This is to be my main appearance at the Writers’ Festival in Melbourne, Australia. It is ten o’clock in the morning and there is a packed audience. I am to be interviewed by a local writer, J. F.
I step onto the platform with my usual feelings of apprehension. F. introduces me and starts asking me questions.
Before I can finish what I’m saying, he interrupts me and asks me another question.
When I reply, he says something like ‘that wasn’t a very clear answer’.
Five minutes later, there is a feeling of unease amongst the audience; everyone can sense that something is wrong. I remember Confucius and take the only possible action.
‘Do you like what I write?’ I ask.
‘That’s irrelevant,’ F. replies. ‘I’m here to interview you, not the other way round.’
‘But it is relevant. You won’t let me finish my thought. Confucius says: “Whenever possible, be clear.”
Let’s follow that advice and make things absolutely clear: Do you like what I write?’
‘No, I don’t. I’ve read two of your books and I hated both of them.’
‘Fine, now we can continue.’
The lines of battle have been drawn. The audience relaxes and the atmosphere becomes electric, the interview becomes a real debate, and everyone – including F. – is pleased with the result.
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