There's a flip side to having prominent public intellectuals, which is that they start meddling in politics and often with quite disastrous results.
When anyone starts out to do something creative - especially if it seems a little unusual - they seek approval, often from those least inclined to give it. But a creative life cannot be sustained by approval, any more than it can be destroyed by criticism - you learn this as you go on.
I always wanted to write fiction. Always. As far back as I can remember it's been integral to my sense of myself - everything else was always a displacement activity.
If the government announced that it was going to allocate a vast tranche of education funding purely to the pupils at the best public schools, there would be a national outcry - and yet this is precisely what the Olympics represents in terms of sports funding.
The fictional work is a kind of actor that wears a satirical garb but can put on other costumes as well.
Death, the real simile for disease - for when we are ill, do we not always feel like we are dying, even if it's only a little? - remains, despite our secularism, the most metaphoricised phenomenon of all.
Sometimes the crowd is the madness - at others it's the absence of the crowd that is.
Of course, with well-masticated food playing the role of social glue, it's absolutely essential that everyone clear their plate. Sod the starving kiddies in Africa - it's the overfed ones here we need to worry about.
That tertiary education is under a sustained assault by a political and - it often seems - social consensus that equates all education with training for increased productivity, only makes academe a still more promising environment for a contrarian.
I am a regular, if not exactly enthusiastic, patron of my local bookshop. I try to buy at least some books there because I cling to the belief that it's important to maintain those businesses which put a human face on the exchange of money for goods and services.
Most of us have had that experience - at around puberty - of realising that, despite whatever efforts we put into our chosen sports, we will become at best competent.
I can't remember who it was who advocated that you should march with the left and dine with the right but I've often concurred, taking the view that I personify the great tolerance of Britain by consenting to being regally entertained. Besides, there is a degree of truth in the view that while the left are worthier, the right are wittier.
The novelist, quite rightly, fears the psychoanalyst as both an enemy and a usurper.
If we bought everything on the Internet, our eyes and mouths and nostrils would probably begin to film over with a tegument - one initially tissue-thin and capable of being removed each morning, but which gradually thickened and hardened until we were imprisoned in our own tiny minds.
I'd rather fiddle with my phone for precious seconds than neglect an apostrophe; I'd rather insert a word laboriously keyed out than resort to predictive texting for a - acceptable to some - synonym.
The life of the professional writer - like that of any freelance, whether she be a plumber or a podiatrist - is predicated on willpower. Without it there simply wouldn't be any remuneration, period.
You don't need to know this - but here goes: due to some acquired infantilism, I feel compelled to fall asleep listening to the radio. On a good night, I'll push the frail barque of my psyche off into the waters of Lethe accompanied by the midnight newsreader - on a bad one, it's the shipping forecast.
I prefer to write first drafts as soon as possible after waking, so that the oneiric inscape is still present to me.
Like all right-listening folk, I am an implacable enemy of all muzak.
Lives don't divide up into chapters. People don't just talk, while nothing's going on in their head, and then respond. You know, none of these things actually happen.
It would seem that I, who never could make much sense of physics when I was at school, have now gained a strong sense of Einsteinian space-time. I am free of the nimbyism of now, and feel a strong kinship with both the dead and the unborn.
As the render is to the building, and the blueprint to the machine, so sport is to social existence.
The paradox of modernism is, writers make the decision to work with the continuous present, and to work with... stream of consciousness, as it's called, for emotional reasons, and the main emotional reason is verisimilitude. I mean, this is what surprises people: Life is not in the simple past.
I think I now understand why it is that the young are so very nostalgic. They have so little by way of personal history that they polish it up and make it shine like a treasured heirloom.
I can't throw anything away. Anything. I'm going to end up like one of those old weirdos who lives in a network of tunnels burrowed through trash - yet I do not fear this.
In my view, the plangent artificiality of a lot of creative work results from the fact that the people who write novels, direct films and put on plays tend to read too many novels, watch too many films and go to too many plays.
To purposely concoct older characters of a sunny disposition would be as much of a solecism as deliberately fabricating arrhythmic blacks, spendthrift Jews, slacker Japanese and so on.
The British and American literary worlds operate in an odd kind of symbiosis: our critics think our contemporary novelists are not the stuff of greatness whereas certain contemporary Americans indubitably are. Their critics often advance the exact opposite: British fiction is cool, American naff.
Not only is the statistical madness an assault on individuality, it's also one on temporality too. Statistics - even when accurate - are only an image of the past that can then be Photoshopped before being pasted on to the future.
Whatever respect photography may once have deserved is now superfluous in view of its own superfluity.
Life, it is true, can be grasped in all its confused futility merely by opening one's eyes and sitting passively, a spectator on the stands of history - but to understand the social processes and conflicts, the interplay between individual and group, even the physicality of human experience, we have need of small-scale models.
People tend to think of their lives as having a dramatic arc, because they read too much fiction.
Some people have human muses - mine is a city. I feel a startling ambivalence towards London, but for better or worse my work has come utterly to depend upon it.
In our benighted age, when films about amusement park rides and electronic fidgets scoop the honours, perhaps Hollywood redux is the best we can hope for.
Is there anything more useless than a crouton? I sometimes wake up in the small hours with a start and realise that what's roused me is an overpowering urge to visit violence on its originator.
The future continues to preoccupy me as a reliable source of hopes, fears and anxieties, but increasingly the present seems to have no outstanding qualities of its own, being merely a way-station through which events travel to the vast shadow lands of the past.
A party full of 'likeable' people doesn't bear contemplating.
I loathe computers more and more, so I have one I can shut down and shelve like a book.
It is fair to say that insofar as sport is taken seriously by those who play it, then to that extent their conduct in play - their ability to deal with loss or victory, their ability to meld strategic thinking and brute force - can be taken as a small-scale model of how they, or others like them, might behave in life.
Who'd want to be a modernist writer in the English-speaking world?
This is the paradox for me: in failure alone is there any possibility of success. I don't think I'm alone in this - nor do I think it's an attitude that only prevails among people whose work is obviously 'creative'.
I don't think in terms of that bizarre tautology 'value for money' in my literary and journalistic work - and nor will I in my academic role. However, if I don't believe I'm helping my students towards a fuller and more empowering relationship with the world, then I'll resign.
As a writer, I'm not convinced that we are the best equipped to understand how we go about the business of literary production.
The great liberty of the fictional writer is to let the imagination out of the traces and see it gallop off over the horizon.
I'm an anarchist. I'm implacably opposed to heirarchical systems of power and control. I also mistrust crowds, as they often operate according to their lowest common denominator. In terms of evolutionary psychology, the crowd is very close to a herd of stampeding wildebeest.
From time to time, as if heaven-sent to annoy, someone will ask me if I'm self-disciplined when it comes to my work. I usually look witheringly at them and snarl, 'What do you think?' I mean, how do you imagine anyone writes a quarter of a million words a year for publication?
Sometimes, when I hear people without experience of addiction blame addicts for their behaviour, I feel like saying to them: 'You simply don't understand - how can a child be held responsible for doing such a dreadful thing to himself?' But then again, at other times I have to acknowledge: it was done wilfully.
You may have gathered that I am not the most cheerful of revellers - some characterise me as the death and soullessness of any party but it wasn't always so, believe me.
Live life and write about life. Of the making of many books there is indeed no end, but there are more than enough books about books.