The New Zealand website, Stuff, published an interview with Ian McEwan this week, which contains one particularly strange moment. The interviewer asks the admittedly awkward question,
“Compared to other writers how much talent do you think you have?”
And McEwan answers:
Well, what does that mean? I’ve only heard local literati legend David Wolkowsky use the word “seven” as cryptically as it is used here. As David uses it, it is a polite and deliberately obscure way of saying to a confidant, “shut up.” It means, “Your question is not appropriate, and I will not acknowledge it. Seven.” If you were speaking, rather than asking, it means, “You didn’t say what you just said. We didn’t hear you. Seven.”
In all the wilds of the web, I have been unable to find a definition of “Seven” which accords with David’s usage, and yet I have to believe it’s not the idiosyncrasy of a single man. But what else could McEwan have meant here? Please, if you have any theories, let me know.
Ian McEwan was part of of our 2007 Seminar, Wondrous Strange: Mystery, Intrigue, and Psychological Drama. We have a podcast of him reading from On Chesil Beach.
Thanks to Nan Klingener, aka, The Bone Island Book Blog for pointing me to this interview.