Seven Means Seven

Seven Means Seven

McEwan_Keukelaar_200.jpg

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:
“Seven.”

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.

4 thoughts on “Seven Means Seven

  1. James Gleick says:

    I think it’s analogous to Bob Dylan’s famous answer to the reporter who asked how many of his contemporaries were “protest singers”:
    Dylan: “I think there’s about 136.”
    Reporter: “You say ABOUT 136, or you mean exactly 136?”
    Dylan: “It’s either 136 or 142.”

  2. Dave Cannon says:

    The “seven” answer may mean Mr McEwan has a high opinion of his talent.
    The favored servant in the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30, only had five talents.

  3. What about seven on the popular scale – from one to ten?
    As in, “Too bad I didn’t get to meet your girlfriend.”
    “Yeah, I just have this picture with me.”
    “Oh. Pretty cute. Seven.”

  4. I used to personal train David Wolkowsky in 2005. When we would walk, he wanted to make sure he was walking tall and with his shoulders back. If he began to hunch, I was suppose to say “seven”. I never knew why “seven” and respected his wishes as it seemed to keep him on task. I thought it was odd…funny that I found someone else who knew him and that this is his “word”.

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