Reading the 5-page staged and glossy magazine interview in a hotel room with a famous actor has always filled me with a peculiar kind of existential dread. There’s something a little horrifying about an hour of conversation in cold type, bereft of the intonation, expression, context and rapport that make anything one says out loud bearable. And at the end of it all, to be distilled, distorted, interpreted and weighed by the pen of a stranger… Who could have the strength of character to read about but not become their own caricature?
In contrast, the last page of the Sunday Times magazine features ‘a life in the day of’ a happy array of personalities and professions. I like the concreteness of a single day as a window into someone else’s micro challenges and achievements. I realize that these days are probably fictionalized composites – but fiction makes for a sweet, concentrated and memorable pill. And at the end of it, there is no distillation, no weighing – just the reality of a daily rhythm.
When I am famous, I will decline interviews.
P.S. That said, I still remember being stopped in my tracks when a fashion photographer relative asked me sweetly ‘what did you today?’ in the midst of my PhD. My day had consisted of:
- 2 hours debugging a misplaced comma
- so that I could finish the 3-day long project of rearchitecting my non-parametric statistics to work across-subjects
- in order to get a better sense of whether results from the latest in a long line of experiments were actually better than chance
- so that we could tell whether reminding people and distracting them at the same time was causing them to forget
- to test our computational theory that half-remembering a memory actually weakens it
- which would have deep implications for our understanding how the brain learns and self-organizes
But really, I’d been comma-hunting, and it seemed hard to fit that into a the kind of response usually expected from ‘what did you do today?’.