Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The man for whom nothing is written

Ho hum
I keep starting to write a novel.
I keep stopping.
This is all quite galling. I appear to have all the necessary tools:
  • Me
  • MS Word
  • London, and a London myth as a background (thanks to those who chipped-in)
  • A few story ideas (thanks Cormac)
  • The inclination
But something is missing. Probably some kind of cure for my innate procrastinatory instinct and the static that fills my brain.
I was chatting about this with a friend, Viera, a couple of weeks ago. We hadn’t met for several months and she asked me how the book was coming along. She didn’t seem at all surprised when I told her the answer.
I explained that, as far as I was concerned, all literary novels follow a similar arc, basically remind the reader that she/he will die one day and conclude that Life either does or does not have meaning. I defended my ineffectiveness to date on the basis that it seemed pointless to me to write 500 pages of guff just to deliver the author's philosophy of life when that could be achieved more efficiently on a single side of double-spaced A4. Why bother to wade through The Catcher in the Rye when you could just read this instead …
"In our sleep, pain which we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
Alternatively, you could read this gem I picked up from a blog a few days ago which neatly echoes thoughts that pass through my mind every time a relative dies
"I believe that my dead grandmother watches me with great disappointment every time I masturbate."
Very rightly, Viera made the point that a good novel has the power convey the author's message in such a way that it will stay in the mind of the reader for the rest of their life. Most of us instinctively know what literature is telling us, we just want to be told in interesting and inspiring ways.
I'm not sure if I'm up to the task. Sure, I have a message I wish to convey. Over the years I have developed an internally consistent philosophy of life that does recognise meaning and purpose. It would be good to throw that out as a small squeak against the roar of voices telling us otherwise. However, by my own standards I am failing Life's quest; I am not using all the skills I was given. In that respect I am no different to most of the rest of humanity but I am more aware of my failure than others. Writing a book might enable me to self-actualise but I can’t shake the feeling that this would be somehow dishonest. It would be kind of like those guys who advertise 'Send me £10 and I'll tell you how to become a millionaire!'. You send them £10 and they write back telling you to put out ads saying 'Send me £10 and I'll tell you how to become a millionaire!'.
In one of my favourite movies, Lawrence of Arabia, Anthony Quinn plays a character called Auda abu Tayi. Every time Lawrence and Co. knock off a Turkish train Quinn can be seen looting the train and looking pretty pissed off with his spoils. In one scene he's kicking a grandfather clock in the desert yelling 'This is not honourable. This is not honourable!'. However, a little later on in the film he manages to snag a brace of beautiful white stallions. He looks much happier and cries out 'Now this IS honourable' and he fucks off home.
Auda abu Tayi is a pet hero of mine but there was always the risk that he was never going to find any stallions. And, maybe, he might have walked right passed them without noticing a few years back. And what if he had found the stallions in his early twenties, rather than his middle years, what would he have done with the rest of his life? How would he have felt in the second half of his life if he hadn’t found his stallions and he was aware that the chances of ever doing so were receding with each passing year?
You get the idea.
Bugger this. I'm going to stop writing this post and go for a nice photo walk into town. I'll see how I feel when I get back. If I get my skates on I might make it in time to catch all those non-self actualised commuters pouring over London Bridge from The City into the station. I can throw buns at them and giggle. Now that's honourable.


Ian said...

nearest you have come to a stallion recently was that filthy, sorry looking pony underneath an underpass in White City.

Geek said...

I want to say something but I'm not quite sure what. I'm pretty sure you could write a book if you wanted to, but does it have to be fiction?

Personally I like your photos and the blog posts are (usually) entertaining. Perhaps, instead of the great British novel you could put together photos and essays of London as seen through the eyes of Stef Zucconi?

Hey, I'd buy it, but then I am a fan - and I mean that sincerely.

Geek's Girl said...

Damn blogger, or maybe it was me, anyway,
that 'geek' should be Geek's Girl.

Stef said...

Thanks for the positive thoughts as always

Empathise with the '(usually) entertaining' comment. Have been toying with a classification system, like on your blog, but am afraid that would be become hell to manage for all sorts of reasons.

PS So it's not just me having a mare with the new Blogger comment system

zenyenta said...

You'll never get anyplace with that kind of honestly and humility. Trust me, I know. I never got anyplace. :)

If you've got the inclination, then just write it and trust that the value of it is in the eyes of the beholder. One person's ho hum is another's inspiration.

Northun Munki in Oxford Circus said...

Surely the point of a novel is simply to occupy and entertain the reader whilst they are doing something far more mundane such as:

1) Commuting on a train/tube
2) Travelling on a plane to somewhere nicer.
3) Being on a foreign beach in a lovely country, which you've worked your nuts of to get to but can't actually be arsed to go and explore the culture of once there.

Stef said...

Undoubtedly, but I am considering the issue from the a prospective author's position and his/her motives are sometimes, though not always, more convoluted.

Reasons to write a book may include

1. Wealth
2. Fame
3. Immortality, of sorts
4. To get back at people who've pissed you off by including them as characters then bumping them off - ha! that'll teach 'em
5. To attract legions of nubile literary groupies
6. To make sense of, or somehow validate, your own miserable little life

(PS Zenyenta, yes, I think you're right - you should go with what feels right for you, and hope that the resulting output doesn't get you locked up)