I grew up in England, in a very old cottage surrounded by sheep.
I learned an amazing amount in school, but forgot 90% of it immediately and another 9% just before the test the following Monday. (I’m a big fan of B. F. Skinner’s remark that “education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.”)
I should probably tell you that I loved reading when I was a child. Actually, I didn’t: I was a teenager before reading really hooked me. Instead, I spent most of my childhood idly staring into space—which, by a remarkable piece of luck, was the best possible preparation for becoming a writer.
My writing was delayed, though, just like my reading. All that staring into space caused a twenty-year detour through philosophy.
“What’s philosophy?” Here, free of charge, is my comprehensive introduction to the subject in exactly 100 words: Can I know anything for certain? (How?) Are some lies Okay? (Why?) Is the pain in my toe really a pain in my brain? What’s happiness? Is there a god? (Or are there seventeen—and, if so, are some fatter than others?) Is one molecule of water wet? If color is just light bouncing off stuff, what does the stuff itself look like? Can robots think? (How do I know Aunt Edith isn’t a robot?) If everything has a cause, and all causes have causes, is my free will an illusion? (How do I know Aunt Edith isn’t an illusion?)
I taught philosophy for a while, after moving to the United States, then decided to change careers and become the writer I was meant to be all along. I love being a writer because I can sit around all day learning new things, and even pretend it’s work.
Since I have failed to include here all the usual stuff about having three children and a tortoiseshell cat named Cyril, perhaps I should finish by saying that I do indeed have seven children and a piebald coatimundi named Hieronymus. On the other hand, the trouble with authors is that half the time we’re just making things up.
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