More from David Marr …
To write my recent post on David Marr, I did some research, as I usually do when I take notes at a lecture or seminar, because I need to make sure that the book title or author name or quote that I recorded in my notes are correct. That’s how, for example, I found the exact quote from Cavafy that I used in my post.
However, when doing this research I sometimes uncover items that don’t relate to the topic I’m researching but are too good to not share. In the case of Marr, one of the pieces I found was an interview with Marr conducted by the National Library not long before the lecture. It’s not long but contains a couple of comments that I loved.
The full interview is available online at the NLA, but I’m just going to share his responses to three questions.
Learning what I didn’t know then explaining it to readers as baffled as I once was.
I liked this because in the lecture we attended he described himself as an “explainer”. Makes sense to me. In fact it’s what we want writers like Marr to do for us, isn’t it?
The next question I want to share asked him for “the strangest piece of advice” he’d “ever been given as a writer”. He responded:
When you’re cutting, never cut the jokes. The old newspaper editor who told me this wasn’t inviting me to be trivial. He was saying: delighting readers matters and humour is a way to the truth.
I totally agree. We can be too earnest at times. A good sense of humour never gets in the way of the truth, in my experience.
The last question I’m going to share asked him for “the strangest question” he’d been asked about his writing. He said
My mother rang one day years ago and asked: ‘Are you working today or just writing?’ I’ve celebrated that ever since.
Besides making me laugh, it brought me back to his Seymour lecture and why he wrote his biography of Patrick White: it was inspired by a contradiction between White’s statement that his parents never wanted him to be a writer and the fact that his parents apparently bankrolled a publisher in order to encourage them to publish White’s poems. (Interestingly, Bill, commenting on my Seymour post, said that his parents didn’t want him to be a truck drive but they still helped him by his first truck. So, perhaps White’s parents’ action doesn’t contradict White’s statement about their wishes for him!)