Vincent Lam takes the Magic 8
he author of The Headmaster's Wager fields questions from the Canadian literati on what his alter ego is like, the influence of growing up with siblings, and whether or not he asks family members for their opinions on his work. .
1. Charlotte Gill asks, “Describe your alter ego in personality and appearance.”
2. Greg Hollingshead asks, “Auberon Waugh (by way of Randell Jarrell) has described the novel as a story that has something wrong with it. If you agree, do you think it’s because the novel is a difficult literary form to get right or because as a literary form it has something wrong with it? If so, why or what?”
3. William Deverell asks, “Is there a surfeit of published books in Canada? Are too many authors competing for diminishing returns?”
4. Lorna Crozier asks, “How did growing up with siblings (or without) affect your writing or your desire to be a writer?”
5. Pasha Malla asks, “Please quote one egregiously stupid criticism—either specific or general—of your writing, and address, refute or mock it.”
6. William Deverell asks, “Ever wanted to throttle an interviewer? Tell me about it.”
I have occasionally felt like someone was trying to throttle me. I’ll tell you the first time I felt this way: When I was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, I attended the Giller Gala. This is a very high-adrenaline, live-televised event. It’s the biggest event in Canadian fiction. There’s a dinner, but I hadn’t been able to eat much that night. I was there with all the other shortlisted authors, waiting to hear the prize result, all of us knowing that the result might change our lives. I didn’t think I would win, but nonetheless I was nervous about the whole situation. A few moments before the announcement of the winner, a book journalist approached me. She introduced herself, and I shook her hand, said hello. She said, “I’m the one who said all those terrible things about you in the paper.” There was a lot of tension in the air, the room was loud, the television people were trying to control the crowd, and I just didn’t know what to say to this journalist, so I said nothing. She put on this wicked smile and continued, “Well, you’re really out of your league tonight, don’t you think?” I felt like she was trying to throttle me. I was shocked at her aggression and rudeness. A few minutes later, I won the Giller, and then I had other things to think about.
7. Vincent Lam asks, “Do you ever choose to deviate from rules of standard grammar and language usage? If so, how do you decide whether to do it?”
8. Kate Pullinger asks, “Do you pay attention to the opinions of your family - parents, spouse, siblings, children, etc - when it comes to your writing, both in terms of what you write about, but also how you write? “
Vincent Lam’s debut novel, The Headmaster’s Wager, is the story of a Chinese gambler in Saigon during the Vietnam War. It was shortlisted for the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award. His collection of short stories, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, won the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize, and was adapted for HBO. Vincent Lam is an emergency physician, and a Lecturer at the University of Toronto.
Photo credit: Barbara-Stoneham
© CBC Books 2013