« The Scariest Breakfast Ever | Main | Roncevaux »

May 18, 2012


This is beautiful, Beth, and I like 'calligraphy of moss' very much. This little journal entry really highlights the artist's struggle - for it does seem that if it is easy one's work might have become repetitive, and if it is hard we hope we are stretching and growing. Making that leap is sometimes harder than making a start. Do you ever run into these walls in your writing, Beth?

Oh yes, Marja-Leena, all the time! Even though the blog is more like writing letters, I do sometimes worry I'm getting repetitive about subjects, and then try to shake myself up! And with other types of writing, yes, for sure. I was actually wondering how it works for you when you are doing a series -- the artist is following out an idea, with some deliberate repetition, and relationship, but toward a goal of coherence. When do you know it's time to stop? I've always loved a quote from the poet Osip Mandelstam, who said whenever he began writing about stars he knew he was getting to the end of an idea.

These are just wonderful.

Beth, after so many years of blogging, we are bound to repeat ourselves. Yet there is always much repetition in what we see, feel and touch in the world around us.... one blogger told me something to that effect once. Maybe our responses will vary sometimes, maybe not, but they are records of a moment. Spring for instance comes every year!

As for your excellent question... I don't have any pat answer as to when I know to stop a series, it varies. I did one series that took four and a half years and resulted in 44 editions, and could have gone on but said 'enough'. Sometimes I just feel I've 'said' enough and I'm eager to start another. I also came to realize that my series really all have something in common, so have been keeping them shorter, while still exploring variations of those underlying themes.

'the past disappears' - I love that, and the drawing and the whole project.

Beautiful, your sharing of both process and product.

Beginnings. At least with a drawing your universe is defined by a rectangle of paper, or whatever. There's reassurance there. Kicking off a novel is like mounting the first stage of an extendable ladder upright on the earth's surface. Depending on whether you've written a sentence, a para or a chapter the ladder will feel less or more stable. Bearing a rucksackful of ladder raw materials on your back you then climb the installed ladder and attempt - with a great deal of difficulty - to assemble and attach a new section of ladder at the top. Quite soon you have disappeared into low-lying cloud. The ladder is becoming more and more unstable and there's a threat of lightning. It's at about this point you start to have misgivings about the utility of metaphors. At least that is my situation.

Encouraged by your comment to my blog I decided to return the favour. Wrote a comment and then bethought myself to re-read the most recent of your posts where I found out I'd attached my thoughts to (another metaphor rises up unbidden) the hulk of ship that lacked a bridge and quite possibly a crew, drifting perhaps to the edge of the world. I have tried to retrieve things by taking to the lifeboat, sailing over to this part of the ocean and attaching a line to the more recently launched SS Cassandra.

It is quite likely that this bodge-up will turn out to be incoherent. For one thing instead of my current blogonym, Lorenzo da Ponte, it carries the one associated with my previous blog but I am now exhausted, I fear. Certainly my comment is long, inordinately so. Future comments - assuming I'm allowed back - will be better controlled.

THE RE-START Is this a minor augury? This afternoon (ie, May 18) I was doing what I've done for the last three years, grinding out another novel. For fictional reasons I needed a technical process together with its commercial progenitor and, lo, why not a Canadian company holding a patent for a new way of extracting oil from tar sands (Hey, the novel's about love and redemption but the world cannot proceed on heart-shaped cupcakes all the time.) As is my wont I break off between paras to play solitaire and check my email and lo (again) someone has commented on my blog, Tone Deaf, and it turns out the commenter is Canadian. I hope you are not associated with someone who works up Athabasca way, since coincidence has only limited application in the best type of fiction. Which is what I aim to write.

Books. We are an aged family of two until quite recently divided in our approach towards reading matter. My wife, whose prodigies were regularly celebrated on my earlier blog (Works Well) but have no place in TD, reads between 220 and 240 books a year and is forced to record author, title and a 25-word summary of the plot in a growing sequence of small notebooks which retain some sense of this (literal) roman fleuve. Needless to say access to a library is essential although probably 15% of the titles are bought.

Once I used to match her, title for title. But I'm now desperately involved in writing contre le montre (time's winged chariot, and all that) - the novels of course and also long long comments to others' blogs. Thus I read far less and tend to buy instead of borrow. As a result we are choked out with books and our problem is typified by a hefty bit of non-fiction (Family Britain 1951 - 57, David Kynaston, about 800 pp, twenty-five quid) acting as a plinth to raise the eyeline of my monitor - as I write.

Both of us were sucker targets for Kindle and the logjam is at least static. You mention pruning down your collection of books and feeling a better person for it. I'm glad about that. Getting rid of books is analogous to culling seals and I would hate it if you went to bed convinced that your hands were stained with the literary equivalent of seal's blood. Kindles ensure this eventuality is prevented and you may be well advised to flirt with the idea. I had intended to write much, much more but I'm rather bad at endings and this one must...

Dear...well, I'm not sure what name to use? I'm fond of Lorenzo, so perhaps that will be acceptable. Dear Lorenzo, thank you for your thoughts and of course they are welcome here. My "other" writing project (seldom mentioned here because I don't want to discourage myself, but the first part of this blog post was intended for it) does feel exactly like your ladder. Or perhaps an unstable pile of rickety boxes, too wide now to dismantle, too high for any sense of security. But we plough on, or plow on, or whatever suits the side of the ocean we're farming.

No, I have no connection to the tar sands except dismay. And I'm not really Canadian, only by recent adoption. I'm of British stock which came to America very early on, grew up in New York state and lived most of my life in New England, specifically Vermont, before moving to Montreal, in stages, some six or seven years ago. And I'm a great lover of music, all kinds, but have practiced and performed mainly classical as an amateur through my life (flute, piano, voice) so I was happy to discover a shared interest whenI visited your blog via Box Elder.

Good luck, then, with the writing, it sounds daunting to be constantly writing novels. There is a show of photography by a Canadian, Edward Burtynsky, starting tomorrow in London at The Photographer's Gallery, that you might like to see - it's called Oil and has many photographs showing production in the tar sands in Alberta, but it's much more than that.

Anyway, welcome, bienvenue...

I too am fond of Lorenzo and am determined to appear on your blog under that name (preferably with an attached MP3 file of Elly Ameling doing Porgi Amor). This will involve tilting at Google and/or Blogger windmills until I get it right and I may run the risk of causing you irritation via a load of unwanted and unenlightening comments. Please forgive me in advance and try an avert your eyes pro tem.

LdP writes la ci darem la mano - and it's a hit!

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.