Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Questionless Books Interview: Writer, Critic, and Metaphor Expert James Geary

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Author James Geary

In The Questionless Books Interview, I get a whole bunch of books people (from authors to editors to publishers to sales/publicity/production people, booksellers, designers, librarians, readers, etc) to "answer" a series of unspoken "questions". The results highlight a delightful mix of the opportunities and challenges facing our sector: from doom and gloom to sunshine and rainbows, and every irony in between.

James Geary is the author of I is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World as well as two books celebrating the art of the aphorism: The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism and Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists.

James' Links:

I is an Other
Other Books
Personal Site
All Aphorisms, All the Time
TED Talk on Metaphor

I am... a writer.

I am known to... enjoy doing the dishes after a meal.

I do this in... in the kitchen, in silence.

I do this because... there is a certain meditative pleasure in clearing up a mess I have helped make, like sweeping up the confetti after a parade.

I do this when I... feel like establishing order in a small part of the world that seems—temporarily, at least—to be within my ability to control.

The way I do this is... very methodically, bit by bit.

At his/her core, a Writer is... a person who uses language, very methodically, bit by bit, to establish order in a small part of the world that seems—temporarily, at least—to be within his or her ability to control.

As opposed to an Author, who is... someone whose efforts along these lines actually get published.

A Writer is responsible for... everything.

As opposed to an Author, who is responsible for... everything, plus ensuring that the next book sells better than the last book.

At its core, Publishing is... the distribution of ideas.

As opposed to Editing, which is... a cultivation and, if necessary, a pruning of ideas, which is much more effective if it takes place before any words have actually been written.

A Publisher should always... find ways for good ideas to make money.

As opposed to an Editor, who should always... make sure good ideas find good publishers.

A Manuscript that's ready to be read by others is... a feast the cook is no longer able to enjoy.

As opposed to a Book that's ready to be read by others, which is... the same feast but laid out on a lovely tablecloth with nice cutlery and fancy wine glasses.

A Manuscript should always... have a secret ingredient.

As opposed to a Book, which should always... leave readers hungry for more.

At its core, Bookselling is... feeding hungry minds.

As opposed to Book Marketing, which is... whetting appetites for reading.

The smallest unit of narrative is... the metaphor.

The biggest reason to anticipate the future is... it can't be as bad as I imagine it could be.

The biggest reason to be scared of the future is... the knowledge and practice of editing could be lost.

In the future we will all... have to work a lot harder and a lot longer.

At his/her core, a Reader is... looking for something.

However, the ideal Reader is... looking for something in books I have written.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

George Murray

George Murray’s six books of poetry include The Rush to Here and The Hunter. His most recent books, Whiteout and Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms, are published by ECW Press. He is the editor of the popular literary website

Go to George Murray’s Author Page