Before you say ‘literary feud’, this shirtless show-off doesn’t ...

Ideas

Before you say ‘literary feud’, this shirtless show-off doesn’t count

A writers’ rivalry is a sad thing, so it’s a good thing I don’t know the swine tapping away at my competitive nature

There is another writer on this island. Worse than that: he works every morning on the balcony of his apartment, right in my line of sight. Whenever I come out he’s already at his little wooden table, tapping away like an annoying smug woodchuck, like an unshaven woodpecker with opposable thumbs, and as the sun climbs higher over the bay he takes off his shirt and sits there banging away, bare-chested and wide-shouldered and I think maybe slightly younger than me. Who the hell does he think he is?

I sit on my own balcony pretending not to notice him. I try to act as though my own work and writing is so transporting that I’ve eyes and ears for nothing else, but I see him, all right, that show-off, that fraud. Who’re you kidding, buddy? No one writes that much or that fast who’s not Barbara Cartland or a courtroom stenographer. You’d think just once he would look up and notice a fellow writer and raise a hand in comradely greeting, or at least stare a moment, wondering what I’m writing and whether I’m being more productive than him. But no. He just stares at his screen, the unspeakable standoffish swine.

I have a competitive personality, although not usually with other writers. There’s something sad and small about writers who snarl and rattle their pens at each other and stand at opposite ends of cocktail parties. You both work in a hard and lonely profession with very small stakes – what’s with the attitude? ..

This article is reserved for Times Select subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Times Select content.

Times Select

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.

Previous Article