Skip to Content

'Be Original'

30 December 2002

'Literature's first commandment is: Be Original. Writers have many tasks to perform in a book, but establishing an originality of tone, subject matter or attitude is the one that counts, the litmus test of consequence. Originality is like charisma. It's hard to define, but we know it when we find it. In literature, it's often associated with obsession. Books that are written out of the author's unquenchable desire to communicate his or her subject are the ones that stand out. Originality plus obsession equals that little touch of madness that can make a book truly outstanding.'

Robert McCrum, Literary Editor of the Observer, in his column, The World of Books.