What's past is past - the struggle over tenses


The Independent printed my letter about their absurd Turner prizewinner's alphabet series (see yesterday) - so hooray for them for that at least. Nice to have something come out in print this year!

I'm carrying on with my revision of ON SACRED MOUNTAINS, determined to have that come out in print this year as well. It's holding up pretty well. One of the bigger tasks is shifting it out of the present tense and into the past. Castaneda told me to put I WAS CARLOS CASTANEDA into the present tense, I did so, and it worked. Trying to use it elsewhere ... it doesn't work!

My theory of using it stemmed from guided meditations. It was never "you were sitting by a stream" but "you are sitting by a stream". The present gave things immediacy. I felt using the present tense would open up the reader to experiencing the book's journey as his / her own.

This probably worked that way in I WAS CARLOS CASTANEDA. In other books though the narrative is clearly past. I find I am employing a new technique this time though, a combination of tenses. The narrative is in the past tense, but passages that describe what places look like I am putting in the present tense so long as the description is likely to be valid for anyone viewing the same place tomorrow. I don't expect anyone to notice this, but hopefully it will provide readers with a direct window into the experience so they feel they are catching genuine glimpses for themselves.

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