After celebrating having a blog that lasted an entire year, producing the next post has turned out to be a struggle, so much so that I think I could be a comic book character with a lycra suit I could never quite get into or take off, yet as I pull and twist, hop from one foot to another, wriggle and writhe, somehow save civilisation, only to be landed with a lawsuit for trampling someone’s flower bed…Yes, things are grim.
The troubles I am having! There are several reasons. One is that I somehow have got bogged down in my “reading programme” and that is interfering with my writing. My plan has been for quite some time to write a post about Troilus and Cressida and how I reckon that it just may be that the Shakespeare industry has got this play wrong. Since that is an ambitious undertaking I want to reread the play first, but while doing that I started reading Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire on my e-reader and it has suddenly taken over.
Reading is not what it used to be. The internet allows us to be provoked by what we are reading, sit down at the PC, and check something out. Gibbon’s masterwork has sent me scurrying to the keyboard time and again to find out things. And my goodness me! The things there are to find out! Just the great man’s biography is amazing – try it on Wikipedia. Wow!
Moreover, this is not just some tiny wee book that prompts my queries. It is a monster, and a landmark in historiography and literature…six volumes, and none of them, so far as I can tell on my e-reader, is small. I have just moved into volume two, wherein Gibbon is trying to explain why it was that the Romans persecuted the Christians, when they started to do it, and what came after…and in doing this, he casts doubt on much of the received “wisdom” and knowledge of shall we say Christian lore. And of course since Gibbon was writing in the 18th century, that means more roaming the net to see what scholarship since has turned up.
Gibbon’s work was banned in several places, largely it seems because of the chapter I am presently reading – the edition I’ve got from “Project Gutenburg” is a 19th century one done by a minister who can’t help putting in outraged notes of his own and other editors*, so I don’t really want to put it down just yet. But it is obvious that if I want to do the other things I want to do, I should have a break at some stage soon.
But for those who might be interested, it is more than worth the time and effort to get through what has turned out to be one of the great reading experiences of my life. As well as the scholarship involved, it is very well written, the kind of writing that is genuinely a pleasure, yes a physical pleasure, to read. Gibbon’s refined irony is wonderful.
Now, the post I want to write on Troilus and Cressida is a sort of addendum to the novel I have just published, Kaos. In it the play has a role of its own, and the post I would like to write justifies that role for anyone curious enough to want to know about it.
But that’s not all. Kaos is the 7th novel I’ve put up on the net, and I’d like to see it sell a few more copies – say, a quarter of a million or so more, just plucking a number out of the air. While I have been contemplating how to do this, blogs I follow have leapt obligingly into the breach to tell wannabes like myself how to market our stuff. Some have even, for reasons I do not entirely understand, also tried to teach us how to write.
And those blogs have prompted more reflection, on what I reckon are fundamental issues of life and art. I’ve wrestled with a few posts on these issues before deciding to park them and write this one.
There is more too…about writing, the focus of this blog. I’d like to go into some of the things that have occurred to me while I was writing Kaos that if “personal” are also generic, I think, to the craft and art of writing.
So there is a fair swack of posts stored up waiting…to be thought through, researched as and when necessary, and then written and posted.
And while that is happening I just know there will be more things popping into my fevered mind; the queue will lengthen….And yes, outside of this is life! At the mo I am clearing up a large pile of apple tree prunings that need to be chopped up and sawn so they can be stacked and when dry fed lovingly into my wood burner. The trees that were pruned had not been cared for, at all, for many years – one, I think, for more than a century – and some of the branches are huge.
And and and! These are trivial personal concerns. Life is more important than that. The Struggler…he’s got his teeth on the sleeve of the suit and thinks just maybe he’ll be able to make it fit right so he can go out there and save…save…save…save a vulnerable maiden from the clutches of a rank intruder whose many bad qualities begin with his body odour before moving sublimely on to his breath…but wait a minute, Struggler! That’s me you’re wrestling with…get your teeth off my suit!…
*Principally Francois Guizot. We shall meet M Guizot in one of those coming posts.