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Tuesday 5 October 2010


Many years ago, on reading a poem by W B Yeats for school (see The Tower), something stuck. I became conscious the poet was complaining of age: he had ‘fantastical’ imagination, but what he lacked as an old man was stamina, the ability to hold and sustain the construct that turns imagination into the something people can read and share.

As I say, I made a note of this for future reference. Would I ever, I wondered, given my evident differences from a great poet, experience something similar? And when?

Blogreader, I may just have done so. I have been working hard on one hundred thousand words (Blacklight) and last Sunday, the effort to hold the whole book in mind resulted in, or rather collapsed into, a fantastic image – a vulture perched on an empty skull. I’d guess that image follows on from a sensation of dark, heavy wings at the back on my mind before the old scavenger took over.

It may even be a rather literal take on the word ‘deadline’.

However grandiose the image however, it was simply like the mind turning its own light off. Also known as working too long.

Sleep helped.

It did give me pause however – enough to write this, anyway. As I have said before, I do not read long books when I’m at this stage of writing. And I have been looking at The Original of Laura by Valdimir Nabokov.

Described on the cover as ‘a novel in fragments’, that is precisely what it is. It appears that Nabokov himself wanted it destroyed. I don’t want to get in to whether it should have been published or not. (It should not have been).

What it does show is Nabokov at the end of his life, being sporadically what we think of as ‘Nabokov’ – but it is really more a collection of notes, mnemonics and puzzles, and problems to do a lot of work on and develop.

Nabokov was also a considerable lepidopterist. Rather cruelly, The Original of Laura is like bits of a butterfly with too many legs, missing scales and misplaced antennae - almost a butterfly broken on the wheel before it had become a butterfly.

Romantic? No.

Right at the end of writing a book, even this modest writer is anxious not to lose the energy and stamina needed to make it enjoyable.

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