An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Pleasure of the Text

Gilbert put the book aside. They were back at the beach - all three of them. Another magnificent day had beckoned them thither.

"If", said Gilbert to the author, "if you are going to manipulate your characters in the same way as that first chapter attempted to manipulate me then I sense a) that they will have a very easy ride but no lives of their own and b) that we may not have long together". He caught himself and wondered whether this was a professional judgement or a purely aesthetic one. Was he actually capable of a purely aesthetic judgement any more when it came to literature? He doubted it. He cast back to the days when he was discovering literature: when he read voraciously; making lists of books to read; authors that he must try; genres under explored: all of this when his tastes were maturing and learning. And then those heady days when he discovered for himself authors that he had never heard of, that nobody he knew had heard of: the thrill of the modern and the post modern. Oh such days! Days past: never to be regained. Froth as it were on a daydream. Days when he held off the urge to write himself: years of holding off (days when nobody could write him). Blessed days. Peaceful days. How long he had struggled to find his voice. The interminable struggle with what to write - that was one of his daily struggles. And still people just sit down and write any old thing. Some thinly disguised polemic. Some vague romance. Without care for style and structure, form and constraint. Heedless of the needs of their characters. As if Joyce and Beckett and all their honourable heirs had never put words on paper. And without wit or humour. Pushing their characters (unlikable, unknowable and under-developed) through plots (calculated, contrived and comically inept) designed only to get them from A to B with the maximum verbiage and maximal authorial effect.

He picked the book back up - he would persevere with it after all. Perhaps his purpose was to use it to purge his own system. The last two nights had been tumultuous. Nights of travelling and earwicking. He was glad at least that this Laz was a good writer. He had proof of that first hand. He had stood behind him as he crouched over the old typewriter (the typewriter he knew he knew) reading the words one at a time as they oozed onto the blank pages. But why so vindictive? Why so cruel? He had, this Laz, a grand economy, Gilbert must admit to that. And economy in a writer was one of those things he admired. His own next should be mercifully brief. Hrabal should be his guide. How long was "Too Loud A Solitude" after all? He ran upstairs to check. 98 pages. Shorter even than "A Close Watch on the Trains" or was it "Closely Observed Trains"? One was the film and the other the book. Which was which? And, Imagination, Dead, Imagine? A mere 14. No hold on it doesn't start until page 7 ---- 8 sides of text for a novel - masterful. His next must be less than 100 pages. He could not aspire to 8.

And when it came time to leave, as the sun began to lose some of its heat and the light reached its apex of clarity, when every fold and bush on every mountain between them and Exopolis was clearly delineated he found to his surprise that he had read perhaps 150 pages without getting too annoyed. He had just drifted along with its relentless tide being pushed hither and yon by this most bossy of writers. She would say what she wanted to say and she would make you sympathise with the characters she liked and to rankle at those of them she had disliked enough to scarcely more than sketch - cyphers merely. He felt cleansed.

They headed home sun drenched and happy. He knew just what he would be looking for tonight!

(to be continued ... )

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