The new novel - and a dodgy wine metaphor
The novel's set in Big Sur in 1994, though it looks back to the holocaust. I've lived in Big Sur a couple of times, so the book is built around a place I know well, but curiously those French hills also inhabit the book in some way. They're companions in writing. The book kept on writing itself while I was walking among them.
'Writing fiction is mostly sufffering,' Anthony Burgess wrote (in a foreword to James Hanely's Boy),'though, with luck and obduracy, the suffering can sometimes be transmuted into a kind of muted joy.' Well partly. Writing fiction is also a grand healing, the disparate parts of your being gradualy melding into a whole again. 'Muted joy' is a fine term for where it leaves you. And then, of course, in the afternoon a gentle melancholy is likely to descend so as to achieve some balance.
I brought the novel to a point from where it should continue. Now I'm at the start of a new teaching term here in Plymouth. It's an adjustment from solitude, that little solar whirl of creativity, back into company and leading from the front. The trick, of course, is to readjust and apply that creativity to teaching, to lectures.
Meanwhile I presume the new novel is playing away somewhere in the back of my head. It will be fuelled by all I learn in the coming months. It will be different to the one that would have emerged had I just had another six weeks to sit it out in France ... maybe I'll think of it like wine, the first grapes picked of a good vintage and now it needs to age and mature.