Writing and firefighting

In the introduction to his latest collection of essays, Figures in a Landscape: People and Places (Hamish Hamilton), Paul Theroux opens with a few lines on fiction and those who practise it: “When writers complain about what a tough job writing is, making a meal of their pain, any fool can see that what they are saying is a crock. Compared with a real job, like coal mining or harvesting pineapples or putting out wildfires or waiting on tables, writing is heaven.” Philip Connors isn’t a novelist, but he does his bit to put out wildfires and write. The website Longreads has an extract from his latest book, A Song for the River, in which “he watches as his beloved forest and his personal life burn, and he tries to imagine what will arise from their ashes”.

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