Friday, August 12, 2011

The Best of all Possible Worlds

Sometime ago I heard an interview in which the following exchange took place:

Interviewer: How many times have you been called Pangloss in your book tour?

Interviewee: Once or twice, but of course that's quite wrong because Pangloss said this is the best of all possible worlds…

There had been no prior questions that could have prepared the interviewee for this reference to Pangloss, and there was no discernible gap between question and answer.

I was impressed.

For those of you who haven’t read the satire ‘Candide’ by Voltaire, Pangloss is the mentor of the protagonist after whom the novella is named. Pangloss’s mantra is: “this is the best of all possible worlds,” and he clings to this optimistic ideology as a series of awful, yet plausible, events tear his world to pieces.

I had read Candide a couple of months before hearing the aforementioned interview. Even still, it wasn’t until the interviewee gave his answer that I understood the Pangloss reference.

This is not the first time that I have heard an author answer, what I considered to be, a difficult question, without missing a beat.

I find these awe inspiring feats of mental gymnastics intimidating. I suspect that, should I ever be interviewed, the outcome would be a long series of ‘ums’ with the odd, “Could you repeat the question?” thrown in for good measure.

It’s thought’s like these that can make an aspiring writer wonder if they’ve got what it takes.

Perhaps I should be more optimistic?

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