"You need to read," they told me. "Find out what others are doing. You cant expect to produce a workable manuscript unless you have some idea how good writers go about it."
Read? Finding a name in the phone book is hard enough!
One day I saw this book by Stead.
The literati talk about him a lot, don't they? Professor of English I heard. Poems and novels published, (yeah, published). Renown critic too. Insightful and spirited stuff, they reckon. Not afraid to get up other writers' noses.
`The Secret History...' Wow! Look at all his other stuff listed next to the title page...
Maybe I'll see what he's on about?
Took me two weeks before I could pick it up, steeling myself for the BIG UNDERTAKING. Dyslexics are like that - need space and time to make the effort, so when both were present I added the resolve. "Might get a third of the way through in four hours. By then I'll have the gist of it, enough momentum to complete it."
Friday night, and I got to P.81 in one hit. First page only four sentences, but with such meticulously particular punctuation - precision structuring to essentially doubtful attempts at a beginning. All this kind of broken consciousness stuff, or elements at word impressionism in prose. Might work in poetry. Here seems strangely unconvincing, then brilliant at turns. Finally found a convincing section (chapter 2) that flowed cogently integrating nice blend of social/personal history (accomodation of Rajiv and Lazlo) with literary interest. Then 3 follows with a sense of hard effort (discordant as a cockatoo's call) before finally settling easily into Sammy's meeting with Goldstein. Same with 4 - something tentative and unconvincing about it. Suddenly it comes alive in 5, then sparkles P.60-66 with discussion/anecdote on Sammy and T.S.Eliott
Why does this writing seem so laboured when pastiching backgrounds to personal recollections, but so gripping and immediate when dealing with literature and its personalities? Why is it that even at his age, his youthful relationships and experience still suggest inner resistance to presentation, whereas the prose becomes direct, compelling and full of lively interest once Lazlo is not (even indirectly) part of the picture? Jack and Jill? Well, getting better but still too close to the author for any sense of effortless flow.
And this guy is famous...?
Some kind of awkward distillation of late youthful.... well, life and loves?
Maybe best titled, `Pirouettes in the Mirror' ?
Next day, back at work, beginning with The Goldstein story. That is good! The whole chapter. But P.86-99 especially is powerful writing. In fact all three chapters on Goldstein. How does this guy achieve such compelling interest to what is essentially just details to well known historical fact? Is it the continuation of drama surrounding that family's history, as compared to the episodic nature of the personal material (Heather, Margot) or other events (Suez, Hungry)?
Finished at P.162 that day, then off to bed.
Funny thing. When I awoke the book was still with me. Surprised me how intrigued with it I was now. Couldn't wait to finish breakfast and go off to some quiet place to complete it.
Suddenly all these disparate things: Literary anecdotes and insights, political events, Sam's affair and her lovers family, and even (yes even) Lazlo's oddly distant and awkward experiences of love. Whoops! Not love - rather, Coupling. (coupling as adjunct to literary discussion, coupling to poetry - emotion distilled through literature). Suddenly all integrated. Did it themselves, tied the pieces together while I slept.
Recollections of Lazlo Winter. Biographical episodes, political hard edge of Modernism, wistful recollections of winter caught at the antipodes of spring...
And then the ending. Boy, I wish I could produce endings like that. But even before, see how it all tied up! This is one clever writer. Maybe I will read some more of him? Even look up some of those names to see if they really exist, like Mendel Hand (Michael King?), or Dick Flinders.
Wonder if he will read my Manuscript? Lance its boils over lunch maybe...
Might call him.