Introducing The Bookist, Amitava Kumar’s column on books and the art of writing

Amitava Kumar in the Hindustan Times:

10801876_10100241739898185_6331622585153343227_nI am writing this on a train. It is dark outside, the dark window reflecting the interior of the bright-lit train car, the beige plastic seats, the metal overhead racks. I can see in the dark glass the girl on the seat across from me.

I cannot discern her face but I see her reflection holding an iPod in her hand. Her nails are painted silver. We are on the 5.34 Metro North from Poughkeepsie to New York City.

I’m going to a party at a writer-friend’s house but the real reason I’m on this train is because I wanted to write this column. I wanted the time alone on the journey down to the city and back.

The writer Patricia Highsmith once said that she was rarely short of inspiration; she had ideas, she said, “like rats have orgasms”. I cannot make the same claim. I don’t think writers need ideas so much; what they really need is time.

Or, more accurately, the need is for those conditions of work, the meeting of place and habits, that allow the right words to emerge. I say this because I have beside me on the seat here a book called Daily Rituals.

It offers short accounts of how writers and artists work. The above quote from Highsmith is something I came across in this book. And the detail that, probably to keep distractions to a minimum, she ate the same food every day: American bacon, fried eggs and cereal.

More here.