x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Words between friends

I love being a writer - until a friend asked me to critique his work. What if it's a bad read? Might I risk the look of hurt from someone I care for?

With neither the legs of a ballerina nor the stomach of a surgeon, I was fortunate that my newshound nose saw me right career-wise. And as far as I'm concerned, it's the best gig going. After all, I can't imagine another job that would have afforded me such international travel and unfettered access to exclusive people and places. With no two days the same and no assignment a repeat of the last, I am thoroughly happy with my lot.

That was until a friend asked me to critique his work. Having embarked upon a side career as a writer while doing an MBA in the US, said friend was keen that I read the copy he was planning to mail to The New Yorker in the hope it be included as a short story. While I was brimming with pride at the prospect of seeing his name grace the hallowed pages of the publication, I wasn't exactly enthralled at the idea of copyediting and proofreading his masterpiece. In fact, the thought filled me with dread and the email attachment languished in my inbox unread for a week. OK, maybe two.

Don't get me wrong, I'm the first to open my contact book and help others enter the field, and my track record for nurturing young talent is pretty good, I'm happy to say. However, to crush another's dreams or pick apart a true labour of love was more than I could bear. What if it turned out to be the worst thing I had ever read, littered with clichés, puns, metaphors and similes? What if it didn't flow and needed a complete rethink? Nope, I couldn't risk the look of hurt (swiftly followed no doubt by resentment) that would potentially be the outcome of a "feedback session". After all, I'm by no means the expert and I wasn't convinced my eagle eye was that of a NYT editor.

Equally, of course, I had to admit that my friend was quite possibly the next Martin Amis and I could very well be passing up an opportunity to discover the world's next literary luminary. But it was a risk I wasn't willing to take and when I delivered the news to my wordsmith chum, it was taken surprisingly well. We both agreed it was probably best to get an independent person to review his mini-novel and toast his success once he appeared in print. So in all, a happy resolution - with not one word of his magnum opus crossed out and not one cross word between us.

rduane@thenational.ae

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