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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Five Questions: John Baker

This is the last post in this series. Thank you to everyone who participated, posters and commentors alike.

1. Why do you blog?
I spend most of my time writing. My first love is the novel and faced with a novel to write I find myself committed to a single project for months or years. Blogging has many of the same features as any other kind of writing, but it is short and pithy and comes with an immediate payback in the sense that you can see your work published instantly, and receive feedback from readers within hours of posting.
Blogging will never replace what I regard as my day job, which is the novel. But it’s fun and it can be instructive and serious as well.

2. Which author and/or book has most influenced you?
The novel I return to more often than any other is Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, ‘cordially hated and dreaded by all the mothers of the town’. I love the character, the fact of the boy who refuses to be ‘sivilized’. In many ways he is our only hope.

And I have never ceased to be impressed by Twain’s condemnation of the idea that personal conscience is an ‘unerring monitor’.

3. Which three blogs do you most visit?
Ridiculous question. I visit hundreds of blogs. I visit any blog that I’ve never visited before. And I return to many of the blogs I’ve sworn never to go near again.

4. Why do you read fiction?
It’s my main interface with a world which I experience as absurd. I don’t remember asking to come here, but with trial and error I can pass for normal on an almost daily basis. Fiction has taught me to understand people, not all people, or even most people, but I’ve learned to understand some people, living and dead, and I wouldn’t want to be without them. Proust referred to fiction as a story which is hidden inside the writer. He described it as a series of hieroglyphs. It is there, complete, but in order to gain access to it the writer has to translate it.
In the attempt at translation the writer begins to open up hitherto sealed crevices of memory. The writer begins to discover that s/he knows things that s/he didn’t know s/he knew. Just as I, the reader, nod inwardly as I also discover things that I didn’t know that I knew, or I knew it but couldn’t have put it into words. Or I knew it once but had forgotten it.
I don’t read fiction for the apparent story, the plot, I don’t care too much what happens. I read to stimulate my memory and my imagination. Give me a writer who is willing to make me work and I’ll stay up with him or her all night long.

5. What makes you laugh?
Almost anything. I like satire. I like slapstick. I like jokes that play on words. I like puns. You can make me laugh by pointing out how I or anyone else is ridiculous. I laugh along when others are laughing . . . like joining a queue.

8 Responses to “Five Questions: John Baker”

  1. the narrator says:

    thanks for this whole series John. My blogroll has expanded and I have found more interesting things than I can keep up with.

    Love your thoughts on fiction. The story is always the last thing I’m aware of when I either start writing or reading. I want the world – someplace I can either offer you for habitation or that (the writer) can offer me.

    “Give me a writer who is willing to make me work and I’ll stay up with him or her all night long.” excellent…

    jb says: It’s been enjoyable for me, too.  But it is also good to bring it to a close and start to think of other things. Deep down in the subconscious (unconscious?) I feel a novel gestating. It will be a while before I begin writing. But something is happening down there, and the feeling is a way of telling me to clear the decks, to somehow get my life in order so that I am clear to give it my best shot.

  2. Anne says:

    Thanks for the series–my own contribution was pale indeed but, as the narrator says, my blogroll has expanded–and improved–thanks to you. It’s very sporting of you not to list favorites and a little naughty to critique your own questions–a fitting and witty end to the series. Thanks!

    jb says: Thanks, Anne. Twern’t nothing.

  3. Amelia says:

    I’m sorry to see this series end! I found it so enjoyable! I do wish you lots of luck and much success with your next novel 🙂

    jb says: Good to hear from you, Amelia; and thanks for the good wishes. It makes a difference  . . . but you know that . . .

  4. Thanks John, interesting series, with a perfect finale …

    jb says: Glad you followed the series, Patrick, and I hope you’re enjoying the new car.

  5. Dick says:

    Yes, thank you, John, for running this long & fascinating series. And thanks for ending it with so interesting a set of reflections of your own.

    jb says: Gimme more of that flattery stuff, Dick. But shouldn’t you be in, er, bed?

  6. Thomas says:

    Great, the series is over!!!
    Lets have more from John Baker now:)

    jb says: It’s a point of view, Tom. Would be good to hear more from you, too.

  7. Pearl says:

    Thanks for the series. It’s been a great exploration. And thanks for your answers. 🙂

    jb says: Cheers, Pearl. It’s nice to get something right.

  8. Dear Mr. Baker,


    I have finally gotten to the bottom of the “Five Questions” mystery and it’s you! I had thought it had originated here :
    and, perhaps(?) gave the wrong credit when I started my own series.

    Thanks to Anne (Fernham), I have discovered the source.

    jb says: Hi Geoffrey, Nice to see you here. I was aware you were doing a five questions series and wondered if I had anything to do with it.  Good to have the mystery solved. Oh, and good luck with the series. . .