I have been tagged by the wonderful Emma in the 7×7 Link Award. The rules are quite fun:
1: Tell everyone something about yourself that nobody knows.
2: Link to a post I think fits the following categories: The Most Beautiful Piece, Most Helpful Piece, Most Popular Piece, Most Controversial Piece, Most Surprisingly Successful Piece, Most Underrated Piece, Most Pride-worthy Piece.
3: Pass this on to 7 fellow bloggers.
So here we go. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together!
Something about me that nobody knows
When I was 25 years old, I was working as a corporate banker, with my own office on the 18th floor of a Wall Street office block, a six-figure income and a bright future. Throwing it all away was the best decision I ever made. I don’t know if it’s really something that nobody knows, but I don’t think I’ve talked about it on this blog before. It’s not a part of my life that I’m very proud of.
My most beautiful piece
It’s interesting – we spend ages crafting and polishing our blog posts, but sometimes the best ones are those that come straight from the heart, those that are not perfectly written but are full of emotion. I still like reading this piece Sleepless, written at 4 a.m. the night after I became a published novelist. Sure, some of it is just excited self-congratulation, but I like it for the moment of transition between unpublished and published writer, and the observation that success can provoke anxiety as well as excitement. Also like this sentence, which I’d probably have edited out if it wasn’t 4 a.m.: “I’m having to create new stories to explain myself to myself.”
My most helpful piece
I haven’t written very much on here about the writing process, but when I do, people seem to find it helpful. This piece I wrote last summer on the ingredients of fiction, for example, got an enthusiastic response.
My most popular piece
That’s easy. Both for the number of comments and number of visitors, my review of The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes is by far my most popular article. I suppose that the book gets a lot of attention from being a Booker Prize winner. But what’s interesting to me is that most people are Googling some variation of “Sense of an Ending explained”. In my reading of the book I didn’t think there was anything too mysterious about it, so am surprised by it, and hoping they’re not disappointed when they read my review!
My most controversial piece
In the middle of the London riots last summer, I got sick of hearing strident opinions from people who knew nothing and cared nothing about life in the poverty-stricken parts of the city that were hardest hit. There was such a consensus among the respectable classes, and the very best liberals were throwing out their beliefs and calling for martial law, and so I wrote about it, and attracted comments like “Totally unjustified. No sympathy from these idiot petty criminals. Destroyer private property, stealing, attempting to murder police. Violence is not the way.” Also, to my surprise, some really thoughtful responses that went against the grain of popular opinion, which made me very happy to have written the post. This was also one of the only posts that made some of my friends and family talk to me about it away from the blog.
My most surprisingly successful piece
A couple of years ago I was in Barbados and ran out of books to read, so borrowed my wife Genie’s copy of Global Diasporas: An Introduction by Robin Cohen. It’s not the sort of thing I’d normally read or review, but I thought it was quite interesting so wrote a quick review summarising the main points. It didn’t get too many comments but it got and still gets a ton of hits, mostly from university campuses (I presume it’s undergraduates who’ve had the book prescribed as a set text for their course, and are looking for shortcuts to actually reading it!). I even got listed as a source in the Wikipedia article on Robin Cohen. And it turns out that my agent also represents Robin Cohen, something I was completely unaware of. So lots of surprising results from a very offhand review.
My most underrated piece
I don’t really believe in using the word “underrated” in relation to my own work. I think that if I put something out into the world and people don’t respond as I hoped they would, it’s probably because the work just isn’t as good as I think it is. To call it underrated is a crutch that can stop you from thinking about how you need to improve to avoid producing something underrated again next time. Still, here’s something I thought was really good, but got zero response. It’s an interview with Malaysian author Preeta Samarasan that I put quite a bit of work into, and thought was really helpful. But I think the problem is that half an hour of audio is the kind of thing you look at and think “I’ll come back to it later, when I’ve got more time.” And we all know what that means 😉 So, although I did gain a small core of followers in Malaysia from this post, it didn’t have the impact I’d hoped it would.
My most pride-worthy piece
Again I’m going back to the early days of my blog, to a post from 2008 that probably nobody at all has ever read. Are you excited? Reading this post will be like walking on virgin snow! The controversy it refers to is a series of racist remarks made by Martin Amis, mostly against Muslims. I took issue with Salman Rushdie’s weak response when questioned about this at an event I went to, and the way he invoked free speech in Amis’s defence. I came up with my own free speech argument, and I am still proud of the way I formulated it.
The 7 Other Bloggers I’m tagging
- Michelle of The Innocent Flower – Michelle was one of my earliest readers. In fact, for a while she was more or less my only reader 🙂 She’s been scaling back her online activities recently, but still posts some great stuff on her blog, so I’m hoping she’ll have time to answer this.
- Nivedita Barve – I like Indian book blogger Nivedita’s in-depth, thoughtful book reviews, and would love to hear her views on her archives.
- Kinna of Kinna Reads – Ghanaian book blogger Kinna recently celebrated her 2nd birthday as a blogger, so it seems an ideal time to look back!
- Jeff Goins, Writer – I only discovered Jeff’s site recently but am impressed by what I see so far. Some really good thoughts on writing, and I’d love to hear his response to these questions.
- Roz Morris of Nail Your Novel – another writing site that’s quite new to me but looks interesting, and is much better at the “How to” stuff of writing than I’ve ever been.
- Delia of Postcards from Asia – nice mix of reviews and other bookish content from Bangkok. I usually enjoy her reviews even if I have no interest in the book she’s reviewing, and that’s a good sign.
- Rob Around Books – Rob has a ton of reviews and great articles on his site, and I’d love to hear him talk us through his highlights!
I’ve seen some great responses to this meme recently – see, in particular, Caroline, Emma and litlove. Let me know of any others you’ve seen, and of course your response to anything I’ve linked to here. Thanks!