhill that way.” I loved that joke. We made a connection. So I had it in my head that this is a cool guy, and he’s my friend now.
A few weeks later, I’m passing him again, and I’m thinking: “There’s the guy that’s cool.” As we pass each other, he says: “Well, sure, it’s all downhill that way.” So I think: “Oh, OK. He’s got a repertoire. I’m not that special. He’s probably said it to other people, maybe he doesn’t remember me … but OK.” I laughed, but this time my laugh was a little forced.
Then I pass him another time, and he says it again. And this time he’s going downhill and I’m going uphill, so it doesn’t even make sense. And I started to feel pain about this, because I’m embarrassed for him and I think maybe there’s something wrong with him. And then it just keeps happening. I probably heard it seven or eight more times. I started to avoid him.
I like the idea that the story changes over time even though nothing has changed on the outside. What’s changed is all in my head and has to do with a realisation on my character’s part. And the story can only be told in a particular form. It can’t be told in a painting.
The point is: it’s very important that what you do is specific to the medium in which you’re doing it, and that you utilise what is specific about that medium to do the work. And if you can’t think about why it should be done this way, then it doesn’t need to be done.