Any fool can write a novel but it takes real genius to sell it.
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At the school I attended, the clergyman who ran the cathedral school in Shanghai would give lines to the boys as a punishment. They expected you to copy out, say, 20 or 30 pages from one of the school texts. But I found that rather than laboriously copying out something from a novel by Charles Dickens, it was easier if I made it up myself.
Burroughs called his greatest novel 'Naked Lunch,' by which he meant it's what you see on the end of a fork. Telling the truth. It's very difficult to do that in fiction because the whole process of writing fiction is a process of sidestepping the truth. I think he got very close to it, in his way, and I hope I've done the same in mine.
Even one's own home is a kind of anthology of advertisers, manufacturers, motifs and presentation techniques. There's nothing 'natural' about one's home these days. The furnishings, the fabrics, the furniture, the appliances, the TV, and all the electronic equipment - we're living inside commercials.
I suspect that many of the great cultural shifts that prepare the way for political change are largely aesthetic. A Buick radiator grille is as much a political statement as a Rolls Royce radiator grille, one enshrining a machine aesthetic driven by a populist optimism, the other enshrining a hierarchical and exclusive social order.
I was born in the city's general hospital on November 15, 1930, and we lived at 31 Amherst Avenue in the western suburbs. It was a magical place. There were receptions at the French Club, race meetings at the Shanghai Racecourse, and various patriotic gatherings at the British Embassy on the Bund, the city's glamorous waterfront area.
Medicine was certainly intended to be a career. I wanted to become a psychiatrist, an adolescent ambition which, of course, is fulfilled by many psychiatrists. The doctor/psychiatrist figures in my writing are alter egos of a kind, what I would have been had I not become a writer - a personal fantasy that I've fed into my fiction.
My room is dominated by the huge painting, which is a copy of 'The Violation' by the Belgian surrealist Paul Delvaux. The original was destroyed during the Blitz in 1940, and I commissioned an artist I know, Brigid Marlin, to make a copy from a photograph. I never stop looking at this painting and its mysterious and beautiful women.