Andrew Dalby, author and historian, answers five questions

Nov 4, 2009 by     No Comments    Posted under: Internet, Media

Andrew Dalby, historian, librarian and the author of The World and Wikipedia (read review here) takes time out of his day to answer five questions…

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Q. What is one thing you think every American should know?

A. Who am I, a mere Englishman, to prescribe what every American should know? Never mind. This will work for Britons as well as Americans. “1. Keep your head down and push.” But push gently. “2. Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too fucking much.” (John Wayne’s advice to Michael Caine.) Britons and Americans may possibly make a contribution to keeping humanity alive, but we’ll need to keep our heads down, push gently, and not say too much.

Q. If you had the option to have been born another nationality than your current one, which nationality would you choose?

A. I’ve never thought about that one. I don’t feel that nationality matters much to me. Greek, perhaps. I like the way Greeks talk — endlessly, seriously, fiercely. I like the way they eat and entertain.

Q. What is one misconception people have about you?

A. When I was employed (I worked as a librarian) my employers used to believe they knew what I thought. One or two of them used to tell me what I thought. They never got it right; they never even got near.

Q. Is there anyone’s death, either in your life or in popular culture, whose passing you were surprised by how profoundly it affected you?

A. My father. It’s an obvious thing to say. But before I left home to go to university I seemed to spend all my time arguing with him. After that, I don’t believe we quarrelled even once; but after that, as it happened, I never lived at home for very long. It was obvious that the arguing had been a waste of our time, but there were never enough opportunities to share life and talk sensibly.

Q. In life we often have goals that we feel as if would just die if we don’t reach them. Sometimes we reach them, sometimes we don’t. The question is, have you ever worked to fulfill a goal, only to find that once you achieved it, the experience was a let down? It meant something to you when you did not have it. Then you obtained it and, after the initial excitement, you thought to yourself, “Is that all there is?” Have you ever had an experience like that?

A. That’s a difficult one. Plenty of unachieved goals, naturally. And goals not yet achieved — e.g. books still waiting to be written. But you’re asking about goals that, once achieved, didn’t seem so good …

Ah, well, there was that episode two years ago when we decided to make wine. We put a lot of time and effort into it. We did make wine, within the dictionary meaning of the word: it started out as grape juice, it fermented, the sugar turned to alcohol, it was just about possible to drink it. “Is that all there is?” is exactly what we said to ourselves.


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