Wednesday, December 06, 2006
LONDON: IT'S DEEP
posted 8:33 PM
Ten feet , thousands of years. Did a Victorian sewer-worker toss this guy's head to keep from missing tea-break?
Sunday, December 03, 2006
posted 8:26 PM
User Gromit, thoughtfully, posts the following:
'Over in the "Neuromancer and other works" forum, Charlie Athenas has posted a link to a very interesting 1997 interview (well, a conversation really) between himself, WG and Clive Barker.
'Somewhere on page four, they're discussing the process of writing a novel and Bill says:
" Well, I know when I finish a book I know that it's not only the worst book I've written (laughter all around), but that it's the worst book that's ever been written. [Laughter all around] I always tell my wife that. Actually there's always a point where I go upstairs and go, 'Oh, God, it's the worst book ever written.' And she says, 'Oh that's good dear, it means you're almost through.'"
'The interview was pre-Pattern Recognition, somewhere during the gestation of All Tomorrow's Parties.
'I have to wonder whether that "Oh, God, it's the worst book ever written" feeling is reduced by experience. As a writer, do you get better over time at knowing whether you've written a good book or not?
'Or does it persist no matter how many books you write? Perhaps it's a novelist's version of cabin fever, the result of spending too much time with your head in your new work - and without feedback from other people?
'(I love the story Clive Barker mentions in that interview, of Jonathan Swift reading his work to his servants, btw.)'
I think it may actually get worse, each time! But I also suspect that that may be a paradoxical indicator of relative emotional health. If you've ever met anyone who's writing a book that he or she is convinced is *very* good indeed, you'll know what I mean. (Swift reading to his servants may be the perfect case in point.)
By the time I'm three-quarters through the writing of a novel, I've necessarily lost anything like perspective, and must rely on feedback from trusted daily readers to know whether or not I've completely driven the thing off the road. I suspect that the biggest part of the labor of writing, for me, has always consisted of bludgeoning the editorial super-ego into relative passivity, though no matter how thoroughly I've managed to stun it, it still manages to send messages to the effect that the work is really deeply pathetic, hideously flawed, and should be abandoned immediately. I tend to imagine that this is what writer's block is really about, though in my case it's remained only partionally symptomatic. I manage to ignore those messages, as painful as I still find them.
They are largely banished, though, in the final quarter. What I didn't get into, with Clive and Charlie, was the crisis that follows my declaring to my wife that I'm writing the very worst novel ever written. Something collapses. Possibly the editorial super-ego. This is followed by a very fast, indeed manic revision of the entire manuscript, usually in one long, intense day's work. And then, usually, it's good to go, finally, and I actually start to enjoy it.
I think something similar happens with shorter pieces, but only if they're going to be published, in the old print-on-paper sense. But that's usually mere discomfort, rather than outright pain. Anticipation of which nonetheless causes me to put things off, usually, until the literal last minute. As I did last week with an introduction to a new edition of New Directions' classic Jorge Luis Borges anthology Labyrinths. In the end, I was able to do it without feeling I'd embarrassed myself, or Borges, but it was still scary. The great thing about it, though, was that while I was avoiding starting it, I had the perfect opportunity to thoroughly saturate myself in Borges. Which if you haven't tried it, I cannot more highly recommend. And if you have tried it, try it again, because it's even better than you were able to grasp when you were younger. As Jack Womack wrote to me recently: "'Tlon' was my first favorite too, but when I finally came upon 'Menard', and 'Funes', and most especially (in the later volume) 'The Aleph', I finally realized that there was at least one writer who, at his best, *no one* would ever come close to approaching. I still can reread that last, and come to the paragraph where the narrator describes all that he is able to see when he looks into the Aleph, and each time be floored..."