Thursday, 30 May 2019

The compulsion of disgust

I am better, though still coughing. This morning I intended to resume my routine of meditation, breakfast and writing, but it was not to be. I was wiping the kitchen bench and the top of the cooker, for they were strewn with crumbs.


The crumbs were alive, they moved, they wriggled! Maggots, white squirming maggots!
Another fell onto the surface as I leant over examining them. It arrived from above: I looked up and backed away: more were dangling from the interstice between the light fitting and the ceiling itself,  about to fall. I stood further back, revolted. I didn't want a maggot to fall on me.

P normally sleeps till late but I went to wake him.
I told him he had to come, come and see, which he did.
He stood in front of the cooker in his dressing gown, his hands in his pockets, observing the maggots. After a while he said: "They're falling at a rate of three a minute."

We fetched our nice clean white dustpan and white brush and swept up the maggots, tossing them out of the adjacent window. More kept coming.We called our tall son for help.

He stood on the kitchen ladder and removed the light fitting, while I tutted and fretted below: in a cloud of dust (old insulation foam), among a myriad of blind writhing maggots, the corpse of a rat thudded onto the cooker . The men dealt with it, business like.
As for me, I was not business-like.
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It is past midday. We have been cleaning and cleaning. P has taken a long shower. My turn next.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Sick on the sofa

I have been too sick for the last two weeks to do any sensible writing. But today is better. Still on the sofa, but able to sit up and type.

I have been enticed away from Knausgaard and have not finished The End. He mentions writers I have not heard of whom I discover to be giants in their country of origin and I feel obliged to try them out. Have given up on Broch and his Virgil, the language too intemperate for my liking, endless neologisms which irritated in the long run, and the story stalling. I did finish a book by Peter Handke  The Moravian Night: A Story, (translated by Krishna Winston, 2016) which is a meander through parts of Eastern Europe, or rather the story of a man who used to write and is telling his friends, during a night on the river Morava, about his meander. Except that the title is not to be taken literally: yes, there are people on a boat moored on the Morava, during the night. But the tale is of the darkness and the disappearance and the horror and pain that happened there over the last century, if not earlier. This dawns on one gradually. I found  I had to stay with it until the bitter end, though not sure what was so compelling. I have known people from that area, damaged by their experiences, who have committed acts of evil - vengeance or is it retribution?

The book has won many prizes. I shall read more Handke if the opportunity presents itself. I tried to resume reading The End but either too much time had gone by or I am still not well enough: I was unwilling to do the work.

What delights me at the moment is re-reading Colm Toibin's The Master. Whole sentences had stayed in my mind from the first reading, some 12 years ago, and whole scenes too.

Meanwhile, my editor E has looked at my manuscript and critiqued it and inserted commas everywhere. I am not protesting: this is what I want her to do. She does not like my ending, quite rightly, because it reflects a withholding on my part.

I chose to end the story when a character we like is intensely alone and suffering. This is the unadorned lot of the exile and refugee, I thought:  a reader should not be allowed to believe all ends well, because it does not.

Though she did not use those words, E may have recognised my punitive intent. I caved in: I have already written material for the ending,which was not included in the MS because it requires more work. I have been sick now for 2 weeks, so things are at a standstill.