Sunday, 9 March 2008

Bringing the stack down

In the town of my childhood, I think there once was a very tall, round, brick chimney. A couple of hundred feet tall, perhaps, with the name of a company (not the town) painted in large, white characters from top to bottom:






But I can’t be absolutely sure of this. It might be a memory from the town of my childhood, or from another place I’ve lived or travelled through, or it might be a fragment that’s been manufactured down at the Factory of the Imagination which has somehow found its way into my warehouse of memories.

It doesn’t really matter whether the image in my head is based on actuality orImg_0360 not though because the value of it remains the same either way: it represents for me, at the moment, the tower of books I’ve been putting to one side to read. The books I want to read rather than the books I need to read for work, that is. Most of them are presents from Christmas and a birthday, and I’ve been itching to start dismantling this stack for a while. It’s grown taller and taller and taller, threatening to topple, and (if it wasn’t for my fear of heights) I’d almost see my self as a steeplejack eager to get to the top of it, to begin demolishing it, layer by layer, all the way down to the ground ... simply so I can have an excuse to start building another one with even more books I'm keen to read.

On the very top, like a ring of capping bricks round its rim, were a number of magazines I subscribe to: back issues of Writer (from The Victorian Writers’ Centre) and The Author (from The Society of Authors). Inevitably, I began with these and came across some interesting snippets along the way.

Simon Brett, in his article on writers and depression (The Author, Autumn 2007) asks: ‘Was Georges Simenon’s opinion correct, that “writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness”? After all, normal people don’t need to write. They accept life as it is; they don’t suffer any urge to chronicle or ... to tidy up or improve it.’

I like this. I don’t necessarily agree with it being a vocation of unhappiness, but I do sometimes wonder what it'd be like to not need to write; to kick back and enjoy every single moment without feeling that itch to reflect and explore and get caught up in telling the stories that are revealed. Would life feel emptier or richer because of it? Why do we write?

Illustrator Korky Paul’s article on collaboration (ibid) struck a chord when he cited Paul Klee’s maxim that drawing was a matter of ‘taking a line for a walk’. Whilst this reminded me of the first time I misheard this saying as a child, and the difficulty I had in trying to work out why drawing was like taking a lion for a walk---surely no one could claim that art was that risky---it left me wondering whether writing is like taking an idea for a walk. Is it?

Lastly, Samantha Skyrme’s article (ibid) provided some delightful black humour when, in describing why publication dates are sometimes delayed, she stated: ‘I know of one multi-author book which has been with the publisher for so long (literally decades) that one of the authors has died of old age and the publication is still nowhere in sight’. Maybe I have a sick sense of humour, but I fell out of the chair when I read this.

And I thought it might provide an effective segue into saying thank you to all those people who've asked me recently (via e-mail, Facebook, telephone or in person) about the release date for The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore, and to those who've pre-ordered on Amazon. Thanks. A VERY BIG TOWERING THANKS! We probably won't make March, but things are moving along in the busy, busy publishing world and I hope you'll eventually think the wait worthwhile. I'll put a countdown on this blog as soon as the date is set in concrete.

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